‘Tis the Season for Retail; Is Being King Overrated?
BY Kasey Wehrum
The top 25 most active VCs. Venture capital investments bounced up 17.5 percent last quarter. Which VC firms were responsible for the uptick? TechCrunch used the data it collects from CrunchBase, a wiki of tech companies, investors and industry insiders, to rank the most active firms both in the third quarter and year-to-date. Draper Fisher Jurvetson tops both lists with 34 deals so far this year. The interactive tables can be sorted according to the total value or the mean value of the funding rounds. In that case, firms like Redpoint and Accel, which have sizable funds investing in later-stage deals, shoot to the top and firms like DFJ and First Round, which specialize in seed funding and early-stage rounds, dropped to the bottom. Read more about whether your business plan will attract VCs or check out our venture guide to all things venture capital.
Training wheels for would-be retailers. For anyone who's ever toyed with the idea of launching a retail store but wasn't quite sure if their idea would be a success, today's Los Angeles Times reports on the rise of kiosk rentals as a more flexible and less expensive alternative to traditional store leases. Thanks to their low cost of entry and rental agreements that can be as short as one or two months, kiosks are now a $12 billion industry in the U.S. according to one source. As one kiosk retailer who sells her own handmade jewelry explains, "I would love to own a little store, but I figured this would be a great start, just to see if it works." Small though they may be, the right kiosk can deliver some impressive returns. Probably the most famous example of kiosk success is Crocs, those loudly-colored plastic shoes got their start as kiosk items.
Chamber of Commerce Gets Pranked. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been making lots of news and spending lots of money in an attempt to derail President Obama's agenda, especially his efforts introduce a cap and trade system to deal with climate change. The stepped-up lobbying activity cost the Chamber $35 million last quarter and it caused a number of companies that agree with the White House, including Apple and PG&E, to withdraw from the group. Meanwhile, Nike recently resigned its seat on the Chamber's board. If that wasn't enough dissent, NPR reports that a left-wing group held a fake press conference yesterday, during which a fake spokesperson seemed to reverse the Chamber's climate change stance. The "news" was dutifully reported by CNBC and Reuters, and then reversed when a real Chamber rep interrupted the press conference.
Slim pickings in store for holiday shoppers this year. Less variety, fewer brand names, and uncharacteristically moderate holiday discounts will be the norm this year, as retailers stock their shelves conservatively for the months ahead. As reported by the Boston Globe, luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue has slashed its inventory by nearly 20-percent, compared with last year's stock, JCPenny has cut 14-percent of its stock, and even discount giant Wal-Mart has decreased inventory by about 6-percent. While the holiday season is historically the busiest shopping period of the year, this year, retailers will be more apt to let items run low, or out of stock, in order to avoid being left with millions of dollars in unwanted, end-of-season merchandise.
To be rich or to be king. That, says Jason Cohen of Smart Bear, is always the question. The concept, which was conceived by Harvard professor Noam Wasserman, refers to the fact that some founders are in it for the money (to be rich) and some are in it to run a great company (to be king). Cohen explained in a blog post yesterday why he decided to sell his company and go for the former. "There are those [who] want to be "King" no matter what," he writes. But he says that while he loved being king, he also wanted to make sure that his company would create some wealth. So he opted for a lower-risk strategy and sold out. "I have the freedom to work on any project I want for the rest of my life while simultaneously providing for my family, never again worrying about bills, debt, having a place to sleep, or sending our daughter to any college she wants," he concludes. Sounds pretty good to us.
Holiday retailers take old-school approach. With the holiday season fast approaching and many consumers still struggling to secure credit, some retailers are bringing back a long-forgotten program: layaway. But, as the Chicago Tribune reports, the reversal could be short-lived once access to personal credit becomes easier.
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.