Entrepreneurs: Risk-Takers or Predators?

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Why founders matter. They make the kinds of decisions that professional managers--whose main concern is shareholder value--never could make, says Fred Wilson, writing in a new blog post. Wilson says that Google's threat to pull out of China, which seems to be the preference of founder Sergey Brin, is the kind of move only a founder-run company can make. "That they are even considering leaving the largest growth market in the world is a stunning revelation. And it is unlikely that hired and professional management would make such a decision," he writes. "And it may well be that leaving China is the best thing for Google, its employees, its customers and users, and its shareholders. Only time will tell what Google will do and what impact it will have on the company."

Entrepreneurs as predators, not risk-takers. In his latest piece in the New Yorker (subscription required), contrarian-thinker Malcolm Gladwell attempts to make the case that successful entrepreneurs actually take very little risk when starting a new venture. He describes seasoned entrepreneurs like Ted Turner as more like predators, who detect a weakness or vulnerability in the market and then pounce on it at just the right time. Gladwell cites the authors of the book From Predators to Icons who studied entrepreneurs and came to the conclusion that truly great entrepreneurs are not actually risk-takers, but risk-minimizers. Of course, not everyone is in agreement. Patricio Robles, writing on the Econsultancy blog, asserts that by using as a model entrepreneurs like Ted Turner, who already inherited a large fortune before getting into business, Gladwell is only demonstrating the principle that "the rich get richer."

Silicon Valley VC: 'People over 30 aren't innovative.' In tech-centric Silicon Valley, it's a commonly held assumption that the real game-changing start-ups are helmed by fresh-faced whippersnappers. But Chris O'Brien, writing for the San Jose Mercury News, attempts to dispense with that myth (via peHUB). He spoke to Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur-turned-academic who has surveyed 549 entrepreneurs in growth industries and found the mean age to be 39. That's neither an ailing oldster nor a spring chicken, which is all the more reason why Wadhwa cautions VCs against "opportunity discrimination." As he notes, they're only hurting their own chances.

The 5 economic indicators that matter to small businesses. While it's easy to ignore the details of the country's economic situation when you're busy running your own small business, keeping an eye on the big picture can help you anticipate costs and make business-planning decisions. The Wall Street Journal suggests that small business owners check in on these stats regularly: real personal consumption expenditures, consumer confidence, producer price index, the value of the U.S. dollar, and the unemployment rate.

How to use Twitter as a small business owner. Although Inc. has already disclosed the secrets of how to actually make money on Twitter, there are additional ways that the social media platform can help a small business build their company's reputation and market their services or products. Small Biz Trends offers up 80 ways to use Twitter as a small business owner, including posting tweets of video presentations, promoting upcoming company events or projects, publishing your Twitter name on your company signature, hosting weekly Twitter chats with your clients, and many more.

Big names invest in social network that shares spending habits. Blippy, a start-up that lets users broadcast their credit card transactions online, comes out of invitation-only private beta today with the names of some high-profile investors: VC firm Sequoia Capital and entrepreneurs such as Twitter CEO and co-founder Evan Williams, Mahalo's Jason Calacanis, HOTorNOT's James Hong, and TextMarks' Ariel Poler, reports AllThingsD. The hope is that Blippy "will become a viral hit with users and yet another step in the continuing socialization of everything a person does online," says AllThingsD's Kara Swisher. While in beta, the site amassed 5,000 users that Blippy founder, and established Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Philip "Pud" Kaplan says have accounted for $5 million in purchases in the past few weeks. The sample post "jgrassotti spent $231.17 at Zappos" doesn't contain much info and how the service will be monetized is still up in the air. "One might imagine a dedicated Blippy credit card or some kind of innovative analysis of the spending data or even group sale offers to users," adds Swisher.

An uptick in entrepreneurship among the elderly. Whether it's their copious free time, their greater wealth of experience, or simply a generational upbringing with more gumption, the baby boomers have a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than twenty- and thirty-somethings. Scott Shane, writing for Business Week hashes out some potential explanations and implications for this trend. "Self-financing is becoming more prevalent as older self-employed use accumulated savings to finance their entrepreneurial efforts." If your grandpappy isn't the enterprising sort, perhaps you can hit him up for a loan to start your own business.

Putting the kibosh on blog trolls. Every professional blogger has come across them -- the pesky readers who loiter around your blog, posting incendiary, off-topic, or self-promoting comments, and in some cases, even spamming. Web Worker Daily recently put together a few tips to help banish the trolls for good and reclaim your blog as an open, engaging and respectable community. One suggestion includes instituting a comment policy or guidelines (like these from Blog Herald), and when the troll breaks that policy, deleting the comment and moving on instead of responding. If the comments become inexhaustible, you can also get a virtual assistant to aid in patrolling the message board.

American Idol creator to launch own company. He may not be as well-known to the American Idol fan base as the other Simon, but Simon Fuller is in fact the creator of the monster reality series headlined by Simon Cowell. And in the wake of Cowell's announcement that this Idol season will be his last, the L.A. Times has the news that Fuller is leaving 19 Entertainment, the company he founded in 1985, to launch his own entertainment start-up. "As an entrepreneur I feel I am about to enter my prime years and starting a new entertainment company at this moment fills me with great excitement," he said in a statement. CXX, a public company run by Robert Sillerman, owns 19 Entertainment, and the Times says that Fuller's departure "ends a power struggle with Sillerman that had been heating up over the last several months. Fuller had been waging a not-too-subtle campaign to unseat Sillerman, and Fuller's camp had been predicting he would be running CKX in the coming year."

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Last updated: Jan 14, 2010




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