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Inside the Zappos Sale

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More on the big Zappos sale. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh announced yesterday afternoon that his company was getting acquired by Amazon for more than $900 million in cash and stock. The company, which we profiled in our May issue, had grown to over a billion dollars in gross sales and managed to develop a employee-centric culture that made it the envy of Silicon Valley. The news so far has lit up the blogosphere. Techcrunch's Sarah Lacy calls it, "a great exit," and says that Hsieh fully intends to run the company as if it were independent. Meanwhile Business Insider flags a report by PEHub that, relying on anonymous sources, sheds some light on the sale process. According to PEHub's sources, Hsieh was hoping to take Zappos public, a reasonable goal given that it had EBITDA of $40 million, but was pushed to do the deal by his VC investor Sequoia Capital.

A new crop of green entrepreneurs. With the risk of federal raids now diminished thanks to a recent Justice Department ruling, it is high times for California's legal medicinal-marijuana industry. Today's Wall Street Journal takes a look at the growing number of entrepreneurs who are getting into the pot industry and some of the changes that are taking place as marijuana transforms from an illegal activity to a mainstream business. Instead of worrying about drug busts, California's pot entrepreneurs now have more mainstream business concerns, such as marketing and supply-chain worries. "I want to do everything I can to run this as a legitimate business," said one entrepreneur who opened a pot dispensary in a mall after spending 36 years as a car salesman.

CIT Group not out of the woods yet. Even with an emergency loan from its bondholders, the small business lender CIT Group may still be forced into a Chapter 11 filing, Bloomberg News reported this morning, citing "people familiar with the matter." The wire service reports that the CEO of the investment bank that is advising the bondholders told the creditors on a call yesterday that they should push CIT into Chapter 11 in a "pre-packaged bankruptcy." Over at nytimes.com, The Deal Professor breaks down the differences between CIT's private bailout and past government bailouts.

Welcome to the hair salon of the future. Deciding what haircut will suit you best isn't always easy. But Plan B Salon in Cambridge, Massachusetts has a techie solution: 15-minute video consultations via Skype. Before an appointment, customers can hear what their options are, get a feel for how well their stylist understands what they want--all without shlepping to the salon. Plan B offers Skype appointments all day Monday ("a smart way to fill up those quieter days," says Dutch entrepreneurial blog Springwise) and clients can book them online.

The Trojan Frog. Crisis can breed innovation. For backyard-pond builder Aquascape, that means offering rainwater harvesting solutions in the face of a worldwide water crisis. Aquascape CEO and occasional Inc.com contributor Greg Wittstock spoke with The New York Times about this new strategy. "Rather than look at water restrictions as a threat [to our water-gardening business], we have turned it into an opportunity," Wittstock says. "The key is that once someone begins capturing water, we'll want to convince them that they might as well put a decorative elmement on top of it." According to the story, Wittstock launched the company in 1991, and subsequently birthed an entire industry. Although he's complained of copy-cat competitors before, Wittstock is OK with being the biggest fish in the pond. "I've learned that when you try to keep something to yourself, you might protect it, but it won't grow," Wittstock says. "My goal is to grow the overall size of the water-feature pie. Then we can take our slice from it."

An iTunes killer? Though it might not seem possible, Spotify, the most used music sharing site in Europe, may surpass the popularity of iTunes and Rhapsody, suggests wired.com. It just has to get to America first, which it plans to do by the end of the year. Spotify's service contains more that 6 million songs on demand and is free until users accept premium features that eliminate advertisements. "We get around a thousand e-mails a week from people in the U.S. who want access to Spotify, so we know that there's a demand for the product," says co-founder Daniel Ek. "It is important for us, though, to figure out the best execution, as we are very serious about being able to monetize the content that we license." The NY Times also recently mentioned the service, reporting that companies such as Spotify are helping to quell illegal music pirating.

Inc.com's new look. Inc.com looks a bit different today. And better, we hope you will find. As Mike Hofman, deputy editor, Inc.com, writes, "This is a big day at Inc.com...visitors will notice that the template for articles pages has been spruced up." This is the next phase in Inc.com's redesign, which began in December, and includes new fonts and a more user-friendly commenting interface for readers, among other improvements. Let Mike know what you think, by e-mailing him at mhofman [at] inc.com.

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Last updated: Jul 23, 2009




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