Orthodox Entrepreneurs; Vice Industries Feel the Pain
BY Nitasha Tiku
Zipcar Goes IPO. Zipcar, the car sharing service based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is going public next year, according to a report by Bloomberg. CEO Scott Griffith told the financial news service that sales should hit $120 million this year and grow to $1 billion over the next ten years. IPOs have been few and far between of late, but Zipcar is betting it will buck the trend. Bloomberg notes that the idea of a IPO would have seemed odd back in 1999 when Zipcar was more of a countercultural movement than a company. Inc.'s Stephanie Clifford made a similar observation in a profile on the company last year, which broke down Zipcar's development into seven smart lessons.
Strip clubs feeling the pain. Vice industries--like alcohol, tobacco, and gambling--are generally seen as recession proof, but in what may be a sign of just how bad things have gotten, even the nation's strip clubs are being forced to scale back. The Wall Street Journal reports that an industry that was booming two years ago is now retrenching as clubs are "shedding their upscale trappings and catering to a thriftier clientele by offering less expensive drinks and refocusing their marketing." One club in Las Vegas has been forced to increase the referral fees it pays to cab drivers who deliver clients from $30 to $100 a person. (Via Huffington Post.)
Ultra-orthodox Jewish housewives learn entrepreneurship. New York City's fast-growing ultra-orthodox community is hosting its first-ever business basics class for women, modeled after one offered last year for Hasidic men. The hope, reports Tablet magazine, is to help the wives learn the skills necessary to start a company, and give them the boost in confidence to apply for $25,000 seed loans from the Hebrew Free Loan Society. It's taking the micro-lending approach empowering women in third-world countries, and brining it Orthodox communities in neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Borough Park, and Crown Heights, where 60 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Graduates from the men's class have already qualified for loans, including one for a recording studio for Orthodox musicians.
The EU cracks down on open source. If the European Commission passes a law to apply consumer protection laws to software, the open-source movement could feel a schism, with reverberations all the way down to independent developers. CNET says that if software companies are held liable for the security and efficacy of their products, open-source vendors' business models might see a boost, but independent developers without the ability to offer support and maintenance will take the hardest hit. "Gone are the days [when] software could be written in a garage by two guys," said Bryan Tan, director of Singapore-based Keystone Law. That's how WordPress-powering genius Matt Mullenweg, featured in this month's Inc., got started. Let's hope this won't quash the ambitions of any Mullenwegs-in-the-making.
Green businesses bring some good news to California. Other than the Lakers, there hasn't been much for Californians to cheer about lately. Their state is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and Governor Schwarzenegger is threatening to shut down the state government. There is some good news, however, and it comes in the form of clean energy. According to a Pew Charitable Trust study, California leads the nation in green jobs creation. According to the L.A. Times, in 2007 alone, clean energy accounted for the opening of 10,209 businesses that in turn created 125,390 jobs. Venture capital investments in California followed suit as well, totaling $6.6 billion from 2006 to 2008. It just goes to show, even a state with a superhero for a Governor still relies on entrepreneurs to save the day.
More drama at Tesla. While the electric car company tries to build its all-electric sedan, a war of words between CEO Elon Musk and co-founder and former CEO Martin Eberhard has landed in the courts, with Eberhard suing Musk and Tesla. A countersuit is expected, and Jalopnik has the details.
Free advice for entrepreneurs. Former Wall Street Journal national small business editor Kevin Salwen will lead a series of live Q&A session in Yahoo Answers starting June 22nd. Bank of America and Yahoo have partnered in an attempt to reach the online small business community, writes Media Post. Better yet, the best question during each Q&A wins the asker search advertising credits on Yahoo and a 45-minute conversation with Salwen. Or take a look the Yahoo Small Business Answers Center, which went live this week.
Tweeter beware. Connecting with your consumers via social media can be a great way to start a conversation; but not all conversations are entirely pleasant, writes Steven Cisowski, a media planner with the marketing agency Razorfish tells AdAge. In fact, some social media users see that type of public promotion as an overstepping of boundaries, and won't hesitate to let the world (or at least their followers) know it. According to Cisowski, many users were "insulted" by Skittles' suggestion that people would have only positive feedback to their social media campaign, and responded with "negative comments on the page, sarcastic in tone."
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