Google's secret social-gaming investment.Tech Crunch reports that Google quietly invested somewhere between $100 million and $200 million in Zynga, the social gaming giant that is projected to earn $350 million in revenue for the first half of 2010. Sources tell Tech Crunch that Zynga will be the cornerstone of Google Games, to launch later this year. "Not only will Zynga's games give Google Games a solid base of social games to build on, but it will also give Google the beginning of a true social graph as users log into Google to play the games," the post says. Zynga has now raised around $500 million in venture capital during the past year alone.
How to survive the early years. With a popular iPhone app and loyal Web traffic, online-music service Pandora is thriving. But back when it launched in March 2000, amidst the bursting dot-com bubble, things were hardly as rosy. In a video interview on the OPEN Forum, Pandora CEO Tim Westergren talks about just how bleak the early years were and how he managed to keep the business running and his employees motivated. What's his secret? "We just hung on for dear life. Our money ran out after about a year and people started working for nothing," he says. Westergren credits a passionate belief in the business idea and employees who feel "a sense of responsibility and loyalty to each other" for carrying Pandora through the difficult times. Check out this article from the Inc. archives for a closer look at Pandora's long strange trip.
Meet the Google App Inventor. Today, Google begins offering Android users free software that will enable people to easily create their own apps, the The New York Times reports. The purpose of Google App Inventor is to put innovation in the public's hands and nourish a new generation of developers. According to the story, this open approach is what differentiates Google from Apple, which closely monitors and tests all prospective iPhone apps. Harold Abelson, a computer scientist who spearheaded the project tells the Times, "The goal is to enable people to become creators, not just consumers, in this mobile world." And Inc.com's Renee Oricchio posits that the app inventor will be great for small businesses. Your move, Mr. Jobs.
Not your average wash and dry. An industry in dire need of modernization is finally moving into the future, according to the Los Angels Times. With new amenities like flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, and electronic card payment systems, these aren't your parents' laundromats.
The search fund boom. It's been a record few years for what are known as "search funds," the small pools of money that help entrepreneurs buy, manage, and sell small companies - sort of like small private-equity shops. "On the map of the financial world, search funds are a tiny and little-known province; only 141 such funds have been launched to date," the Wall Street Journal writes. But about 50 search funds have been launched in the past three years, according to a new Stanford study. The idea is only about 30 years old, but the economic downturn appears to have rekindled the strategy. It's riskier than ever, though: Nearly one-third of search funds lose their investors' money, and just 38 percent posted a positive return, down from 52 percent in 2007.
Mapping Silicon Valley's tech-investment ecosystem. Serial entrepreneur David Lerner, director of the Venture Lab at Columbia University Tech Ventures, which has spun out more than 50 start-ups, put his love of mapping software to good use on peHUB today with a map-come-visual aid of individual early stage tech investors by industry sector and investment firm, along with their Twitter handles. Click here for the larger version. Getting ready to talk to an angel investor? Check out Howard Greenstein's 5 essential questions start-ups should ask when they're considering angel funding on his Inc.com blog, Start-up Toolkit.
How to handle insubordination. While their personal power struggles didn't get nearly as much press coverage, many a CEO could probably identify with the decision President Obama was faced with in the wake of General McChrystal's remarks. Over at the Harvard Business Review, Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter notes that "even in a world of flattened, networked, first-name-using organizations in which the language of superiors and subordinates has long disappeared, 'insubordination' is still considered a violation of standards." She extracts some key questions for business owners from the debacle such as whether attitude is important for accomplishment and how dissension in the upper ranks affects the rest of the organization. To preempt these sorts of problems, you should try instituting a system for handling employee complaints.