Facebook Valuation, Google Vanity, and Tesla on Letterman
BY Max Chafkin
What's Facebook worth? Facebook is negotiating with investors as it tries to raise additional capital, the New York Post reports. But, the Post says, "the two sides are $3 billion apart on what the popular social-networking Web site is worth." Facebook (and its current investors, who are non-too-eager to be diluted in a down round) want at least $6 billion--still down from the $15 billion it commanded last year. The new investors are suggesting valuations between $2 and $3 billion. The article also notes that Facebook will "increase revenue by 70 percent this year and is on track to be cash-flow positive next year." (Hat tip: Business Insider.)
Study says recession creating more entrepreneurs. Independent Street reports on the Kauffman Foundation's annual index of entrepreneurial activity, which rose from .3 to .32 percent in 2008. That means 32 out of every 100,000 Americans starts a business every month, the highest level since Kauffman started keeping tack in 1996. The increase is likely due to the recession's devastating effect on the job market, which is forcing more and more people to start companies. The results also showed a decline in the formation of businesses with high earning potential—for example, accounting, real estate, and high-tech firms.
Google makes vanity searches easier. It's a solipsistic and often demoralizing act, but everyone Googles themselves at some point. And we don't always like what we find. Last week Google announced that along with everything else that turns up in a vanity search will be a link to your Google Profile, a page that Google is encouraging everyone to create. "At the bottom of the first page you'll see a link to my profile, which leaves out the nasty bits," says Slate's Farhad Manjoo, "I tell the world about my job, my schooling, my link-blog and my book, but not that some people on the Web have accused me of villainy." But some observers see a more ambitious power grab. Why? By promising improved vanity searches, Google gets users to tell the company more about themselves. That could help Google serve more profitable ads.
Amassing an army of bloggers One the web, opinions are like email addresses--everyone's got one, or several. BrandWeek reports that General Mills has gathered 900 bloggers--80 percent of whom are moms--into a new web promotion that blurs the line between opinion and paid advertising. The bloggers will receive free General Mills product samples, but won't be compensated. Still, it's hard to see this as anything other than a particularly shameless form of web promotion. BrandWeek writes: "General Mills can be confident the program will fill blogs with positive reviews. One of the requirements for participation reads: 'If you feel you cannot write a positive post regarding the product or service, please contact the MyBlogSpark team before posting any content."
Silicon Valley entrepreneurs try to take over California Chris Kelly, Facebook's privacy czar, officially announced his plan to run for California's attorney general. But he's just the latest Silicon Valley power player making a bid for political office in California, notes Valleywag. Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is vying to be the Republican candidate for governor in 2010 and might end up running against another former eBay employee, Steve Westly, who ran as the Democratic candidate in 2006, but lost in the primary. Tech-friendly San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, whose wedding guests flew to the ceremony of a Google jet, has also thrown his hat in the ring. "It's a turnabout for Northern California, which has long been noted for funding campaigns, not launching them," says Valleywag, "Will the nerd candidates play in California's conservative Central Valley, or glitzy Hollywood?" Kelly, for one, already has more than 600 supporters on Facebook.
Elon Musk Does Letterman. Earlier this week, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and Inc.'s 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year, went on the Late Show with David Letterman, and talked electric cars. Letterman, an electric car enthusiast and a Tesla owner, proved himself a kindred spirit. He lavished praise on the Tesla ("You can drive the wheels off the thing"), knocked the Chevrolet Volt ("Forty miles is the range on the Volt...that's crap"), and even made a perfume joke ("For every new car they sell, he'll throw in his new fragrance, Elon Musk"). Watch the appearance here.