What Obama's speech means for businesses. President Obama spent most of his State of the Union address last night focusing on how the country can hasten its economic recovery. The Wall Street Journal recaps the speech and says it was mostly about creating jobs. The President proposed tax cuts to "promote small business hiring," and "a plan to devote $30 billion in Wall Street bailout funds for small-business lending through community banks," according to the Journal. With other issues that have been controversial, including climate change legislation and health care, Obama appealed to the need to keep the United States competitive with the rest of the world. On climate change, he said that even those who "disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change" should care about going green because, "the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy." After mentioning that the cost of health care had reach a record high, Obama said, "You see, Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China is not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany is not waiting. India is not waiting. These nations -- they're not standing still." For more on State of the Union's small-business impact, check out this piece from Inc.com's Courtney Rubin.
Yay, the iPad is here! Now the hard part. One of the iPad's promises, being touted by Apple and iGeeks alike, is that the device will revitalize (and possibly revolutionize) the publishing industry, from magazines and newspapers, to textbooks and novels. But, according to TechCrunch, a challenge lies ahead: how do publishers make their products interactive enough so that the content doesn't end up looking like a crude, scanned page? Thankfully, the post says, there's a new crop of start-ups racing to their rescue. One of them is Inkling, which has raised $1 million from angel investors, and plans to help companies integrate interactive figures, maps, quizzes, and cloud connectivity within the iPad's digitized textbooks. "Imagine if you had a question about a particular diagram in your text," the post says, "you could send it to your professor, and they could leave an annotation in the book that would be visible to all other students." Another start-up itching to join the fray is PixelMags, which already helps companies put magazines on the iPhone, but is now working with publishers to help include both text and streaming video in their soon-to-come iPad versions. In case you were hibernating in a cave somewhere yesterday, click here for all the details on Apple's new beauty.
Is the iPad a Kindle killer? Om Malik is convinced that Amazon's e-reader is dead in the water but Paul Grimm, a VC with SunBridge Partners begs to differ. He believes that the iPad will create a duopoly with consumers choosing between "the leading, lower-cost, elegant e-ink book platform" and "the leading, higher-cost, aesthetically gorgeous, multifunction tablet platform." TechCrunch also has a video of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (whose snazzy business card can be seen here) pitching in his two cents about how consumers will use the iPad and how it will affect the publishing industry. Grimm examines a much broader field of possibilities including, "healthcare, education, design, architecture, basically any field in which someone carries around a clipboard or simply has to move around a lot while working."
How to start a company in a recession. SpeakerText's Matt Mireles founded his company in October, 2008, in the midst of the economic apocalypse and launched it this month, spending only $4,000 (a loan from his pops). Business Insider has his tips for other founders. For one, dispense with stealth mode altogether. Instead pitch your idea to every smart person you know. "Think of it as crowdsourcing. The masses have much to teach you, if you let them." Second, finding good advisors is easier than you think. Don't be afraid to embarrass yourself. Mireles pitched the CEO of Pandora after a talk and got his card. "I never wasted his time, but I was persistent and, most importantly, I listened and kept him updated on my progress." He also advises getting a co-founder and not just a CTO (aka "engineering bitch"). His other tips? Recruit at job fairs ("you'll be the only startup there") and fake it 'til you make it. "Starting is a declarative act. Just go for it. People won't follow unless you lead."
Answers to all your geek-related health questions. Worried about what all those long hours in front of a computer might be doing to your eyesight? Want an alternative to Red Bull to help you stay awake during those late nights in the office? Digg founder Kevin Rose has the answer to those questions and more. On his blog, Rose sits down with alternative health guru Dr. Andrew Weil for some advice on the health concerns specifically related to computer geeks and entrepreneurs. For you tea drinkers out there, Dr. Weil also gives a rundown of the health benefits of drinking various types of quality teas.
Yelp says, "Who needs Google?" In the wake of its failed $500 million deal with Google, and after a couple of weeks of rumors that it was closing in on a big round of funding, it seems Yelp has finally closed a $100 million deal with the private equity firm Elevation Partners, The New York Times reports. Elevation Partners will invest $25 million to help "Yelp to expand into more American and foreign cities, develop mobile applications and hire ad salespeople," the paper writes. Another $75 million will be used to buy shares from existing shareholders, likely meaning a nice little payday for early employees, including co-founders Russel Simmons and Jeremy Stoppelman. Interested in how Yelp can make or break your small business? Check out our Max Chafkin's feature from our February issue.
Swiping out profits. Larger businesses like Wal-Mart are able to negotiate with credit card companies to reduce the percentage of credit card purchases that are re-routed to their banks, the cardholder's bank, and the network that processes the transaction. For small businesses, however, accepting credit cards can cut profits more significantly. The Wall Street Journal reports that these fees are increasing: merchant-paid swipe fees increased 3 percent in 2008 as compared to the previous year, and major card companies like Visa and MasterCard raised rates. Some small businesses are dealing with the fees by instituting a surcharge on purchases (a practice expressly prohibited by both Visa and MasterCard). Others are attempting to negotiate with their banks for a lower rate.
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