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VENTURE CAPITAL

Groupon's Boardroom Shakeup
 

Starbucks boss Howard Schultz is joining the daily deal site's board. Plus, Obama's wireless pitch, a renegade Google executive 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:

Starbucks boss joins Groupon board. The daily deals site is getting another jolt with the addition of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to its board of directors, according to The Wall Street Journal. Schultz's venture capital firm Maveron has invested an undisclosed amount in Groupon—just a few weeks after it raised a colossal $950 million in funding from Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Groupon CEO Andrew Mason said Schultz topped his wish list for potential board members: "Toward the end of last year we said, 'Let's think really big about this company. If we could have anyone on this board, who would we have?' And Howard was our top choice."

Obama's wireless pitch. President Obama is making the case for a national wireless expansion plan. He's aiming high with a goal of extending high-speed wireless to 98 percent of all Americans within five years. "This isn't about faster Internet or being able to find a friend on Facebook," Obama told crowds in Marquette,  Michigan, a city of about 20,000, where Northern Michigan University has joined with businesses to build what he called "a high-speed, next-generation wireless network." The plan, which Congress must sign off on, would be a $5 billion investment that's expected to cut the deficit and bring coverage to rural areas. The New York Times notes the plan will only work if broadcasters are willing to cooperate.

How do you handle an activist employee? The protests in Egypt have fueled thousands of debates in the media, in the streets, and now, it seems, in American boardrooms. The Wall Street Journal reports on the story of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who has been credited with inciting the Egyptian revolution. How should Google feel about having such an incendiary public figure for an employee? "As the world marveled this week at the remarkable story of Wael Ghonim... a great sigh of relief could be heard rising from much of the rest of American business: 'I'm glad... the guy doesn't work for us.'" Perhaps it is apropos that Ghonim works for Google‚ which is known for its iconoclasm. But where does a business draw the line? "Companies may not want to be lapdogs to dictators," the article notes. "But they also don't want to tick off their chief customer. It's a balancing act, one that inevitably leads to a policy of corporate discretion: Best to stay off the radar screen."

Dave McClure enters incubation fray. With his "Angelgate" days behind him, 500 Startups founder Dave McClure is launching a business accelerator in Mountain View, California. The incubator, McClure says, will promote small investments geared toward small exits. "We're out to hit singles and doubles," McClure told VentureBeat. "We're not trying to hit a home run every time and striking out a lot." In addition to office space, the program, called 500 Startups Accelerator, will give start-ups $25,000 to $100,000 in exchange for 5 percent equity. The first batch of start-ups in the accelerator have been announced, and they range from a foodie dating site to an internship matching site.

Is entrepreneurship the new mid-life crisis? Here's a surprising piece of news from the Huffington Post: Baby boomers are outpacing millenials in entrepreneurial activity. Every year from 1996 to 2010, boomers between the ages of 55 and 64 showed a higher rate of entrepreneurship than young people aged 20 to 34, according to a study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. It's partially due to the economy, but also due to longer, healthier lives and changes in job tenure, posits start-up mentor Marty Zwilling. Could boomers be driving a new entrepreneurship boom? Tell us what you think below.

Skipping exercise? It'll cost you. A couple of Harvard grads are turning the health-club business model on its head. Yifan Zhang and Geoff Oberhofer, co-founders of Gym-Pact in Boston, are charging members for missing their scheduled workouts, calling it "motivational fees." The concept arose from Zhang's behavioral economics class, where professor Sendhil Mullainathan taught that "people are more motivated by immediate consequences than by future possibilities," according to Freakonomics. The program launched a pilot at a Bally Total Fitness in Boston and has since spread to two Planet Fitness locations.

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Last updated: Feb 11, 2011




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