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The "Other" Entrepreneurship; Inside Intuit

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Private companies still cutting back. A new employment report from ADP estimates that private companies cut another 203,000 jobs in October, Bloomberg reports. The good news? That's down from a decline of 227,000 in September. The bad? "I'm still expecting to see payroll employment decline probably through the end of the year," Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, told Bloomberg, "not turn up until January or February."

Google's definition of disruption: the "less than free" business model. Benchmark Capital's Bill Gurley considers himself an aficionado of business disruption. Think game-changing movements like software-as-a-service, open source software, and the freemium internet model. "As a venture capitalist it is imperative to understand ways in which a smaller private company can gain the upper hand on a large incumbent." But Gurley says Google topped all other disruptive plays of all when it announced this week that it was including free turn-by-turn navigation directions with each Android mobile OS. To understand how disruptive this is to the GPS data market, says Gurley, you need to know how "turn-by-turn" data became the lynchpin that held the duopoly of NavTeq and Tele Atlas together. In a market where maps are free, turn-by-turn data, which was costly to build and maintain, became a differentiator. On the heels of Google's announcement, stocks at companies like Garmin and TomTom fell upwards of 16 percent. For Google, argues Gurley, "less than free" doesn't stop with the iPhone. If Google goes the same route with its Chrome operating system and Sony or HP or Dell build a netbook with Chrome as its base, Google would gladly pay the ad splits to the computer manufacturers to put even more pressure on Microsoft's Windows.

To build or buy a business. The popular conception of entrepreneurship involves building a business from scratch in your garage, but buying an existing venture can be a less glamorous but savvier entree into the business world. On the New York Times You're the Boss blog, Barbara Taylor outlines some of the perks of buying rather than building, including less risk and more cash flow. Also, check out Inc.'s new section on buying a small business as well as a piece on a machine shop in Indiana that's on the broker's block.

Minting a new Intuit. After Intuit closed its deal to acquire personal finance site Mint.com earlier this week, TechCrunch caught up with Mint founder and CEO Aaron Patzer to discuss the details of the acquisition. Along with the $170 million for the start-up, he also receives a new title: vice president and general manager of Intuit's Personal Finance Group. His first official mandate as boss? Putting the kibosh on Quicken Online, which, according to the post, has significantly fewer active users than Mint.com. "Over the next six to nine months," he says, "we will end-of-life Quicken Online and their customer's data will be migrated over to Mint." The move will prove to be a particularly ironic one, considering that the Quicken Online team, which Patzer now oversees, was dubious of Mint's success prior to the acquisition. Patzer says later directives will include Mint and TurboTax integration, and helping users with financial planning for "big life goals" such as paying debt or buying a house. Click here for an Inc. Q&A with Patzer, in which he explains why he finally decided to sell.

Tough economy sends even laundromats into a spin. Coin-operated laundromats have long been touted as recession-proof businesses. After all, no matter how tough times get, people will always need clean clothes. Still, today's Wall Street Journal reports that this difficult economy is even affecting laundromats, putting a strain on their reputation for always turning a profit. "Now more than ever, the adage that we're recession-proof is being tested," says the president of the Coin Laundry Association. The Journal speculates that the economy has led people to wash their clothes at the home machines of friends and family and that people are wearing clothes longer between washes. Laundromats may collect their revenue one quarter at a time, but their effect on the economy is no small change; coin laundries represents a $5 billion industry with roughly 35,000 stores nationwide.

Foursquare's Eurotrip. The location-based social networking application Foursquare, started by the founders of the similar but too-early-for-its-own-good Dodgeball, has been building serious momentum since it picked up $1.35 million in seed funding in September. First, it announced an advertising platform for small businesses to offer rewards to its members. At the time, Mashable said Foursquare beat Twitter to the "local advertising goldmine." Then it added 15 cities in the U.S. and Canada. And today, TechCrunch reports that it's also rolling out its service in 15 European cities. Earlier this month, founder Dennis Crowley told us the service only had 100,000 registered users, but it looks like it won't stay that small for long.

Social, computer-based games are dominating the video game sector. The holiday season is typically the biggest money-making time for the gaming industry, but recent price cuts for Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's XBox, and Nintendo's Wii have failed to generate much of an increase in profit. However, one company that has been capitalizing on the $50 billion industry is the two-year-old London-based start-up, Playfish. Unlike traditional console-based video games, Playfish makes social, computer-based video games, which can be played through social media sites, like Facebook and Myspace. With tens of millions of people playing social games, and buying virtual goods, such as presents, clothes, and furnishings, so far, some believe that the social gaming industry is just in its infancy. Playfish chief executive, Kristian Segerstrale told Reuters, "The video-gaming market is in the middle of this fundamental tectonic-plate shift, away from being a physical product-driven industry to being a digital service-driven industry."

Last updated: Nov 4, 2009




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