Jack Ma's grand ambitions. TechCrunch has a post marking the tenth anniversary of Alibaba, the business to business e-commerce platform founded by Jack Ma. (For more, check out Ma's "How I Did It," which appeared in Inc. last year.) The post outlines Ma's goal of having 10 million people who make their living from his company's services--which include an eBay-like auction site, a PayPal-like payment processor, and, of course, Alibaba.com, which makes it easy for businesses to source manufactured goods and raw materials. Now Alibaba is taking aim at small business software--it hopes to eventually compete with Salesforce.com--and at small business lending, with a micro-loan program that offers financing to Chinese entrepreneurs.
Mel Simon, shopping mall pioneer, RIP. In this brief calm before the upcoming holiday shopping season, we should all bow our heads and remember Mel Simon, one of the key figures in the development of the indoor shopping mall, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 82. A Bronx native, Simon worked as a leasing representative for a Indianapolis shopping center until 1960 when he recognized the vast potential for the industry. Joining with his brothers, he formed Melvin Simon & Associates, the forerunner to the Simon Property Group, one of the most recognizable names in shopping malls today. As one developer put it, Simon "helped invent an industry. He was among two or three pivotal people in the shopping center industry who created the closed shopping mall. No one did it on the scale and velocity he did it." With his tremendous success, Simon went on to indulge his love of sports by buying the Indiana Pacers in 1983.
Social media mistakes that can get you in hot water. With advertising budgets shrinking, many companies are wisely turning to social media as a cheap and effective way to drum up business. But before you send out that latest Twitter update, Advertising Age has a list of "The 7 Biggest Legal Risks to Your Company When Using Social Media," that you might want to take a look at. Some of the tips are obvious reminders of just good web etiquette, while others may be a wake-up call that your social media campaign isn't completely on the up-and-up.
Unlikely New Orleans Startup Naked Pizza picks up another big name investor. How did an archaeologist by trade, who started a healthy pizza company with "a dissertation on how food is processed in your lower intestines" printed on the pizza box, and the ability to drone on at length about evils of the industrial-food supply become the next big thing for investors like Mark Cuban? As Rob Walker explains in last Sunday's Consumed column for New York Times magazine, the New Orleans startup took the advice of Trumpet, a local branding agency, and kept their probiotic and prebiotic pizza crust recipe, but changed the name from World's Healthiest Pizza to the slightly sexier Naked Pizza. They also employed Trumpet's suggestion to leverage social media like Twitter where they "might be better served by dialogue than dissertation"--even purchasing a billboard with their Twitter handle. It also helped that the product tasted good. Earlier this year, the company applied for Mark Cuban's open call to startups. (Cuban now has rights to franchises in Texas). After that co-founder Jeff Leach, the archaeologist by training, decided franchising was the way to go, with the goal of 1,000 locations or more. (The special flour would be made in New Orleans and shipped to the franchise). And with yesterday's announcement that the the Kraft Group, owners of the New England Patriots, are also coming on board as investors, it looks like the franchising strategy, has gotten its legs.
Facebook is cash flow positive. After years of struggling to make money off its wildly popular social network--including a number of high profile missteps--Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says his company is "free cash flow positive," the Guardian reports. That's not the same as turning a profit, but that's good news given that many social networks have struggled to turn themselves into real businesses. Why the success? A great advertising system, the newspaper says: "Self-serve advertising allows marketers to decide precisely who they want to appeal to, and buy ads to put in front of users who fit the profile...It's not just big advertisers, either. Almost anyone can walk up and buy space on the site if they have the cash." (Via Hacker News)
When the customer is wrong. While the current economy would seem to strengthen the well-worn business credo that the customer is always right, Paul Brown at The New York Times has put together a guide on when to put the kibosh on a customer relationship. For example, you have to consider the impact demanding, unrealistic customers have on employee morale, not to mention profits. See our guide of best customer service practices as well as which industries have the best and worst customer service.
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