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The Earthquake Entrepreneur

The disaster in Japan has put the spotlight on businesses that provide earthquake detection technology, plus 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.

An earthquake upstart takes center stage. As Japan mourns one of the most devastating disasters that has left thousands dead and countless more homeless, a little-known California entrepreneur is being thrust into the spotlight. The Christian Science Monitor profiles George Dickson, a serial entrepreneur whose latest venture, Seismic Warning Systems, offers early detection technology to a variety of businesses and government offices, including the day care center at Cisco's California headquarters. Sure, it's a little odd to be doing press on the heels of a national disaster, but according to Dickson, it's all about bringing attention to technology that can save lives. "We're a business and we operate as such,' Dickson told the paper. 'But, we also care about providing a service that is good for people. Every second you have to prepare for an earthquake is a matter of life and death,' he said. The technology is also able to monitor aftershocks; as of this morning, it is being reported that Japan has been rattled by two aftershocks with at least a 6.0 magnitude.

Down, down with performance reviews. That's the rallying cry of entrepreneur David Stein in a guest post for VentureBeat today. According to Stein, annual reviews are "dangerously archaic," and based on a time "when the economy was about how many widgets an assembly line worker could solder in a day."  Now, Stein believes businesses would be better off regularly coaching their employees (cue the not-so-subtle plug for Stein's own coaching software company Rypple) and holding short, informal quarterly reviews, instead. "Human memory is fallible," Stein writes. "Evaluations based on actual data recorded in real-time can take the anxiety out of reviews and provide a better picture of employee performance."

Fetishize learning, not failure. Start-up culture is all about celebrating failure. But here's a word of caution from Adam Richardson of the Harvard Business Review: "Failure is fun as an intellectual exercise, but rarely enjoyable when you're in the midst of it or dealing with the aftermath," adding that failure is just a common byproduct—not the desired end-product. What can a specific failure teach you about running your business? If you're not asking that question, says Richardson, "you're failing at failing."

Dealing with cyber-complainers. Review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are a great way for businesses to reach out to potential customers and show off positive user experiences. But what happens when the reviews are, well, just plain bad? Bruce Buschel, owner of Southfork Kitchen, a restaurant in Bridgehampton, N.Y., crowdsources the idea on his blog for The New York Times today, and notes the myriad of options when dealing with negative feedback from a certain customer named Alex Cohen. "How should we play this?" he asks. "Respond on each site? Let it be? Respond with vigor? Kill Mr. Cohen with kindness?" Ultimately, Buschel chose not to respond. Was it the right move? Let us know in the comments section below.

Microsoft adds do-not-track tool. It's only been three months since the Federal Trade Commission proposed implementing a do-not-track system, and Microsoft is already on board.  Mozilla (Firefox) has also agreed to include the tool, but Microsoft will be the first. The Wall Street Journal notes that the purpose of the tool is to prevent Web-tracking companies from snooping on users' browsing habits.  The only problem, however, is that if the company doesn't agree to the request, the tool doesn't work.

The BEER Act gains momentum. Small craft breweries are keeping a close eye on the activity in Washington; with any luck, they'll soon be enjoying some nice tax breaks. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) last week introduced the Brewer's Employment and Excise Tax Relief Act, or BEER Act, and the new legislation has already gained support from 17 other senators, according to The Wall Street Journal. Under the new bill, small craft brewers would pay half of what they currently pay per barrel—$3.50 per barrel instead of $7—for the first 60,000 barrels, and then $16 per barrel after that, down from the current tax of $18 per barrel. The BEER Act also looks to push the definition of a "small brewery," from breweries that produce less than two million barrels a year to six million barrels a year. "Big breweries are getting bigger so the definition of small brewery should also grow," said Michelle Sullivan, a spokeswoman for Boston Beer. "We are the largest of the small, but compared to the largest breweries, we are absolutely a small brewer."

Foreign-born entrepreneurs: Welcome to the U.S.A. The Startup Visa Act, a bill that was originally introduced in February, has been reintroduced to the Senate. The updated version of this bill will now allow foreign entrepreneurs with at least $100,000 of investment backing from an American investor to receive a two-year visa. Foreigners who are currently working in the U.S. on an H-1B visa are also eligible. According to AOL Small Business, the bill includes provisions for the start-up performance of the entrepreneur's venture within two years of receiving the visa. The performance will be measured by the creation of new jobs and capital secured.

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Last updated: Mar 15, 2011




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