The End of Free; Fred Wilson Takes a Leap

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Fred Wilson on Leaps of Faith. If you want to understand how your potential investors think, you should be reading Fred Wilson's blog. If you want to be a better blogger, you should also be reading Fred Wilson's bog. Wilson, a New York City VC and one of Twitter's early investors, writes today about leaps of faith--in his personal life and in the business of investing in startups. He explains that his investment in Zemanta, a web service for bloggers based in Slovenia, was based on a leap of faith: "There is no market for tools, beyond spell checkers and grammar checkers, to allow people to write smarter. There's no business model for a tool like Zemanta. There's no established track record of successful internet companies in Slovenia. In short, there was little to no empirical evidence to go on when we made our investment in Zemanta."

Entrepreneurs as comic relief? There's not a lot of humor to be wrung out of the business pages these days, but that hasn't stopped Ideablob, a networking group backed by Advanta, from wrangling CEOs in several cities into comedy clubs to share ideas about new ventures. We told you in April about the live events, via an L.A. Times article. But the concept showed up again in NYT yesterday, advertising that Ideablob is still offering $10,000 to the best idea shared online, with the contest deadline in Septemeber. This comes as a surprise after Advanta announced it would be walking away from its small business credit card customers next week. Is this a PR push to stay in the good graces of entrepreneurs?

Hulu to start charging money. Just a few months ago Wired announced that "$0.00 is the future of business." But the moment of free may be coming to an end. The Daily Finance has a missive from an Internet Week event, during which a News Corp. executive suggested that Hulu would begin charging money for content. Charging money! Valleywag is appalled. "Why does everything good have to come to an end?" the blog asks. For another dissenting voice on free, check out this Signal vs. Noise post from earlier this year, "How did the web lose faith in charging for stuff?"

Microsoft unveils its new campaign for Bing, and it's a reach. Microsoft's budget for trying to change users' browsing habits and get them to switch over to Bing instead of Google? $100 million. The first commercial debuted yesterday and as far as we can tell, it seems to imply that the internet's preoccupation with inane memes is really a function of poor search results that don't lead users to the serious stuff they're looking for. It's not too far of a stretch to say it suggests that if Bing had been sooner, we could have kept better tabs on the financial crisis as it unfolded. A search engine for more weightier times? That's funny considering the trend that a number of media outlets have picked up on: because of the way it lets users watch video, Bing actually makes it easier to surf porn.

Foreign companies compete in Kenya's cola wars A division of a London-based spirits company introduced a non-alcoholic, light-malt drink to Kenya and a quirky ad campaign quickly catapulted the drink, called Alvaro, into a sensation. Eight months later, Coca-Cola launches its own malt drink, Novida, with a major PR blitz. The real story here, says the Wall Street Journal, is the emergence of the long-neglected consumer market in sub-Saharan Africa, where close to a decade of economic growth yielded a sizable middle class with disposable income to spend. Which other countries are poised for U.S. exports? Scroll through our interactive export map to see which foreign markets saw the dollar value of U.S. exports grow more than 30 percent or the check out the highlights.

How to solicit customer testimonials without being annoying. Small Business Trends gives some tips on how to solicit testimonials without bugging your clients, such as offering incentives at checkout, holding a contest for the best testimonial, or organizing an event or "networking happy hour" where people come together to talk about your company. You never want to spam your customers, but if they opt in to a newsletter, or in a follow-up email after a purchase, you might want to create snippet at the bottom of the mailing that makes it easy for them to send feedback.

Elizabeth Edwards joins the entrepreneurial ranks. As if battling cancer, promoting a new book, and dealing with her husband's infidelities wasn't enough, Elizabeth Edwards announced her plans to open a new furniture store in downtown Chapel Hill. Dubbed Red Window, the store is slated to open in October and will apparently be similar to a charity store Edwards' mother managed when she lived in Japan. The store will feature a mix of furniture styles and prices and "the remains of John Edwards' political career," quips the gossip site, Jezebel.

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Last updated: Jun 4, 2009




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