The business of pogo sticks. Looking for something to do this weekend? Try competitive pogoing. Over the past decade, there has been a burst of innovation in the pogo stick industry, the Wall Street Journal reports. Okay, "industry" might be a stretch, but, there's no doubt that it's boom times for manufacturers of pogo sticks. "Pogo riders today, mostly teenage risk-takers who might otherwise favor skateboarding, can bounce more than six feet in the air and perform spins and flips," according to the article. In 2000, SBI Enterprises, which owns the original design for the pogo stick (invented by George Hansburg in 1919 as a training tool for dancers), introduced a new stick. The Flybar uses rubber bands instead of springs and can send someone who weighs 250 pounds five feet in the air. Business is booming--SBI's founder says that his company sells half a million pogo sticks a year--and competitors have sprung up with other extreme pogo models. One company, Vurtego, based in Mission Viejo, California, claims that its compressed air pogo stick can send riders up to 16 feet in the air.

How to speed up your SBA loan approval. This year, the SBA set aside $375 million to temporarily eliminate loan fees and increase loan guarantees to 90 percent. Time is now running out for business owners who want to access those sweetheart loans; the old rules return this winter. Approvals can take as long as 120 days, but the Journal has six ways to speed up the process. Start by updating your financial statements. You should have at least 3 years of tax returns, income and cash flow statements, balance sheets, and sales projections. Consider tapping a preferred SBA lender, like KeyBank or TD Banknorth, which are often able to underwrite their own loans. Offering a bigger down payment or some sort of personal guarantee can be another way to speed up the process.

Sharks circling Skype. Looks like Skype's planned 2010 IPO might have to wait. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington is reporting that an investor group consisting of venture capital and private equity firms are combining resources to make a bid to acquire the Internet phone company from eBay. Arrington suggests that one of the investors involved could be the newly-formed Andreesen Horowitz, a venture firm led by Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape. Earlier this year, eBay announced that it would spin Skype off next year in an IPO.

Parlez-vous entrepreneur? The word "entrepreneur" has its origins in France, but the country itself has shown a reluctance to embrace the concept. That is, until now. Time Magazine has an interesting story on the entrepreneurial revolution currently underway in France. Thanks to a innovative government program called "auto-entrepreneur," French officials estimate that nearly half a million new firms will have been created in 2009 alone. The government program cuts through the administrative red tape typically involved in starting a business and significantly eases the tax burden on startups. As one French entrepreneur puts it, "I'm finally doing only the work I enjoy, but would never have launched into on my own before." For you francophiles out there, take a look at Inc. senior editor Rick Schine's video coverage of the French American Conference for Entrepreneurs.

Singularity University graduates its first class. Ray Kurzweil, an inventor, entrepreneur, and a futurist, should never be accused of thinking small. Kurzweil has appeared in Inc. magazine numerous times (he let us scan his brain and told us how to predict the future) and is the leading advocate of a school of thought called the singularity, which says, essentially, that humans will eventually turn into robots and live forever. Earlier this year he launched Singularity University with a handful of other tech luminaries with the stated mission of "preparing the world for accelerating change." The university graduated its first class yesterday, sending 40 students--each of whom paid $25,000 for a nine week course--into to world. The San Francisco Chronicle has an account of the event, during which students pitched their projects, such as a new disaster communication system, to faculty and venture capitalists.

Peak Water, not as crazy as it sounds. Naked Capitalism links to a post on The Burning Platform, which makes a compelling case about how freshwater shortages in the wrong places could lead to food shortages, famine, or starvation--even for a planet covered with 70 percent water. Check out our special report on the business of water, which features 11 entrepreneurs at the bleeding edge of a new economy around water shortages.

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