The recession probably won't hurt your business. Say what? Scott Shane says there's a common curiosity about recessionary effects on start-ups, but data shows that effect is negligible, if not nonexistent when it comes to survival rates. Between 1977 and 2000, less than half of start-ups made it to age 5. The 48.8 percent survival number, says Shane for The New York Times, has remained constant despite economic movement--up or down. In fact, the chart that plots survival rates during recession and during expansion shows two nearly identical lines. Shane says that while it is possible that this recession will affect start-ups differently than others, two morals seem unequivocally evident. First, of U.S.-started businesses, most will live five years or less; second, launching a business because of the surrounding economic climate is a bad idea.
Starbucks goes undercover. Those of you who think you are supporting local small businesses by getting your morning coffee fix at a neighborhood cafe may be in for a surprise. The Chicago Tribune reports that the coffee giant Starbucks, which has some 16,000 stores, has rebranded one outlet in their native Seattle without any visible reference to its Big Coffee affiliation. The store, dubbed 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, is an attempt by Starbucks to sound less like a corporate entity and more like a neighborhood hangout. Needless to say, local business owners aren't happy with the somewhat deceptive move. "The Goliath is coming after me under a new name," said one local coffee roaster who will have to compete with the Starbucks alter ego.
The alcoholic drinks that the kids love...and the gov hates. Joose and Four Loko: both caffeinated, both alcoholic, and both made by companies now under investigation by states' attorneys general. The Wall Street Journal reports that California, Connecticut, and New York, among others, are looking into "whether the brands may be using deceptive marketing practices, such as by suggesting to consumers that they will have a stimulating effect like non-alcoholic energy drinks." Intentional targeting of underage drinkers is another concern.
The greening of the big box. Wal-Mart announced yesterday that it plans to institute a new system of eco ratings for each item in the store. For suppliers, this means turning over 12 data points per item that Wal-Mart hopes will determine how each product was made and packaged. Once armed with these results, Wal-Mart will then calculate a product's "greenness," turning this into a consumer rating system. It's an overwhelming task to say the least. Luckily the superstore will partner with about 12 universities to collect the data and develop the standards. No word yet as to when the ratings will take effect.
The mayor drinks for free. If you're nervous about big brother keeping too close an eye on you, don't work with Foursquare. But if you're a small-business owner looking to incentivize potential customers with a good deal and a little fun, you might want to get involved. While some of Google's ads are already location-based, Foursquare takes location-targeting and consumer interaction to a whole new level, TechCrunch reports. With its new iPhone app, Foursquare allows a patron of a bar, for example, to check in every time he visits the joint; if he's visited more than everyone else in a certain city or area, he's dubbed "the mayor" and wins a free drink or a discounted ticket to a show. "Being able to connect web advertising, recommendations, and social media buzz to an actual person walking into your store has long been the holy grail of the advertising world," blogs Charlie O'Donnell, CEO and co-founder of the career guidance site Path101.com, at This is going to be BIG.
A remote trifecta. The worlds of broadcast TV and YouTube are about to merge, thanks to Rovi, the company that plans to launch a new version of the online video site, called YouTube XL, Wired.com writes. Now users will be able to activate a unified media guide to search, playback and recommend both broadcast content and YouTube video. All they'll need is a home network, broadband and a TV set or cable box - with one catch: the equipment must contain a Rovi chip. The company claims it has long-standing relationships with already existing TV and cable box manufacturers that will make the technology possible. So far it's partnered with Blockbuster OnDemand, Flixster, Roxio CinemaNow and Slacker radio.
JASON DEL REY was a senior reporter covering technology, branding, and company culture for Inc. magazine. Before joining Inc., his work appeared in Newsday, The (Newark) Star-Ledger, and the Staten Island Advance, and on ESPN.com. He lives in New Jersey. @DelRey