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The Short URL Market Booms; Best iPhone Travel Apps

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Teeny, tiny URL competition heats up. Of all the businesses to be booming right now, the URL shortener seems an unlikely one. Until recently, there was no real reason for a shorter URL and no business plan. The shortener, appropriately named TinyURL, was run by a guy in Minnesota who made money with donations. Then Twitter--and its 140 character limit--came along and made short web addresses essential. Now Techcrunch reports that upstart Bit.ly (shorter than TinyURL and with $2 million in venture capital!) has surpassed the erstwhile leader. How these services will make money is not entirely clear but Bit.ly is collecting lots and lots of data, which it could sell as an analytics service.

Weekend watching.. Lance Armstrong races in the Giro D'Italia this weekend. He's not expected to win, but there's an entrepreneurial subplot: Armstrong's Kazakhstan-based team (yes, Kazakhstan) is out of cash and he's been talking about buying it himself. Armstrong already owns a cycling shop in Austin and has mulled buying the Tour de France itself.

Unemployment slows. Another day, another piece of bad news that's also kind of good news. The economy lost a half a million jobs last month, but the pace of job losses slowed, according to the Wall Street Journal. The unemployment rate stands at 8.9 percent, a 25 year high, but the Journal says the slowing a sign that the economy "may be finally starting to find its footing." Some economists are expecting a recovery beginning later this year, but the prognosis is far from certain. "[M]ost of the so-called 'green shoots' of recovery that economists and policymakers have latched onto are sentiment-based indicators such as consumer confidence and purchasing manager surveys," the Journal reports.

Pandora cashing in on mobile purchases. We've told the story of Tim Westergren, Pandora, the founder of the web radio innovator survived years of struggle, took on the recording industry, and now draws millions of users to its site. But, TechCrunch is reporting that, at a time when the music industry is struggling, Pandora's wildly popular iPhone app is actually driving music sales. Mobile purchases, in other words, are fast becoming a huge business. iPhone users are buying about 1 million songs per month through iTunes. About 20 percent of those sales are coming straight through Pandora's iPhone app, which has meant a nice new revenue stream for Westergren's company. For more on the business possibilities in iPhone apps, check out our story here.

How being an entrepreneur affects your kids. The children of entrepreneurs face unique pressures, says Luke Johnson in the Financial Times. According to Johnson, entrepreneurs have an innate competitive urge, as well as extraordinary risk-taking ability and drive for success. As a result, their children sometimes grow up with less-than-available parents and family pressure to take over the business—and big shoes to fill. Read The Success Gene, our feature covering half a dozen fifth- and sixth-generation family businesses and the ups and downs of working for mom and dad. For more information on how family businesses are weathering the recession, read on at Inc.com here.

Pricey antiques still selling. According to The New York Times small dealers of high-end antiques report their market is still strong—apparently, despite the worst recession in generations, someone is still buying multi-million-dollar chairs. Collectors are just as serious and aggressive as they've always been. And it's partly because they feel more comfortable investing in priceless antiques than in the volatile stock market, dealers report. "We have not noticed any weakness in the highest end of the market," says John Keith Russell, president of the Antique Dealers' Association of America and a specialist in Shaker goods. Meanwhile, lower-end buyers are suddenly unloading their boom-time purchases, so dealers are snapping up all kinds of deals.

The most popular iPhone travel apps. Want to know how much traffic you can expect on the Van Wyck to JFK? There's an app for that. Need to translate a road sign in Shanghai? There's an app for that too. (Yes, we've seen that commercial too many times.) BusinessWeek puts together a list of the 20 most popular apps for road warriors, including currency converters, wifi finders, and SitOrSquat, which lets you find clean bathrooms and rate ones that might not be listed.

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Last updated: May 8, 2009




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