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Amex Trouble, MySpace, and Flu Preparations

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Amex cracks down on even the best of borrowers. Criticism is being hurled at American Express from all angles these days. In case you haven't noticed, Amex seems to be doing whatever it can to make life difficult for its customers, including those with pristine credit. If you think you're immune, consider Fred Wilson's situation. He's one of the best known VCs in the world, a veteran blogger with thousands of followers, and an Amex customer since 1983. Wilson blogs that he recently had all of his Amex lines shut down after one late payment. (Note to Amex: my guess is that Wilson's good for the money). And, at the LA Times, columnist David Lazarus excoriates Amex for shutting down the credit lines of people like James B. Davis, a Beverly Hills entrepreneur who runs a $16 million publishing business.

The MySpace makeover. In the New York Times, Brad Stone details how MySpace is hoping to catch up with Facebook. It's certainly uphill battle. For one, new CEO Owen Van Natta, the Times reports, only has six friends on his MySpace page. Worse, if you're planning on marketing on MySpace, you'll have to contend with a rather downmarket demographic. The NYT writes: "Compared with the overall online population in the United States, the site draws disproportionate numbers of teenagers, twentysomethings and people whose household income is less than $25,000 a year, according to the measurement firm comScore. The Facebook audience tends to be more affluent, making it a more appealing space for higher-end advertisers."

Credit card reform bill leaves out small businesses. The New Entrepreneur takes aim at a credit card bill that reigns in rate hikes and billing shenanigans, but won't effect small business cards. Small business borrowers are generally far more creditworthy than consumer borrowers, which makes this omission all the more puzzling. For more on using plastic during a downturn, see our story here.

Pandemic preparations. The Wall Street Journal reports that employers are scrambling to come up with emergency plans in case the swine flu outbreak escalates into a full-on pandemic, which could effect up to 30 percent of the workforce. Only 27 percent of employers surveyed in 2007 have health crisis plans drawn up. Not surprisingly, businesses flu-infected regions are encouraging telecommuting or personal days, requiring frequent hand-washing, or banning travel to Mexico until the worst is over.

Investor says that she hopes VCs go bust. "I hope some of you go out of business. I hope that does happen," Rebecca Connolly, a partner in Fairview Capital, a fund of funds, told the audience at the National Venture Capital Association's annual meeting. Fairview has about $3 billion under management, 70 percent of it in venture capital funds, says Reuters. Connolly explained that since the bubble burst in 2001, VC returns have been incredibly disappointing, and barely justified investment. Instead, she said, "Let's just flush everything out and get back to less competition, less money." (Naturally, her own funds were exempt from this advice.) Via peHUB.

Trust, but verify. Small Business Trends has a short piece on the importance of good employee contracts. You need an employee handbook, of course, but it's also important that each employee signs a document saying they read and understand the policies it contains. Trust is good, but its crucial to have establish explicit rules. Sound advice.

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Last updated: May 4, 2009




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