American Express and NBC take nominations for the most inspirational small businesses. If you were watching the premiere of the Las Vegas season of Top Chef on Wednesday, you saw a commercial with celebrity judge and restaurateur Tom Colicchio touting one of his favorite small businesses, Urban Angler, a fishing supplies store in Manhattan, for its dedicated, friendly, and knowledgeable service and how it inspired him to offer the same in his restaurants. It's the kind of press companies dream of. And for the lucky winner of American Express and NBC Universal's "Shine A Light" contest, that kind of publicity could be theirs. The winner of the contest, which is taking nominees through September 13, reports MediaPost, will be featured on MSNBC's "Your Business" and will win a grant for $50,000 as well as $50,000 in marketing support from American Express. Nominate your favorite small businesses here. Can't get enough of Colicchio? Neither can we. Check out the advice he gave to BabyCakes NYC, a budding vegan bakery looking to go national, in our 2008 get-ahead guide.
How not to react when your PR firm's pitch gets called out. Speaking of publicity, here at Inc. we often wonder whether companies and their founders know just how silly some of their PR firms' pitches are. Well, ContentNext founder Rafat Ali found out the hard way, thanks to Silicon Alley Insider. To say he wasn't happy would probably be an understatement. Now his PR firm is trying to get the last word.
Facebook starts a cash-out craze. Facebook's decision to allow employees to sell some of their stock to a Russian investor, has proved extremely popular. Earlier this week, news surfaced that the buyback program was oversubscribed--the Russian company had put up $100 million, but apparently it wasn't enough to meet demand--and that Facebook was being forced to scale back the number of shares that employees were allowed to sell. Today's Wall Street Journal suggests that the popularity of the buyback program has spilled over to other start-ups. A VC tells the Journal that the Facebook program has set off a "snowball effect," causing other employees at privately held companies to ask to cash out some of their shares. At the root of this problem: Exits (and therefore employee payoffs) are taking a lot longer. The average time from start-up to IPO is now 8.3 years, compared with just 3.3 years in 2002. For more, check out Ryan McCarthy's story on Second Market, a start-up that is trying to solve this problem.
Eight tips to boost your Web biz. No need to hire a consultant, tech entrepreneur and web guru Neil Patel is giving away his tips for free on his blog, Quick Sprout. His post, 8 Ways to Improve Your Web-Based Business, provides pointers that range from the basics--Keep it simple--to the more complex, such as a list of tips to help optimize your conversion rate. In a past life, Patel must have been a teacher because his blog does a great job in explaining the concepts he lays out by providing concrete examples and point-by-point instructions. For example, one of his tips is to "Help Your Visitors Trust You." As he explains it, "Even if you aren't, people are afraid to swipe their credit cards online." He then goes on to list five ways to help build customer trust, such as adding honest testimonials to your site and providing an assortment of ways your customers can contact you.
Twitter knows where you live. Literally. Co-founder Biz Stone announces in a blog post that the micro-blogging startup will allow Tweeters (that's people who send Twitter messages) to include their location in their missives. TechCrunch is jazzed, calling it a "very powerful new feature" and Jeff Jarvis can barely contain himself as he imagines all sorts of applications. In similar news, Foursquare, has started showing advertisements that are targeted to user locations, according to TechCrunch.
Gmail now imports old mail and contacts from Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, or POP3. Still have email accounts from before you ever heard the names Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Web Worker Daily reports that the folks at Google will now let you import contacts and mail from accounts that were around before Gmail was in existence, even for older Gmail accounts that previously didn't support the feature. Whether there's anything worth salvaging from the Yahoo account you started in the hey-day of dial-up is another question.
Michael Moore takes on Wall Street. Dealbreaker tips us off to Capitalism: A Love Story, the latest documentary from director Michael Moore. AIG, Henry Paulson, and (of course) George W., watch out. Enjoy the weekend.
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