Biz Lessons from the Poker Table; Google's New Idea
BY Kasey Wehrum
Yanks win, but few spoils for Bronx businesses. Congratulations to the New York Yankees, for winning (yet another) World Series championship. But while the team celebrates, owners of the struggling small businesses whose shops flank the new $1.5 billion House that Steinbrenner Built, are feeling more like the defeated Phillies. As the New York Times reported earlier this week, despite the Bronx Bombers' winning season, sales at local businesses were down significantly from previous years. New traffic patterns around the stadium are one reason for the drop, but some vendors blame the team's owners for opening up more concession stands outside the stadium. "I think what they're trying to do is force everybody else out," said one business owner. "It's dismal, very dismal."
Google's new e-commerce offering. Google's ever-expanding product line just got even bigger thanks to its new Commerce Search, a search function tailored for retailers. The service, which incorporates Google's search capabilities into your online store, carries a price tag of $50,000 a year according to TechCrunch, but Google says it's worth it. Their claim is that faster search speed will help customers navigate to what they want quickly, making them more likely to buy. Other perks include the ability to customize the search function to match the rest of your site and integration of other Google products like Google Analytics.
Entrepreneurship lessons from the poker table. In business, as in poker, sometimes you have to know when to fold 'em. So says serial entrepreneur and blogger Eric Ries on GigaOM. Ries takes the lessons he's learned from watching the World Series of Poker and explains how entrepreneurs and poker players share many of the same qualities. Namely, "Both rely on acting strategically under conditions of extreme uncertainty. And, in both, small changes in your odds of winning can have a big impact on the final outcome." Ries goes on to point out that just as in poker where amateur players sometimes beat the pros, many successful businesses are run by generally poor entrepreneurs. A frustrating truth in both cards and business. As Ries says, "Just because someone has had a success doesn't necessarily mean they understand why they were successful at all." For a look at an entrepreneur who helped launch the professional poker phenomenon, check out this profile of the World Poker Tour's Steve Lipscomb from the Inc. archives.
The Droid arrives. Verizon has been courting app entrepreneurs with those creepy commercials for its new smart phone. The Motorola Droid comes out this week--and the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg has a review. Long story short: The phone is pretty good. "It's the best super-smart phone Verizon offers, the best Motorola phone I've tested and the best hardware so far to run Android," he writes. But will the Droid, named for Google's Android operating system, be able to replace (or join) Apple's iPhone as the preeminent platform for app entrepreneurs? That seems unlikely in the short term. Mossberg notes that the iPhone marketplace currently dwarfs the Android's offering, and he finds a number of problems with the new phone, namely a cramped keyboard and some software bugs.
Skype founders settle, finally. Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom's four year old sale of Skype to eBay just got a little sweeter. The pair, who unloaded the online phone company for roughly $3 billion in 2005, will get 10 percent of a newly independent Skype, two board seats, and an option to buy more stock. Kara Swisher has the news and says that the deal marks an end to legal wrangling that stemmed from a dispute over software licenses and over eBay's decision to sell Skype to an investment consortium that included the former CEO of another of Zennstrom and Friis's companies. Swisher says that the lawsuit was especially fierce, "using embarrassing emails and making pointed accusations of...plotting all kinds of nefarious schemes."
The power of women-owned businesses. Last month, the Center for Women's Business Research released a study which found that 28 percent, or an estimated 8 million, of all U.S. businesses were women-owned. The study also showed that those 8 million cross-industry businesses created or maintained 16 percent of the country's jobs. However, only 4.2 percent of the nation's revenue is generated by women-owned businesses. The Center plans to approach the Obama administration, the Small Business Administration, and House and Senate small-business committees to request more resources and programs in support of the women business owners, reports the New York Times. On how the sector of support for women business owners needs to expand, executive director of the national Women's Business Council, Margaret Barton said, "Women really have to fall in love with running a business. They have to move into the state about being excited and motivated by running a business. We need help with that area."
Finding the right business partner. Tech entrepreneur Neil Patel shares some advice on his blog, QuickSprout, about the benefits of having a business partner, and how to find the right one. Patel, who admits he's been through his share of partnerships, warns that the union can be as tumultuous as a marriage and recommends setting expectations for each partner on day one. To that end, he suggests "sealing the deal" by putting both names on the LLC -- with clearly delineated percentages -- to prevent issues with money or ownership.
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.