Founder goes homeless for the year. No, he's not broke - he just has a knack for self-promotion. "I am either a homeless entrepreneur, or a guy with 650 homes in San Francisco," writes Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, a website that lets people rent out spare bedrooms to travelers. Chesky started the company in 2007 because he wanted to rent space on his apartment to make some extra cash. Three years later, that apartment has been taken over by his company's 17 employees. But rather than find a new place, Chesky decided to hit the road, bouncing from rented bedroom to rented bedroom and blogging about it. TechCrunch is duly impressed. "It's a brilliant idea," writes Robin Wauters. "Not only will Chesky get to experience the Airbnb product...he'll also get to personally know a bunch of people that make up the community driving the company forward." (Via Hacker News.)
How to make the most of your interns. New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority has been struggling for years to find an inexpensive and efficient way to bring cellular service to the subway system. This summer, in a rare case of unbureaucratic thinking, the MTA has decided to let a group of seven grad student interns give it a shot. The new approach will cost considerably less than hiring a high-level consultant. As the New York Times puts it, "The cost to taxpayers will be no more than $30,000, the equivalent of loose change found floating around the authority's metaphorical couch." Have a thorny issue in your business that you just can't seem to figure out? This summer, instead of having your interns make copies and get coffee, why not let them have a crack at it? For some tips on how to manage your summer crop of interns, check out our guide.
Blockbuster the next Apple? Okay, Okay. You can stop laughing now. But in an interview with FastCompany.com, Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes alludes to the transformation of Apple as evidence that all hope should not be lost for his struggling company. "We're in the process of transformation," Keyes says. "Think about Apple 10 years ago. Steve Jobs came back and did a masterful job. But it wasn't an overnight success."
Planning your final tweet. If you're already thinking about your untimely demise, a new start-up promises to take some of the sweat off your back by letting you prepare your social networks ahead of time, Venture Beat reports. For an annual fee of $9.95, MyWebWill stores passwords so your online identity can be shut down or handed over to friends or family when you die. It also allows you to adjust your social networks accordingly, so you can choose your final profile photo or even write a final tweet. For more on services that pass on private digital data, check out our piece from Inc.'s March issue.
The case for faking it. Leadership and management expert Bob Sutton shares some insights from his upcoming book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, over at Business Insider, about why leaders should run their company with confidence, even if they are in doubt. For justification, he borrows an example of two hypothetical weather forecasters, one who predicted a 90 percent chance of rain for four days, and another who predicted a 75 percent chance of rain over the same period. The one who said 75 percent was more accurate, but viewers gave the one who said 90 percent their vote as the better forecaster. Sutton also mentions a study that shows that doctors who consult articles or books before making a decision are seen as less competent than those who do not. He acknowledges that this advice steers business owners away from transparency - and a well-informed decision-making, in our opinion - but argues that "if you as a boss talk about uncertainty too much, the problem is it undermines both your legitimacy as well as the self-fulfilling prophecy."
The Chinese tech giant you can't afford not to know about. TechCrunch is betting you can guess two of the three Web companies with the highest market caps (Google and Amazon). But the business in third is far from a household name in the United States. Tencent, a Chinese company that started out providing an instant messaging service called QQ, invites comparison to many American tech giants. It has stock growth to make Apple envious, a user-base bigger than Facebook, and a Google-like ability to branch out into new markets. The company has gone sniffing around the Valley for acquisitions but has yet to open its wallet.
The economy's on the upswing, right? Well, entrepreneurs are struggling to get the loans they need, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. Just half of small businesses got all or most of the funding they sought last year, which is down from 90 percent in the mid-2000s. What's going on? The Wall Street Journal reports that it's a combination of pressure from federal regulators for banks to make more prudent loans, an attempt to avoid repeating pre-subprime mortgage meltdown mistakes, and a lot of finger pointing.
Compete to win. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that entering contests can be an effective marketing strategy for entrepreneurs looking to jump-start their businesses. For starters, there's usually the promise of some type of monetary prize. Even business owners who don't win, however, get increased exposure and get crucial critiques from panelists and judges. Even at small, local competitions, you can improve your presentation skills. As you branch out, strategically target the competitions that will be most beneficial to the direction in which your business is moving.
Who should determine the validity of an arbitration agreement? Not judges, the Supreme Court ruled today. The justices ruled 5-4 today that arbitrators can decide whether an arbitration agreement needs to be enforced, or whether it is too one-sided to be valid. So, the court needs not be involved. This case started when an employee filed a discrimination suit against Rent-A-Center in Nevada, and Rent-A-Center turned around, filing a motion to dismiss or stay the proceedings and to compel arbitration based on the arbitration agreement the employee had signed. Check out the SCOTUS opinion on Rent-A-Center West, Inc. v. Jackson.
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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.