Start-up lessons from Google Buzz. When it was first launched, business pundits crowed about the brilliance of Google Buzz. Jason Calacanis called it "brilliant. Like ground-breaking, game-changing brilliant," declaring that Facebook had "lost half its value." The one problem: While Buzz made a lot of sense as a business move--a way to compete with startups like Twitter and Tumblr--it didn't make Google's existing customers particularly happy. This morning Michael Arrington at TechCrunch explains in an essay about "the powerful urge companies often have to shoehorn a new product into an old one." Arrington says that its very tempting to force some new product on your existing customers, but that doing so can cause customers to feel angry, alienated, or simply confused. As Arrington puts it, "Force feeding users can result in vomiting."

48 tips for marketing on a shoestring budget. When times are tight, the first victim of a shrinking budget is usually a company's marketing program. That doesn't have to be the case, however. The American Express OPEN Forum has rounded up marketing tips and tricks from 48 PR pros on how to get the word out about your business creatively and on the cheap. Needless to say, many of the low-cost marketing tips center around the use of word-of-mouth and social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. As one PR pro explains, "My advice for marketing strategies: use it all, use it consistently, and use it properly."

Nuclear power start-ups eyeing Obama's new initiative. On the heels of Obama's announcement yesterday that the government would guarantee $8.3 billion in loans to nuclear power plants, earth2tech has a post on a handful of nuclear power start-ups that could receive a boost from the new initiative. "Small-scale nuclear plants are pretty much limited to aircraft carriers and submarines nowadays," the article says, "but could represent a way for venture capitalists to get in on the nuclear resurgence without spending the billions required for today's large-scale plants." Some of the start-ups included are the Bill Gates-backed TerraPower, which has a nuclear reactor that powers itself from its own waste, and NuScale Power, which wants to make modular, cost-efficient reactors that can be linked together to generate the same power as traditional nuclear plants.

The Kevin Smith Incident and the future of PR. Memo to Southwest Airlines: you might want to make sure that the person you kick off a plane for being too overweight to fly doesn't have more than 1.5 million Twitter followers and a cult fan base. After being kicked off a flight from Oakland to Burbank over the long weekend, director Kevin Smith of Clerks and Chasing Amy fame dispatched dozens of heavily-quoted tweets to his Twitter followers. Southwest, which has its own Twitter, posted a blog entry apologizing to Smith, but it was too late to stop from tarnishing it's image: gossip leader TMZ picked up the story and Smith, who says that he was seated with his seat belt buckled and both armrests down, wrote the airline a damning rebuttal on his popular blog. CNET calls it the best example yet of how social media is shaping PR, "Nobody walks around with a Twitter follower count or blog URL painted on his or her forehead." Which means that in the digital age, PR and customer service are increasingly intertwined. In any case, this is definitely making next year's list of top 10 awkward social media moments.

Before you start a start-up If you're thinking about becoming self-employed, BusinessWeek suggests taking several tax and budgeting steps before you get started: Create an ample capital cushion to survive the lean-cash-flow months of a start-up; Write a business plan and show it to your critics; Choose an appropriate hourly rate to charge your customers; Set up a budget; Establish a separate tax account; and hold off on establishing a retirement account.

Breaking into a new market or an existing one? The answer matters more than you may think, says serial entrepreneur Steve Blank. If the answer is "new market," put aside your fears of scaring away potential VCs, because if you're not honest about it, the revenue plan you create may kill you.

Ten places to find funding. Face it, a penniless entrepreneur is just another good idea waiting to happen. However, the funding is always out there, no matter how bleak the backing may appear. The key is to focus on several sources for attaining that capital, rather than just one or two. Forbes has highlighted the top 10 sources of funding for start-ups.No surprise that bootstrapping, tapping your inner circle of friends and family, and searching for small business grants are the top three ways to finance. Entrepreneurs in a financial bind might also consider start-up incubators, angel investors, or even bartering goods or services in exchange for cash.


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