What entrepreneurs really need from the government. While some additional funding would certainly be nice, the biggest gift that Washington D.C. could give to small-business owners is a system that is more in-tune to entrepreneurs and the way they do business. So says entrepreneur and venture capitalist Jim Watson, a managing partner at CMEA Capital Managing. Writing in Forbes, Watson says that a lack of entrepreneurial thinking is what makes getting an SBA loan such a long, drawn-out process. "If Washington D.C. really wants to understand and help start-ups and small businesses grow, it has to realize that time is the enemy," he says. He suggests that D.C. adopt inexpensive, readily-available technology to streamline their application process. "Make it easy, fast and mobile. Develop an iPhone app and see how simple this could really be for the entrepreneur." If you've got the urge to help inject some entrepreneurial know-how into the capital, here's a quick guide into setting up an office in D.C.
The $35 tablet. Can't afford an iPad? India's got the solution. The minister of of human resource development, Kapil Sibal, just announced the completion of a dirt-cheap touchscreen "laptop" (via the Guardian). In New Delhi, Sibal told the press, "We have reached a [developmental] stage that today, the motherboard, its chip, the processing, connectivity, all of them cumulatively cost around $35, including memory, display, everything." He hopes to bring the product to schools and universities by 2011. Appealing as it sounds, Fast Company's not buying it. "We know from a teardown of the iPad just how much its components cost to put the thing together--and that's $230...Where has the bargain basement price come from?" Their best guess is the product's made of old materials, raising questions about functionality.
Want a loan? You better have cash. As the saying goes, it takes money to make money and small business loan seekers being asked for alternative collateral--in the form of cash in case of a default--are finding it no different. Commercial banking reps from Bank of America tell the Wall Street Journal that underwriting standards haven't changed. (Borrowers must have sufficient cash flow to support the loan and an alternative source of repayment.) But because that collateral was often a combination accounts receivable, inventory, or real estate, and the value of those assets may have fallen, loans are being denied. The Wall Street Journal talked to Mi-Box Moving & Storage owner Tony Corso, who sought a $250,000 loan to buy more trucks and storage to meet growing demand. The three banks that were willing to look at Corso's loan application asked him to use his entire business as collateral, sign a personal guarantee, and deposit cash into an account equal to the amount of the loan. So what's the good news? The Associated Press reports that last night, the Senate overcame a Republican filibuster to support President Obama's $30 billion government fund to help increase lending to small businesses by community banks with less than $10 billion in assets (via The Huffington Post).
When it comes to social responsibility, let the customer choose. An increasing number of businesses have been amping up their corporate social responsibility by donating a unit of their product for every purchase a customer makes. Springwise has a few examples of companies doing this and suggests that it is an increasingly important aspect of making purchases for what it dubs "Generation G" (it stands for generosity). Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie built a business around the practice, but the post suggests that it's even better to engage consumers by giving them choices such as what country or cause the donated item is going to.
A Mexican start-up community grows in California. Silicon Valley is no longer a region where only American companies go to prosper. A Mexico-sponsored program called the Technology Business Accelerator is giving promising Mexican start-ups the tools they need to land contracts and accounts in the U.S. and beyond, reports the San Jose Mercury News. Mexican companies need to have an executive fluent in English and $1 million in revenue to qualify for the workshops.
JASON DEL REY was a senior reporter covering technology, branding, and company culture for Inc. magazine. Before joining Inc., his work appeared in Newsday, The (Newark) Star-Ledger, and the Staten Island Advance, and on ESPN.com. He lives in New Jersey. @DelRey