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Hunch Raises $12 Million

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Small business revival thwarted. A year and a half after the financial crisis hit, credit is still tight for many small companies. A front page story in the Wall Street Journal looks at two Michigan companies that exemplify banks' continued reluctance to take on new loans. Tim Harrison, CEO of the Michigan Ladder Co., wants to expand and create 20 new jobs, but he needs a $300,000 loan. James Hauessler, a builder, is struggling to repay a $8.3 million loan he took out to develop a residential community. Both companies are clients of a community bank. "In a world where Jim Haeussler makes it, Tom Harrison will make it," the bank's president tells the Journal. "But it's not prudent to do both loans at this point in time." At the same time, bank inspectors are getting tougher about lending standards, particularly at community banks, which are more exposed to commercial real estate defaults than their larger counterparts.

Caterina Fake's Hunch lands $12 million. Caterina Fake, who graces the cover of our March issue, just raised $12 million in venture capital financing from Khosla Ventures. Fake told TechCrunch that users of her search engine have answered 50 million questions since the since the site's launch less than a year ago. With a valuation in the round of $52 million, the company looks to have a bright future.

Why face-to-face meetings still matter. A new post by ReadWriteWeb tackles the importance of meeting in person. Although technology has helped us manage the daily minutia of scheduling and providing quick answers to co-workers, face-to-face meetings are still the most effective way to negotiate important contracts, interview senior staff for key positions, and respond to important customers, according to a global survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review. "We have become so organized around technology that we have almost forgotten what it's like to talk to people," Joanne Black, author of No More Cold Calling, tells the blog. "But when you find yourself face-to-face with someone, you realize that you can explore, ask questions, keep asking more questions and get to the heart of the matter."

Get ready for Twitter ads. Twitter took the South By Southwest conference by storm three years ago, rolling out a silly little blog-like service that has proceeded to take over the world. Today CEO Evan Williams, who also helped popularize blogging, is expected to unveil a Twitter advertising platform. That's according to TechCrunch, which is reporting from the annual tech confab. Robin Wauters urges caution: "I've yet to come across any form of digital advertising that people truly love, and Twitter is tricky territory for advertising as it revolves primarily around personal, direct communication between individuals," he writes.

The difference between an employee and a contractor. A new blog post by the law firm Baker Donelson explains. The IRS is starting a "comprehensive audit of employment tax issues," that will include 6,000 companies and will likely focus on the issue of worker classification. To avoid getting hit with penalties and back taxes companies should make sure that their independent contractors are actually contractors and not employees. "The IRS will only allow independent contractor classifications when the company hiring the contractors can show it lacks the necessary control over the workers that would indicate an employer-employee relationship," according to the post, which lists 20 subcategories to help you determine whether you might be vulnerable in the event of an audit.

Bubbly takes aim developing world. Bubbly, a social media service that delivers short voice messages to multiple recipients, is starting to gain popularity overseas. The service works by allowing anyone to sign up to follow a friend or celebrity. Once a new message is sent out, users get an alert and can choose to listen for a small fee. News services like the BBC have expressed interest in the service as a way to distribute breaking news. Advertising Age reports that the company plans to skip the US and European markets and instead target mobile-savvy markets such as India, Japan, and Brazil.

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