Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Start-up stalkers. There are plenty of ways to meet influential people in your industry. You could write a letter. You could attend a conference or a speech. Or, as noted in today's New York Times, you can cozy up and become their neighbor. The Times takes a look at a growing trend among start-ups that choose office space in buildings with already-established companies. The San Francisco start-up Klout, for example, took its offices in Twitter's headquarters, in order to hobnob with the Twitter execs and "hijack" meetings. Joe Fernandez, Klout's founder, even got the cell phone number of Dick Costolo's, Twitter's chief executive. "Now I have his cellphone, and I text him," Fernandez said.
Google wins some ... Forget the 10 percent raise. Google coughed up a dazzling $3.5 million to keep a staffer from jumping ship to Facebook, Michael Arrington confirmed in TechCrunch. The money was offered in restricted stock, meaning it will vest over time. And the Google engineer, who makes around $150,000 a year, wisely accepted the payoff. But Arrington wonders what kind of message it sends to Google's other employees, who may now have a perverse incentive to spend their time looking for job offers. "However effective these counter offers are, they sure aren't good for morale internally at Google," he writes. "Unless, of course, you're one of the ones winning the lottery."
... and loses some. In a reported bid to compete with Google, the social network is now going after Gmail. According to TechCrunch, Facebook is set to announce the launch of @facebook.com email addresses, also known on the inside as the "Gmail killer." The expected announcement will take place on Monday at a press event in San Francisco, and Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch thinks the endeavor is ripe with potential. "Facebook knows who your friends are and how closely you're connected to them," Kincaid writes. "It can probably do a pretty good job figuring out which personal emails you want to read most and prioritize them accordingly."
Can Digg get the magic back? That's the question posed by GigaOm's Matthew Ingram, writing about the crowdsourced news website's decision to use editors to pick links. "More than anything else, this seems to be an admission by Digg that the site's ranking algorithm—and/or the way that people are using the network—is no longer enough," he writes. Digg, which was founded by Kevin Rose in 2004, was a high-flying media start-up until the recession hit, but has struggled of late amid a leadership shakeup and a bungled redesign. "The bigger question," writes Ingram, "is whether any of these changes can help the site recover from the traffic plunge it has suffered over the past year—a decline that has come in part as a result of the redesign, but also due to growing competition from other link-sharing networks such as Twitter and Facebook, and has led some (including me) to wonder whether it's relevant any more."
A biz boost to military families. Just in time for Veterans Day yesterday, several new programs came out this week to aid military families and veterans hoping to start businesses. One such program, reported by the Wall Street Journal yesterday, will run a business "boot camp" through Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management. The program opens its door to surviving spouses as well as full-time caretakers of wounded veterans like Nelida Bagley of Tampa, whose son was severely injured while deployed to Iraq in 2006. Forced to resign from her job to care for her son, Bagley now aims to launch a home-based business to help parents of disabled children get answers to questions about health-care and other issues. The Syracuse boot camp taught her how to write a business plan along with other start-up basics. "I was clueless how to do this," she says. "This program is a tremendous relief."
What makes a genius? Is it just hard work? A Wall Street Journal article explores the topic, pitting the popular current theory that expertice is acquired solely through experience—a view held by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and Malcolm Gladwell, who in his book Outliers calls it the "10,000-hour rule." Meaning: do anything for 10,000 hours and you'll be great at it. Terry Teachout writes in the Journal: "It's easy to see why the Ericsson-Gladwell view of genius as a form of skill-based expertise has become so popular, for it meshes neatly with today's egalitarian notions of human potential." But what about Bobby Fischer, who was a chess champ at 15? Teachout points out other exceptions to the "work hard and you'll be great" theory, too. What do you think? Is modern genius made or is it born?
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 senior writer at Inc. @Lagorio