The Upside of a Housing Crisis and Google Goes Tweeting
BY Max Chafkin
From bust to boom. In the wake of the ongoing foreclosure crisis, South Florida has emerged as one of the regions hardest hit. But some local businesses are making the most of the meltdown. As the Miami Herald reports, a wide array have taken advantage of the opportunities that have developed from the recent spate of foreclosures. Giving Tree Development of Fort Lauderdale buys bank notes at discounted rates and then lowers borrowers' monthly mortgage rates to help them save their homes. Other businesses aren't quite as philanthropic. Peter Zalewski started CondoVultures, a real-estate business that specializes in selling foreclosed properties to cash investors looking for bargains. As he explains it, "It's not noble, but it's definitely profitable." Zalewski's unapologetic approach to his business has even landed him a spot in Michael Moore's new documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story." In one interview featured in the film, Zalewski points his finger like a gun and declares, "This is straight up capitalism. Chi-chi-boom."
Twitter gets cozy with Google, Microsoft. And the geeks go wild. Yesterday in separate, dueling announcements, Microsoft and Google said that they would integrate Twitter postings into their search results. Here's Google's Marissa Mayer. And here's Bing's announcement. Techcrunch sums it up thus: "Search is about to get realtime. Real Fast."
Obama Announces Small Business Relief. We told you yesterday that the mythical Small Business Bailout would be announced soon, and it finally was, reports New York Times (link and coinage via Huffington Post's esteemed business editors). President Obama, in an obvious snub to Inc. columnist Norm Brodsky, unveiled his plan at a Maryland records storage company. The plan allows small community banks to borrow from the Treasury Department's TARP program, which initially only applied to big banks, and it raises the maximum size of SBA loans. The SBA rule change requires congressional approval, but there's a bill in the House that would do just that. We're waiting with baited breath for a reaction from Anonymous Banker.
Why the "winner takes all" theory doesn't always work. Sure there are dominant companies synonymous with their industries: eBay for auctions, Google for search, Facebook for social networks. But Bijan Sabet says it doesn't always work that way. "Winner takes all" believers also tend to advocate that the best way to beat that incumbent is to build a better mousetrap. Sabet recommends the opposite: competing by "doing less (not more) and focusing on one thing and doing it very well." By way of example, he points to the business of online employment ads, where Monster.com once ruled. Now, by implementing different business models focused on different experiences, you have Craigslist, LinkedIn, The Ladders, and Indeed. "Entrepreneurs are just too creative, too ambitious and too optimistic to allow for a winner takes all world," he writes. (Hat tip, peHUB.) Read Inc.'s story on Friendster to find out what happens when a winner-takes-all flames out.
Wringing dollars out of social media. In light of a recent Citibank survey that indicates most small business still haven't joined the social media movement, Mashable has highlighted five companies that have -- and successfully. One of the start-ups that made the list, The Marsh Cafe in San Francisco, offers free drinks to "mayors" of the location-based mobile social media app, Foursquare. Click here for more tips on building your business with social media.
Thinking outside the box. As cloud computing becomes more commonplace, we will likely see more moves like the integration Box.net is undertaking with Salesforce.com. The companies are offering unlimited storage on Box.net to businesses that use the new Salesforce integration, according to TechCrunch. CEO Aaron Levie says the move is the first of a series that will try to position the company as a hub for all its users' cloud-based data.