Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Groupon learning the ropes in Japan. Rapidly expanding the online mass-purchase discount site Groupon into Asia has caused some cultural—and public-relations—flubs, the Wall Street Journal reports. In fact, CEO Andrew Mason ended up posting an apology video to customers who purchased a Groupon for a traditional new year's meal. He said an overflow of orders caused the restaurant to deliver "the food late to many of our customers and in terrible condition to others." Mason is already steering the company's representatives to better process reasonable numbers of orders, and work with the needs of clients as well as buyers. Groupon is also in the midst of expanding to China, and already it has 50 million visitors in 35 countries.
Goldman's botched Facebook deal. Goldman Sachs is cutting off the American investors it tapped on the shoulder last week, dangling an exclusive Facebook share offer. The bank feared the media circus surrounding the deal—which has already triggered an S.E.C. probe—would be interpreted as "general solicitation and advertising." That's a no-no in private offerings, The New York Times reports. Foreign investors, who play by a different set of rules, are expected to prop up the deal. Kind of ironic, since this whole thing was widely viewed as a big effort to skirt regulations in the first place.
Who's trying to lure start-up talent? Trading firms. And they're having an increasingly tough time recruiting the tech-savvy, hoodie-wearing programmer type who, more and more, are attracted to Silicon Valley after graduation, the Wall Street Journal reports. So, financial firms are upping their recruiting game, offering perks like exercise rooms, on-site arcades, and other lavish bonuses. The high salary doesn't hurt, either. "We'll just pay much more than the Googles and the Facebooks of the world," says CEO Raj Fernando of Chicago's Chopper Trading.
LOLcats publisher raises $30 million. Well, this is certainly no laughing matter: Cheezburger, the online publisher of LOLcats and FAIL Blog, has raised $30 million in funding, TechCrunch reports. The latest round was led by the Foundry Group with Madrona Venture Group, Avalon Ventures, and SoftBank Capital participating. Foundry, Madrona and Avalon will each put a member on Cheezburger's board of directors. Ben Huh, a former journalist who founded Cheezburger in 2007, told TechCrunch the new funds will be used to 'hire, hire, hire' and expand internationally. The company currently has 50 employees and boasts a user base of 16.5 million people.
Taking a shot at the American market. It's been a Polish national drink for centuries, but until recently, Żubrówka has been banned in the United States. The vodka, which contains a single blade of bison grass in every bottle, has been described as the absinthe of Poland or, as one marketing manager put it, a "forbidden fruit." According to the Wall Street Journal, the FDA has restricted sales of the liquor because it contains coumarin, a toxic chemical found in bison grass. But now, after two decades of lobbying, the vodka is being sold here under a different name, without the coumarin. Polish purists, though, argue the taste is lacking. Or, as one customer put it, "The real one is something special... It has the smell of the forest."
Disaster prep 101. How can you make your employees feel prepared, and safe, should a traumatic event happen in your office? In the wake of the Tucson shooting rampage, Joe Sharkey writes in the New York Times that simple first-aid training is the simplest way to up general preparedness among your staff. He proposes that business travelers should have access to first-aid training, and why not give it during the occasionally long waits they face at airports?
Here's a reason to walk to work: Mass transit riders are six times more likely to get sick than walkers and drivers, The Daily News reports. The University of Nottingham polled 138 patients at a doctor's office, and far more of those who had riden mass transit in the last five days reported getting sick. Our advice? Use your holiday bonus to get a skateboard.
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