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Dubai’s Meltdown; The Biz Behind This Year's Hottest Toy

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Meltdown in Dubai? The boom that put indoor ski slopes in the desert and man-made islands in the Persian Gulf looks to be coming to an end. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Dubai World, a state owned company controlled by the city-state, announced that it would stop paying back its debts. The Wall Street Journal has the news and says that the United Arab Emirates has not yet promised to bail out the faltering company. Zachary Karabell has a thoughtful analysis of the situation: "What led to Dubai's rise was a vision of Arab entrepreneurialism, easy credit, and anything-is-possible attitude," he writes, predicting that the oil rich nations, which use Dubai's malls and nightclubs as a playground, will ultimately bail it out. "Even a doomsday scenario for Dubai' 'complete default'' wouldn't be a global disaster," he predicts.

What is the going rate for "10 lords a-leaping?" Any romantic out there with the notion of giving their true love the gifts mentioned in the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" should be prepared to fork over some serious cash. As the Chicago Tribune reports, financial firm PNC Wealth Management did a cost analysis of the items mentioned in the song and the total came out to a staggering $87,403. PNC, which has been doing the study since 1984, checks jewelry stores, dance companies, pet stores and other sources to figure out the price of everything from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming. Surprisingly, this year's cost increased less than one percent, or a mere $794, from last year's cost of $86,609. PNC attributes the modest increase to lower energy costs and fewer wage increases. The 43 percent rise in the cost of gold accounted for the largest price increase, as the five gold rings went from $150 to $500. The most expensive item in the song? Nine ladies dancing topped the list with a cost of $5,473 per performance.

How to Kill a Great Idea. In July 2008, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington announced that he was looking to build a low-cost tablet PC meant for web surfing. But today he writes that "the entire project self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication." Here's his take on the messy divorce surrounding the CrunchPad.

Indian entrepreneurs find you can't go home again. In the next five years, 100,000 "returnees" will move from the U.S. back to India as part of the "desi diaspora," drawn in part by India's booming economy. But for entrepreneurs steeped in Western business education, returning home is proving difficult, reports the New York Times. Harvard's Vivek Wadhwa reports that 34 percent of repats found it difficult to return to India (as opposed to only 13 percent of Indian immigrants who had difficulty settling in the U.S.) Cultural ties, says the Times, "are overshadowed by workplace cultures that feel unexpectedly foreign, and can be frustrating." The problem is compounded by the fact that they "look Indian but think American," a managing partner at global executive search firm tells the Times.

The company behind this season's "must-have" toy. As any parent with a young child already knows, this year's surprise "must-have" toy is the Zhu Zhu Pets toy hamster. Yahoo News has an interesting profile of the company behind this latest fad, a small firm called Cepia Inc. of St. Louis, which has just 16 employees in the U.S. and 30 in China. As one mom interviewed in the story explains, these tiny robotic hamsters are now "more scarce than an H1N1 vaccine." The furry hamsters retail for about $10, but their scarcity has led them to pop up on eBay and Craigslist for around $40. Toy industry vet Russ Hornsby started the 6-year-old company when he was 56, and the company has recently had to add three more factories in China in an attempt to meet the demand. A lot of factors have contributed to the Zhu Zhu Pets massive popularity, but some of it can be traced to Cepia's savvy marketing strategy which got the word out on the hamsters through a mix of local cable ads and parties thrown by "mommy bloggers."

One way to boost your brand? Open up your API to outside developers. Netflix users looking for a good movie to watch tonight can visit Instantwatcher, which highlights critics picks from the New York Times hidden in Netflix's streaming movie catalog. But Netflix isn't the one that created the application to make life easier for their members, reports AdAge . The app was created after Netflix opened up its API. An open API is an interface that gives third-party software access to your data or code. Then those third parties can mash up your data (pulling in data from another source, say the New York Times) and build new tools on top of it. Netflix isn't the only one, Twitter's success is often credited with opening up its API, which spurred a solar system of third party apps around its service, like Twidroid for Android or Tweetdeck on Adobe Air. Geoff Bremner, the CEO of Modern Climate, who's worked with Best Buy's open API likens it to "a wall full of electrical outlets, each with a label: customer data, pricing data, inventory. We can just plug into that and we don't have to talk to anyone in IT at Best Buy." Adds AdAge, "In some ways, opening up APIs means tapping into an army of technologists." We said the same thing when we wrote about how Etsy uses its open API to entice developers to work for free.


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Last updated: Nov 30, 2009




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