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Revolutionizing the Restaurant Business

Does the Village Vines business model make more sense than Groupon's? Plus, Apple sues Amazon, and the rest of the day's news.
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Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today.

The next generation of Groupon competitors? Since Groupon launched just three years ago, the Chicago-based company has attracted scores of "me-too" competitors offering similar discount services. But many small businesses that use Groupon question its actual value, says Mike Periu in a post today on OPEN Forum. "There have been many well-documented horror stories of mom and pop stores being flooded with 'Groupon groupies' that lead to thousands of dollars in losses," he writes. Enter Village Vines, a New York-based start-up that takes an alternative approach to selling: they partner with restaurants, who then are able to offer discounts to customers in off-peak hours through their service. The goal? Fill excess capacity. "Unlike Groupon, your restaurant won't have 500 people knock down your door at once to obtain the 90 percent discount on your appetizer special," Periu says. "You are selling your excess reservations. Once they are filled, there is nothing more to sell."

Apple sues Amazon over "App Store." What's in a name? On Tuesday, Amazon's Appstore went live and it appears Apple is less than thrilled. "Last week, Apple sued Amazon in a California federal court, asking a judge to block Amazon from using the term "Appstore," CNN reports. "Three years ago, Apple applied for—and was granted—a trademark on its own "App Store," an online software emporium that now offers more than 350,000 applications for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and has delivered more than 10 billion downloads." Apple claims that customers are likely to confuse the difference between the two "stores," but it's also easy to imagine Amazon's frustration. After all, it doesn't take a marketing guru to come up with the simply-named "App Store."

The best education for an innovator. Is it engineering or the humanities? Vivek Wadhwa, a professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, weighs in on the issue on TechCrunch. Wadhwa once agreed with the hard-science teachings of Bill Gates, but now supports the logic of Steve Jobs, who once said, "It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices." While Wadha acknowledges the the role of the liberal arts in technology, he also notes that jobs for liberal arts majors are harder to come by. Ultimately, he advises people to study the subject that appeals to them most. After all, many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs came from fields other than engineering and mathematics.

Entrepreneurs test the waters. Water shortage is a truly global issue: The World Health Organization's report last year found about 884 million people worldwide lack access to satisfactory drinking water. Increasingly, entrepreneurs and business leaders are finding ways to make water usage more efficient, and maybe even finding some profit in between. According to The New York Times, entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors are stepping up to solve some of the most prevalent issues in the water industry, such as micropollutants, leaks, and aging infrastructure. Start-up companies like Seattle's Hydrovolts, Philadelphia's BlackGold Biofuels, and Toronto's XPV Capital are all working on solutions to utilize water power and even putting "waste water" to use. "The ways we solved water issues in the 20th century are not going to work in the 21st century," David Henderson, a partner at XPV Capital, told The Times.

The birth of boomer start-ups. Rates of entrepreneurship are 50 percent higher for people between the ages of 55 and 65 than people between 20 and 34, according to a study by the Kauffman Foundation. But why? The Wall Street Journal ponders that question, after publishing questions about working during retirement. So, are start-ups by "mature workers" born out of creativity, curiosity, and boredom ... or out of necessity—say, a layoff, or the sour economy. What do you think is driving entrepreneurship among baby boomers these days?

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Last updated: Mar 22, 2011




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