Health Care, Immigration, and Marketing by Pigeon
BY Max Chafkin
Towards a founder visa. Earlier this year, Paul Graham proposed creating a special work visa for founders of startup companies. Graham reasoned that founders wouldn't take jobs from Americans and that some would create large, self-sustaining companies. Now Brad Feld, a Boulder-based VC and a mentor for the accelerator fund Techstars, is trying to turn the idea into something real. Feld says that two of the ten Techstars startups this summer had founders from outside the U.S. "Over the summer we struggled to figure out ways to get them Visas — all of the proposed approaches were expensive, risky, and tiresome," he writes. "Both companies are still trying, but each are now seriously considering returning to their home countries to build their businesses. I cannot come up with a single reason why this makes any sense from a US perspective." Feld says he's looking for people who can help him turn this idea into a movement. (Via Techmeme.)
Marketing by pigeon. How do you get attention for a product that no one likes talking about? Try carrier pigeons! A South African company, Unlimited IT, recently tried such a stunt to protest slow broadband speeds in the country. The IT consultancy tied a 4 gigabyte data drive to a pigeon named Winston and pitted him against the leading broadband provider in a data transfer race. According to the BBC, Winston flew the memory stick between the company's two offices, a distance of 60 miles, in an hour and eight minutes, handily beating his digital competitor. It was a coup for carrier pigeon enthusiasts and for Unlimited IT, which has landed hundreds of media mentions thanks to the race.
What the Obama healthcare speech means. On Wednesday, President Obama outlined a handful of proposals such as health-care exchanges, tax credits, and a public option--all of which could provide welcome relief to businesses coping with skyrocketing health insurance costs. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, it's the fine print that have some businesses on edge. Some business owners are concerned about the idea of "chipping in," who the "hardship waiver" would apply to, and whether the promise not to raise taxes to cover the $900 billion cost over the next ten years is one that Obama can keep.
The SBA joins YouTube. Yes, you read right. Along with all the adorable baby panda videos, TV clips, and amateur singers/dancers/ranters destined for fame, you'll now find a YouTube channel devoted the SBA. "The first instinct might be to chuckle," writes Deborah L. Cohen at Reuters. "Anyone who has followed the SBA throughout the travails of the recession realizes the agency has been under scrutiny over the effectiveness of its primary mission of delivering financial support to a vast array of small companies. Could this be a bit off the point?" What do you think? Does launching a YouTube channel represent an about-face from ineffectual bureaucracy toward new media savvy and transparency? Or will we soon see an SBA social network and an SBA iPhone app instead of a boost in small business lending? The channel's been up for about a month and, as of this morning, its most popular video, an introduction to the SBA, was viewed 3,185 times. (Hat tip, peHUB)
A new approach to mentoring. Each generation of entrepreneurs benefits for the collected wisdom of the one before it. But, as Forbes reports, Sramana Mitra was stymied by the sheer volume of entrepreneurs seeking her advice from around the world. As a remedy, Mitra, a serial entrepreneur and Silicon Valley strategy consultant, tried a series of teleconferences, the next of which will happen on September 15, to answer questions of enterprising young businesspeople from Ireland to Brazil. Here are some tips on how to find the right mentor or how to become one.
Malls open their doors to smaller stores. The suburban shopping mall has long been the bastion of Big Retail, dominated by large department stores and nationwide chains. But as the Orlando Sentinel reports, increasing vacancy rates have led some malls to roll out the welcome mat to smaller, independent, and often-times quirky businesses. For shoppers at the Altamonte Mall in Altamonte Springs, Florida, that means they can cap a day of shopping with a tattoo from the recently opened Ink Spot Tattoo. As a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers puts it, malls are now "open to more new and creative ways of creating traffic and filling those vacancies." Move over J. Crew; fresh ink may now become the accessory of choice for suburban soccer moms.
From unemployed to boss. When they lost their jobs, they didn't pout or post a screed; they started their own business. Here 30 newly-minted entrepreneurs tell their entrepreneurial tales to the Huffington Post.