Meet Bill Gates's Favorite Teacher
Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Giving Gates an education. Just a few weeks ago, Bill Gates told a crowd at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the "unbelievable" online tutorials he and his son Rory have been taking. Today, Fortune profiles the man behind Khan Academy, the YouTube sensation that condenses lessons on everything from algebra to the Economics of a Cupcake Factory into quick, 10- to 15-minute videos. In the last four years, the tutorials, which are conceived, narrated, and taught by Harvard MBA grad Sal Khan, have been viewed 18 million times worldwide. According to the story, Khan was working at a small hedge fund before founding Khan Academy, which he shoots in a converted closet in his Silicon Valley home. Though he's already gotten some attention (and cash) from major investors. Khan tells Fortune he doesn't plan on charging a subscription for what he calls the "first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything."
Could Washington be the next Silicon Valley? Yeah, not really. Despite the presence of many top universities, AOL, and Frank Gruber, D.C. has "struggled to define its tech scene as more than just AOL," TechCrunch writes. And Scott Goodstein of Revolution Messaging says Washington is not so much about creating, but about using open-source tools to create value. "You're starting to see the rise of people in the government doing really smart things," he says. Who does he mean? The people running the White House Twitter account, for example. You can watch the Gruber interview here. And you can keep tabs on the entrepreneurial scene in D.C. on our local section, and check out the fastest-growing companies in the nation's capital in our new 2010 Inc. 500 list.
From Russia, without love. For nine months, the hacker who went by BadB lived openly in Moscow, managing websites for hackers who stole credit card numbers and then sold them online. But, as The New York Times reports, Vladislav Horohorin was apprehended earlier this month while trying to board a flight from France back to Russia. A French court will soon decide whether to send him to the U.S. to face charges of fraud and identity theft. The Times has all the dirty details on how Russia has become a hotbed for "the often well-educated and sometimes darkly ingenious programmers who pose a recognized security threat to online commerce.
Where memes actually make money. The humor website Funny or Die, which was founded in 2007 by Will Ferrell, Chris Henchy, and Adam McKay, with funding from Sequoia Capital, is known for: "one-off, zeitgeist-driven comedy shorts, spreading the word among its 1.5 million Twitter followers and 1.1 million Facebook fans to attract as many as 10 million viewers a month," FastCompany reports. How does it make a bunch of LOLs actually profitable? By staying agile, and being able to do exactly what Hollywood or talk shows can't do: turn a hilarious idea from concept to completion in less than 48 hours and with less than $2,000.
Learning from other people's mistakes.Experience may be the best teacher, but sometimes it's a lot easier to learn from other people's mistakes rather than making your own. To that end, the Los Angeles Times has a handful of first-hand stories from entrepreneurs who share the mistakes they made while starting their businesses and some of the lessons they learned from the experience. The issues these businesses face run the gamut from inexperience in drafting workable contracts to learning how to handle cycles in cash flow. However, the most unique lesson was the biology major who started an aquarium company designed specifically for jellyfish, only to find out that his customers couldn't find anywhere to buy jellyfish. Ever the entrepreneur, he went out in a rubber boat and collected the jellies himself.
She hated her inbox. Really, really hated it. When Hilary Mason, the lead scientist at Bitly, found her Gmail too overrun with new messages to properly deal with it, she didn't act like anyone else and just lapse into denial. She fixed it. As the New York Times reports, Mason, in some brilliant hacking, built layers on top of her Gmail account that "follow a series of rules to correctly prioritize which emails she should read first." People she regularly corresponds with earn a higher priority. When her mom writes, she also gets a text-message alert. And messages that require a yes/no answer can be automatically replied to once Mason herself has set that precedent. When can you get Mason's system? She says she'll release the code soon. Until then, check out our guide to organizing your e-mail inbox.
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CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer
Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.