Facebook Goes Retail and Secrets to Netflix's Success
BY Max Chafkin
Visa, Mastercard, or...Facebook?. The beginning of what the Financial Times says will be "a new wave of sophisticated e-commerce applications" has opened on Facebook. 1-800-Flowers, which pioneered e-commerce in the early 1990s with one of the first stores on AOL's then-nascent service, has opened an online store inside of the wildly popular social network. The FT predicts that Facebook, with 250 million users, could be a huge retail destination but is quick to say that the site has "no current plans to organise the storefronts into an online mall, or to make money from them by either taxing the transactions, or by offering its own virtual currency." But that hasn't stopped others from predicting that Facebook could eventually turn into a massive payments processing company, like PayPal. (Via Business Insider.)
An incubator for food industry entrepreneurs. If you're a foodie looking to start a business, New York City has your back. That's the message city officials tried to get across yesterday when they announced a plan to open a fully-equipped 4,000-square-foot shared kitchen in East Harlem, writes Patrick Mcgeehan of The New York Times. The city's economic development corporation is currently accepting proposals from companies interested in leasing and operating the space. The operator would be expected to offer below-market rental rates to help potential food businesses get off the ground.
How Netflix does it. A few years back, Netflix founder Reed Hastings told Inc. how he got started and how he fended off challenges from Wal-Mart and Blockbuster. Now someone has posted a 128 slide PowerPoint deck that is apparently used for employee orientation and that provides additional insight into the culture that Hastings helped craft. The presentation emphasizes employee freedom: there are no vacation policies; there are no dress codes; and most compensation happens by way of salaries so that employees can decide what to do with their money. Techcrunch's MG Siegler has a nice summary of the presentation and concludes, "It's also one hell of a recruitment pitch."
Healthcare costs' impact on business performance. A new study from RAND may be the first to document the impact of rising healthcare costs on business performance," explains Rick Newman at Usnews.com. Three researchers analyzed 38 industries from 1987 to 2005 and discovered that industries such as manufacturing and communications -- where a large percentage of workers have company-provided healthcare -- have experienced lower growth and employment numbers than those sectors where fewer workers get employer-paid insurance. The researchers also revealed some disturbing forward-looking calculations should major reform not be implemented: If healthcare costs rise to a predicted 20 percent of GDP by 2017, eight industries, including educational services, communications, and manufacturing, would shed more than 20 percent of their workforces over the same period. A sobering thought.
Retailers have trouble financing back-to-school stock. Tight credit is forcing small businesses to seek alternative lenders to meet demand for back-to-school merchandise, reports the Wall Street Journal. Irene Dodge, the owner of Elements Art Supply in Athens, Georgia used her bank line to order $30,000 worth of goods in time for back-to-school, her busiest season of the year. But this June, Dodge found out that Athena First Bank & Trust reduced her line of credit by 75 percent. The bank's priority was risk aversion, but it left her scrambling. Dodge managed to finance the basics, but placed her order later in the year than she would have otherwise. Other merchants are planning on buying less inventory to avoid having to discount leftover merchandise. Troubled small business lender CIT Group, which almost collapsed last month, had clients worried their back-to-school plans might not come through. Check out the Case Study from our current issue about about Able Planet, a Colorado-based audio technology company that had to figure out what to do when its bank suddenly changed the terms of its $2.5 million line of credit.
The pay-what-you-will taxi. The Huffington Post brings news of yet another try at a trendy business model. Recession Ride Taxi in Essex, Vermont lets passengers pay what they want for their ride as well as for in-car drinks. The company's founder, taxi driver Eric Hagen, says it's going well. Loyal Inc. readers may recall that we tried this with magazines with less success. It killed as a magazine article though.