Man downloads movie in Mexico, gets a bill for $62,000 "If you're going out of the country for more than 15 seconds," advises The Consumerist, "don't forget to turn off, remove, leave at home, freeze in a block of ice, disable, or otherwise render unusable your wireless card." Oh yeah, and definitely don't let your nephew download Wall-E. Alberto, a former resort manager whose business closed down after the financial crisis, purchased a wireless card for his computer before going to Mexico to pack up his stuff to bring back home. When he returned, the bill for the movie he downloaded was $62,000. In the end, the provider agreed to drop the amount to $17,000. So only $16,995 more than it would have cost to rent.
Credit-card processors withholding funds. Some small businesses are suddenly facing an even tighter cash crunch these days, Business Week reports. As bankruptcies rise, many credit-card processors are demanding a cash reserve in case firms go under and customers need refunds. But some entrepreneurs are up in arms, because many processors are creating the cushion by simply withholding money from credit card transactions. In other words, rather than processing the money and handing it over, they're hanging on to it just in case, often with very little warning. A couple of months' worth of transactions is typical—Angie's List's processor tried to withhold $2.5 million from the $35 million company, but they were able to switch and get their money back quickly. CEO Bill Oesterle says it would have bankrupted the healthy company within few months.
How to check references. Do it the old-fashioned way and set up a face-to-face meeting, says Fred Wilson. When you're trying to figure out if you should hire someone, the person referring them may be more inclined to tell you the whole truth if you meet in person. But Wilson says there's another reason: "The phone is all about expediency," he writes. "A cup of coffee is an opportunity to meet someone, talk about a few other things, make a friend or a business acquaintance. Done right, the face to face reference check is a lot more than a reference check. It's a way to grow your network and your business."
10 things to know before you launch. It's practically a meme at this point, but at BizBox, Nada Jones and Michelle Briody, experts on women and entrepreneurship, have a few tips and reminders. In light of the current climate, one of their points comes down to cash flow—know where your money is coming from and where it's going. No one can afford to be slapdash with their cash right now.
With a new model, Prosper.com resumes lending. In January, we covered the SEC's move to shutter the peer-to-peer lending site Prosper.com. The NYT Bits reports that Prosper has once again begun lending — and has a new model. Prosper will now open any loan up to a competitive online marketplace, where lending institutions can bid on better rates for borrowers. The hope is that the Prosper's transparency will help reinvigorate the ailing credit markets. For more, check out our original story on Prosper from 2006.
SBA late on stimulus plans. According to MSNBC, the Small Business Administration has only implemented two of the eight stimulus provisions built into the economic stimulus bill to boost lending to small businesses. The administration eliminated fees on the agency's 7(a) and 504 loans, and increased the maximum government guarantee on 7(a) loans from 85 percent to 90 percent on March 16. But, due to lack of sufficient staff and a desire to balance speed with accuracy and quality, they're still late on some provisions, including the development of a temporary loan program for small businesses struggling to make payments on existing loans.
Apple to release two new devices. The iPhone has been a huge hit since it debuted two years ago, selling millions of units, and, more importantly for entrepreneurs, creating a market for a new kind of software application. (One billion apps have been downloaded so far.) Now, BusinessWeek reports that Apple is set to release two new iPhone-like devices with Verizon Wireless. One is a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone and one is--wait for it--bigger, a sort of tablet PC. (Via Business Insider.)
Google populated by workers suffering from "extreme male brain?" Valleywag links to a post by blogger Joe Clark, who is still irate over the fact that "Google's Aspergerian nerds" drove visual designer Doug Bowman to quit. Clark borrows the concept of an "extreme male brain" (a brain that allows one to focus obsessively for long periods of time, often on abstraction) from Susan Pinker's The Sexual Paradox and posits that the Google working environment and hiring process favors only this type of brain above all else. "In fact," says Clark, "The male-brain capacity for years-long single-mindedness explains why the heads of large ad agencies and design houses are overwhelmingly male . . . In the computer industry, extreme male brains permit years of concentration on hardware and software design, while also iterating those designs seemingly ad infinitum." What do you think? Is this approach to work really gender-based? Does it work?
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