Family Business Feuds; The Ideal Career Path
BY Nitasha Tiku
Should VCs and angels get a small business bailout too? As Obama moves into the small business phase of the stimulus plan, there's been more talk about financial support for early stage venture capitalists and angels. "All I can say to this is 'vomit," Foundry Group managing director Jason Mendelson writes on peHUB. In his open letter to the current administration, he argues in favor of policies that supports small businesses like startup visas and patent reform. Just not necessarily handouts for the people who back them. "I find it offensive that high net worth angel investors or highly compensated venture capitalists along with their sophisticated investors need to be bailed out. We, as an industry, should be responsible for our investments and frankly, the current recession hasn't affected our early-stage industry very much." Mendelson is just as frank with the startups angling for government support. The risk is there for young companies, with or without the recession. Only now there are benefits, he argues, like lower rents and the ease of hiring good people.
Venture capital's first seeds. Love 'em or hate 'em, we all know the significant role venture capitalists play in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. But where did they come from? Here's a little history lesson, courtesy of serial entrepreneur Steve Blank.
The ideal career path for an entrepreneur. For an entrepreneur, joining a startup, either as the founder or an early employee, is more like the first step on a career path rather than just another gig, argues Hunch founder and Skype investor Chris Dixon. "If your goal is to start a company, it is mostly a waste of time to work anywhere but a startup-with the possible exception of a short stint in venture capital." Some of Dixon's commenters disagreed. Shan Sinha said his experience working at Microsoft before founding DocVerse was extremely valuable, giving him insight into decision-makers at large companies and how a startup can position itself against larger competitors. VentureHacks' Babak Nivi commented that since most startups are poorly run, a better option might be join a startup that's really taking off (hi, Twitter), or just follow a good leadership team, early-stage venture or not. What do you think is the best path to prepare for launching your own company?
Cautionary tales for family business owners. Nothing beats a family business when things are running smooth, but when troubles arise, both the business and the family run the risk of self-destructing. The Boston Globe has a fun slideshow that details some of the most famous family feuds over business and their ugly aftermath. For example, the bitter infighting between Curtis and Prestley Blake, co-founders of the Friendly's restaurant chain, was anything but. Likewise, the brothers Berkowitz, heirs to the Legal Sea Food restaurants, had to have a court settle their disputes over control of the family business. Funny Legal's CEO Roger Berkowitz never mentioned that last year when told us all about the way he works.
How to decide if your business idea is any good. Tired of being asked by people about whether their business ideas were good or not, tech entrepreneur and blogger Neil Patel lays out his thoughts on the best way to figure it out. "I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the chances are, neither I nor anyone else is going to know whether your business idea is going to work or not," he writes on Quick Sprout. The only way to know, says Patel, is to actually start the business. He goes on to share some tips about getting a business going and how to gauge its success; he also delivers some tough love, "If you are really passionate about your idea, you need to go with your gut and start it. Now, this doesn't mean you'll necessarily succeed, but you'll never know if you don't try it out."
Google Voice now allows you to keep your original number. Mobile voicemail services that create text-based messages for you to read instead of listen to are nothing new, but Google Voice is making the transition easier. Initially users had to choose a new phone number to sign up for Voice, but as of yesterday, they now have the choice to keep their digits and still receive most of the same functionality. According to PC World even with your old phone number, Google Voice will allow you to search through your voicemail online, create custom voicemail greetings for different callers, receive text and email notifications about new voicemail, receive free transcriptions of voicemail, and enjoy low-priced international calling.
Eleven fatal business mistakes. Businesses can just as readily end with a whimper as with a bang. Jay Goltz, who owns five small businesses in Chicago, chronicles eleven common and uncommon errors businesses make. They range from the head-smackingly obvious like not guarding against embezzlement, to missing more minute details like using the kind of extension cords that could start a fire and not preventing vehicle liabilities by checking company car tires regularly enough.
Reporter NITASHA TIKU covers technology, finance, green business, and social entrepreneurship for Inc. magazine and contributes to the staff’s daily links blog. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, The Villager, Chelsea Now, and on nymag.com. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. @nitashatiku