Don't bother with a business plan. That's the advice tech entrepreneur Neil Patel gives to new start-ups on his blog, Quick Sprout. Most business gurus find them indispensable, but Patel gives a list of reasons why he thinks you're better off just rolling up your sleeves and diving right in. In addition to taking time away from actually running the business, Patel argues that business plans will not increase your chances of landing funding and that the ever-evolving nature of start-ups doesn't fit well into the neat and tidy confines of a business plan. As Patel writes, "Technology is constantly evolving and the way you go about operating your business isn't the same as it used to be. But the problem with business plans is that they haven't evolved with the business world. So why would you spend time on something that is old and out-dated?"
Keep your friends close. And your former employees closer. At least that's the lesson being learned by local advertising start-up Yodle, which has filed a lawsuit against three former employees, alleging that they "hacked" into the company's data systems and nabbed trade secrets and proprietary info, TechCrunch reports. What's worse, according to the complaint, is that all three workers named in the suit helped found Local Internet Doctors (which was started as a direct competitor to Yodle), and used the stolen data -- customer names, contact info, contract terms, etc. -- to bolster business. Among other things, the suit accuses the defendants of breach of duty and loyalty, civil conspiracy, and misappropriation of trade secrets. Check out Inc.'s advice on how to protect your company's precious info.
When good customers go bad. Yes, it can happen. Even the most long-standing customers can fail to pay when times get tough. But there are a few options--some more promising than others--to try to recoup payment, the New York Times explains. Or you might want to browse through our tips on getting customers to pay upfront.
Is the car the next great tech platform? We know, we know, things are bad in the auto industry. But maybe not for long. Our November cover story, "The Connected Car," introduced the idea that electric cars could represent an opportunity as a technology platform, one that entrepreneurs could use to build all sorts of related business. Today's Wall Street Journal focuses on Ford's attempts to do just that, allowing third party companies to develop software for its cars. The article suggests, for instance, that an app might tell you every open espresso shop along your route. Ford envisions an "automotive app store, modeled on the popular online software bazaar that Apple rolled out for its iPhone." The first step, according to the article, is releasing a software developer's kit, which Ford is expected to do today.
How Gawker changed media. We named Gawker Media founder Nick Denton to our entrepreneurs of the decade list for his frank memos and for building an impressive media company. Now, Mediaite digs into the company's flagship blog, Gawker. "Gawker has undeniably set the template for what the blogs of this decade aspire to be," Mediaite writes. "Denton has built an empire of Hearstian scope and ambitions and forever changed the game, how it's played--and who gets to play it."
How to make a living on Etsy. For arts and crafts enthusiasts, the Web-based, eBay-modeled Etsy can be the difference between a hobby and a career. The New York Times has profiled four women entrepreneurs who quit, or were let go from, their day jobs to become full-time makers of crafts and clothing, selling their homemade products through Etsy. One seller who is in her 30s, Yokoo Gibran, runs a one-woman knitwear operation out of her home in the Atlanta area, and she now earns more than $140,000 a year. "I have to wake up around 8, get coffee or tea, and knit for hours and hours and hours and hours," Gibran said. Though she admitted that the enjoys the work she does now, Gibran added, "[T]his is the hardest job I've ever had."
The growth of home-based businesses. Homepreneurs, or entrepreneurs with businesses you can start in your pajamas, are the envy of 9-to-5ers everywhere and Small Business Trends is forecasting that their ranks will only grow in the coming decade. Some of the explanations they offer for this trend include lagging job growth in 2010, an increasing focus on local businesses and community, and the growing prevalence of technological resources such as cloud computing and social media.
JASON DEL REY was a senior reporter covering technology, branding, and company culture for Inc. magazine. Before joining Inc., his work appeared in Newsday, The (Newark) Star-Ledger, and the Staten Island Advance, and on ESPN.com. He lives in New Jersey. @DelRey