Need an idea for a start-up? Talk to Paul Graham. His start-up school-cum-investment fund, which has created more than a hundred ambitious start-ups over the past few years, has launched a new program for entrepreneurs who want to start a company but don't know what kind of company to start. The fund will periodically publish a "Request for Startups" in which it lays out an idea that it would like to fund and solicits applications. (Graham had previously suggested dozens of start-up ideas--which are worth a read if you're in need of some inspiration.) The first start-up Graham wants to fund? A new kind of journalism company. "What would a content site look like if you started from how to make money--as print media once did--instead of taking a particular form of journalism as a given and treating how to make money from it as an afterthought?" the site asks. If you think you know the answer, maybe it's worth applying. (Via Techcrunch.)
Marketing your company on the cheap. On his blog, Quick Sprout, West Coast tech entrepreneur Neil Patel doles out some good advice for business owners looking for ways to avoid shelling out cash on their marketing efforts. The post, titled "Stop Paying for Marketing!" serves as a good primer on such topics as e-mail marketing, search-engine optimization, and the use of social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.
Miramax neglects its core competency, suffers. Independent art house movies with major crossover appeal like Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love once made Harvey and Bob Weinstein the toast of Hollywood. In an engaging profile in this weekend's New York Times, David Segal follows the company after it squanders $1 billion in private equity from Goldman Sachs by investing in fashion (buying part of the once-illustrious label Halston), an online social network for millionaires called A Small World, and a piece of the cable network Ovation--ignoring the skill that got them to the top in the first place: figuring out how to package well-made, but relatively inexpensive movies that Hollywood couldn't be bothered with. But the lesson for entrepreneurs isn't just stick to your core competency. Once Hollywood co-opted Miramax's model, "the Weinsteins adopted the methods of old, bloated Hollywood, rather than finding a new way to again outfox the majors." When the brothers were fighting their way to the top, no one was a better at picking the right movies and shepherding them to the box office. "They had impeccable taste when they were hungry," director Kevin Smith tells The Times. "The problem is that they're not really hungry anymore. They're starving and desperate."
Shady practices at job search firms. All job seekers out there should take a look at this cautionary tale, published in yesterday's New York Times, which tells the story of Kerry Fischman, a former manager at Georgia Pacific who paid an upfront fee of $8,000 to a job search company to find him a well-paying job. Instead of giving Fischman an inside track on job openings, the job search company "did little more than redo his resume and push him to cold-call employers." And Fischman isn't alone. The Times reports that several state attorneys general have, during the recession, heard complaints about similar career management companies.
How to structure a term sheet. Fred Wilson flagsthis excellent post on term sheets from serial entrepreneur and former VC Chris Dixon. Dixon lays out what terms should and should not be included in an early stage investment deal. The post is pretty technical but it's worth a read if you're raising money now. It also includes a worthwhile recommendation: Don't spend a lot of money on legal fees. Wilson seconds and suggests using a boilerplate term sheet offered by a law firm that specializes in start-ups. Wilson writes, "There are multiple benefits to doing it this way. First, it leads to a very fast close. Second, the legal costs are minimal, certainly less than $10k and they should be less than $5k. And third, it sets the company up well for future rounds of financing because there is nothing funky in the docs."
MySpace looks to strengthen its grip on the social network music world. TechCrunch is reporting that MySpace is close to a deal to acquire iLike, the social music service that is wildly popular on Facebook and other social networks. The purchase price is said to be "around $20 million." "By acquiring iLike," Michael Arrington writes, "MySpace solidifies their already leading position as the most popular online identity for bands."
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