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Why Won't VCs Tell You Why They Turned You Down?

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Foursquare releases its API in the race to dominate location. Foursquare, the suddenly white hot location-based social network, released its API to the public yesterday. And Mashable is predictably bullish about the results, making the argument that just as Twitter's meteoric rise depended on developer interest around its API to build things like Twitter desktop and mobile apps, so will Foursquare's API help legitimize the service and catapult growth. Foursquare, which has already picked up $1.35 million from Union Square Ventures, lets iPhone and Android users check in and notify friends from locations like bars or restaurants. Developers can use the API to visualize data generated by its users or create new ways to check into its service. What's more, argues Mashable, Foursquare's API and the real-time, location-aware nature of the mobile service, could help prove to the world that location really is everything. But GigaOm reports that Foursquare is hardly alone in the race to build a database of the world's coolest locations. Nextstop, a user-generated travel site founded by ex-Google product managers, also released its API. And Mozilla, uLocate, and Geodelic are steadily building their own databases.

How to pick the right idea. It sounds easy, but any entrepreneur will tell you that choosing the right idea for a business is often the hardest part. Here's a very interesting video of Josh Petersen, one of the co-founders of 43 Things, speaking at Seattle 2.0's StartupDay 2009, on how to come up with ideas and how to choose which of your ideas is the best one. Well worth the time. (Via A Sack of Seattle.)

Why won't VCs tell you why they turned you down? Most entrepreneurs find the lack of feedback that comes with a VC's rejection unhelpful at best. Foundry group co-founder Jason Mendelson tries to address the frustration by drawing from his own experience. If your pitch is too far afield from the firm's interests, he explains, all that's prudent is a quick email saying the fit doesn't work. Don't expect feedback on your business model when it's only taken a cursory look to see that it's not something his firm would invest in. There have also been instances where Mendelson's noticed something with his portfolio companies that might be relevant to a company's pitch, but he's elected not to share. The toughest scenario is "when the main issue with the company is the entrepreneur(s) themselves. It's not easy for me to say 'I wouldn't invest in you' and I try to stay away from that, because people change and improve over time." On the flip side, if the entrepreneur behind the pitch doesn't excite him, Mendelson adds, its likely he'll have less to say. (via peHUB)

Office Envy: Twitter's New Digs. Twitter recently moved its San Francisco headquarters around the corner to a larger space previously occupied by social network Bebo. TechCrunch gathered employee photos from around the web. Expect a lot of Twitter-themed art (think birds and @ symbols), as well as DJ booth, twee deer sculptures, and, ehem, vanity mirrors in the toilet stalls.

The dark side of developing apps. Reports of scrappy young software companies developing hit apps for smart phones have become the feel-good success stories of the past few years. However, as Wired reports, there are a number of pitfalls out there for small companies who place all their hopes on the whims of large corporations such as Google or Apple. One example is the software start-up Hello, Chair, which worked for nine months on an iPhone app called Appsaurus, which recommends other apps based on those you already own. Hello, Chair's hard work proved all for naught when Apple introduced their free app recommendation tool called App Store Genius. As one of the Hello, Chair developers explained, "That's one of the scariest things: If Apple moves an inch, they crush a bunch of little developers." While you can't fault companies like Apple or Google for developing their own apps, there has been a good deal of scrutiny over the somewhat arbitrary apps approval policy. In fact, today's ReadWriteWeb tells the story of three apps developers who have signed an online petition asking Apple to okay their apps, all of which have been awaiting approval for months.

The speed dating model of hiring Small companies looking to hire are buried under a mountain of resumes in the current employers' market, and making the wrong decision can be costly. I Love Rewards, a Wellesley, Massachusetts-based consulting firm had 1,200 candidates for nine openings but they narrowed it down to 68 in two easy steps, reports The Wall Street Journal. First they asked candidates to fly to an open house in Toronto which decreased the pool by 800. Then they held a series of speed dating-style interviews to locate the most enthusiastic candidates. Other companies have found success in tapping the talent pool by using applicant tracking software and video interviews or by asking hard-hitting questions like "How would you design Bill Gates's bathroom?"

Why accounting matters. It's not glamorous and it won't turn a bad idea into a good business. At the same time, all good businesses have it. Entrepreneur and New York Times small business blogger Jay Goltz delves into the paradox of accounting.

Using social media for giving. According to our friends over at Fast Company, Chase Bank is embarking on a crowdsourcing effort to raise money for charities via Facebook. The app, called the Chase Community Giving Program, allows users to pick from over 500,000 charities to receive money from Chase's philanthropy fund. The candidates range from a number of categories, such as healthcare and environment, with a $1 million prize going to the top charity ($100,000 for the top five, and $25,000 for the 100 finalists). The winners will be announced on December 15. A head count of 300 million Facebook users provides Chase with a pretty formidable crowdsourcing tool -- could this spur a trend in marrying social media with philanthropy?

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Last updated: Nov 17, 2009




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