How not to get your ideas stolen. Don't spell them out in PowerPoint slides. That's the advice of Steve Blank, who is blogging about the fear, common among young entrepreneurs, that their ideas will get stolen. Blank tells a story of seeing one of his PowerPoint slides in a Japanese executive's presentation. In the end, Blank says, nothing bad happened except an apology from the offending CEO and a bus tour around Tokyo. But Blank advises that entrepreneurs still be careful. "Do not put your trade secrets, proprietary algorithms, patentable technology, secret sauce, etc. on presentation slides--ever," he writes. "If you present slides publicly, assume everyone including your competitors will have them. If you present slides privately, assume a high probability that your competitors will acquire them."
Is your state entrepreneur-friendly? If you live in New York, New Jersey, or California, then probably not. That's according to the Small Business Survival Index, a measure of which states are friendly to small businesses in terms of public policy decisions. The list, compiled by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, looks at 36 government-related costs such as taxes, regulatory costs, and property costs, to determine which states have truly made an effort to be welcoming to small businesses. South Dakota tops the list as the most small-business friendly state, followed by Nevada, Texas, Wyoming, and Washington. The District of Columbia comes in as the least friendly, preceded by New Jersey and California.
Birth of a brand name. Ever wonder what's the inspiration behind those really great company names? Woman's Day (via Digg) details 15 popular brand names, some of which have some surprisingly esoteric origins. For example, did you know that Starbucks took its name from the first mate in Melville's Moby Dick? How about the forgotten acronyms that gave rise to names like Yahoo and Geico? If you're searching for an unforgettable sobriquet try our guide to trademarking.
Fred Wilson speaks out for startups. On the heels of a round table debate at the New York Times about whether the government should intervene to curb Google's power (Wilson's take "Technology moves very rapidly and one decade's dominant monopoly is the next decade's fading giant."), the Union Square Ventures' principal tackles another public policy issue that could negatively impact tech startups, namely two provisions in Senator Dodd's financial system reform bill. The first calls for increasing the threshold for accredited investors and the second calls for ending the federal preemption of "all accredited offerings," so that even if investors meet federal requirements, states would be permitted to regulate instead. A group of Seattle entrepreneurs drafted an open letter against the policy, detailing its potential consequences. Wilson calls the provisions, "wrong-headed," adding, "If you lower the amount of angel capital in startup land, you'll end up lowering the number of entrepreneurs who can get their projects off the ground.
The secret to non-dysfunctional budgeting. When the time for company budgeting rolls around, it's not often pretty--tensions mount, toes are stepped on, and the budget meeting can devolve into a session of begging for funds. Fortunately, Dave Kellogg, CEO of Mark Logic Corporation, a company that develops and markets an XML server, has offered up some pointers on his blog about how to make the budgeting process a productive one, starting with one word: strategy. According to Kellogg, the main problem with most company budgets is that they focus entirely on numbers and trends, and neglect the "planning" aspect--which is essential for business growth. "So, we have $250K for tradeshows--which ones and why?" he asks. "If you don't know, you have a budget, not a plan. I want both." To help get all your VPs and directors on the same track, one of Kellogg's suggestions include writing down 10-12 goals for the coming year, and to check and revise each goal during the budgeting process. Click here for some examples of companies that faced tough budget decisions, and how they stuck it out.
Co-founder of venture-backed start-up could face jail time. News publications from the Wall Street Journal to TechCrunch echoed our report yesterday that the SEC has filed fraud charges against Jeremy Blackburn, co-founder of Inc. 500 company Canopy Financial. Blackburn's assets have been frozen as well. What the others failed to mention is that Blackburn also faces a federal criminal wire fraud charge, filed by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, for allegedly providing fraudulent and forged financial documents to a VC firm that later invested in the company. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, $250,000 fine, and mandatory restitution. The U.S. Attorney's office says it is continuing its investigation.
Philly votes on tax breaks for B-corps. Philadelphia's City Council will decide this afternoon whether businesses that pass the B Corp rating system--which certifies a business as socially responsible and beholden to employees, community, and environment, as well as shareholders--will be eligible for tax incentives of up to $4,000. B Lab, the non-profit group behind the certification says that if this passes (the finance committee has already okayed it), it could be a model program for other cities looking to incentivize sustainable businesses. We first covered B Corps back in 2007 in A New Kind of Company. Here's the legislation up for vote and Philadelphia Inquirer story on the proposal.
Meet this year's "technology pioneers." It's that time of year again - when the World Economic Forum chooses the best up-and-coming technology startups from around the globe, honoring them with the title of 'technology pioneers.' According to TechCrunch, in order to win the reputation of a technological pioneer, a company must be "involved in the development of a life-changing technology innovation and have the potential for long-term impact on business and society." Past winners have included Google, Mint and Etsy. This year's list tops out at 26 companies, 18 of which are from the U.S. Twitter, Playfish, and Boston Power rank among the honorees.