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Seven ways for businesses to lower health care costs. Even if President Obama signs health care reform legislation into law in the next few months, its major provisions won't go into effect until 2013. Meanwhile, businesses are projected to see a 9 percent spike in costs next year, reports The Wall Street Journal. As the January 1st renewal date for companies' health care plans approaches, the time is right for renegotiation. The Journal's Diana Ransom gives CEOs seven tips to contain costs, including offering a consumer-directed option, bundling services under one provider, getting group coverage, offering wellness plans, and considering joining a purchasing coalition. If you're based in Minnesota or Washington, there's also the option of a health co-op to negotiate with medical services providers.

Cyber-crooks target small businesses. As if dealing with the recession wasn't enough, small-business owners are now being warned to be on the alert against gangs of Eastern European cyber-crooks that have begun to target small- and medium-sized businesses. A financial industry task force sent out an alert warning of "a significant increase in funds-transfer fraud involving the exploitation of valid banking credentials belonging to small and medium sized businesses." As the Washington Post points out, because the targets tend to be smaller, the attacks have not received the notoriety that usually accompanies similar crimes against larger corporations. Authorities say the attacks share a typical modus operandi: the thieves send a virus-laden e-mail to a company's controller or treasurer, which once opened, installs software that is designed to steal passwords. With that information in hand, they then initiate a series of wire transfers, the majority of which have been landing in Eastern European bank accounts. The size of the heists vary, but the numbers can be staggering. For example, cyber-crooks managed to steal $1.2 million from a Texas-based plumbing equipment supply company. The company was able to recover all but $190,000 of their money, but as their operations manager puts it, "This could have put us out of business."

Why young companies die. "Everyone was using a road map that was designed for a very different location, yet they are surprised when they end up lost." That's serial entrepreneur Steve Blank on the No. 1 cause of start-up death.

The problem with venture capital. There's been a lot of blog chatter lately about the future of the venture capital industry, which has come under fire from entrepreneurs and finance types alike for producing low returns and for being unfriendly to company founders. Chris Dixon, an entrepreneur and investor, has a new post on another problem with VCs: management fees. Venture capitalists, Dixon explains, get a percentage of the returns they generate, but they also earn 2 percent of the total size of the funds they manage. "This is why you see VCs raising bigger and bigger funds, why you frequently hear them say things like 'I need to do 2 deals this year' and, worst of all, why you often see VCs arguing for larger round sizes even if the start-up has no productive use for the additional money," he writes. His conculsion: "VCs seem to be a big fan of performance-based compensation when it comes to startups. They should adopt it for themselves as well."

A start-up wedding registry. Forget the candy-colored KitchenAid blender. For their upcoming nuptials, Drue Kataoka and Svetlozar Kazanjiev are asking guests for some seed money instead. The couple wants to parlay the cash into larger sums of cash via their web start-up Aboomba, reports Valleywag. Possible items wedding guests can give, er finance, are "startup essentials like feeding an engineer for a day, feeding a VC lunch, buying coffee and Red Bull for the team." There's even a video. It's a cross between a video resume and a late-night infomercial--with props!

Facebook tries to patent crowdsourced translations. Last year, Facebook tried a novel approach to translating its website into dozens of different languages. It asked its massive community of users to do the work. Now, TechCrunch reports, the social network has filed a patent for the process, which has been adopted by a number of other websites with large communities users. This sort of business method patent has become increasingly controversial as some intellectual property experts and entrepreneurs have complained that they are arbitrary and stifle innovation. TechCrunch, for its part, says, "it would be highly frustrating for social networks down the line if they can't leverage their own communities the way Facebook has."

Making a buck while saving some lives. The New York Times has the overview on the rise of entrepreneurs looking to put a dent in drunken driving rates. When you've had one too many, their businesses will take you, and your car, home.

Last updated: Aug 27, 2009




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