NASA goes entrepreneurial. Yesterday, President Obama urged private companies to take over the job of transporting humans into space, a move that was heralded by the burgeoning private space industry. In an announcement, reported by the New York Times, the President "argued that turning to private entrepreneurs would result in more space flights and more astronauts in orbit than the space plan he inherited." The policy shift had been hotly contested, especially in states like Florida, where government-run NASA programs employ thousands of people. But entrepreneurs, like SpaceX founder Elon Musk, were positively giddy. In a statement, Musk, whose company is developing low-cost rockets, mocked opponents of the Obama plan saying that they had achieved "a new altitude record in hypocrisy, claiming that the public option was bad in healthcare, but good in space!" He praised the announcement as "an ambitious and exciting new plan that will alter our destiny as a species."
Google CEO invests in peer-to-peer lender. It wasn't long ago that Prosper.com was forced to shut down its peer-to-peer lending site following a cease-and-desist order from the SEC. But the company has since registered as a seller of securities, and its future once again seems promising. Today, TechCrunch is reporting that Prosper has raised a Series D round of $14.7 million, with Google CEO Eric Schmidt's TomorrowVentures as one of the investors.
Demand Media pondering an IPO. In the past we've covered Demand Media, "the content farm" that brings in $200 million a year by paying writers low rates for search-engine-friendly stories. Now Mashable reports that the company has been talking to Goldman Sachs about an initial public offering that would value it at $1.5 billion. Here are some tips on how to get better placement in search results.
New apps fresh from the Twitter conference. Twitter held its first conference for developers this week, and there's already buzz about some new third-party apps, Mashable reports. An app called Tweet Agora, for example, filters streams and gives the ability to "mute" certain users, while SonicLiving allows users to automatically find and follow musicians.
Apple's mobile land grab. Apple already gets an exclusive cut of spending on apps, music, movies, and TV shows for its popular iPhone. Now it wants more, rolling out an advertising platform, iAd, which has some entrepreneurs worried that that company is squeezing out smaller players. The new offering "looks more sinister every day," according to Valleywag. Unlike competing advertising platforms, Apple's system will get exclusive access to information about when users view and click on embedded ads. Wired.com adds that rivals, like Google's AdMob service, "will lose just about every advantage they currently possess."
A novel approach to mentoring. Los Angeles-based Launchpad just selected 10 new start-ups to participate in the second round of its six-month mentoring program, the Wall Street Journal reports. Founder Mark Suster tells the paper that entrepreneurs in Los Angeles often face pressure to move north to the stronger angel and venture capital networks in Silicon Valley. "The whole goal of the program is to see more Southern California companies get funded. LA is a city of 16 million people, with a lot of success stories." Launchpad's freshman class saw 11 out of the 13 companies successfully raise funding after leaving the program. This year's class includes a wedding service aimed at Spanish-speakers and a cloud-based publishing network.
Weekend reading. For our April issue, Inc. magazine conducted an experiment in working virtually. Check out "The Case, and the Plan, for the Virtual Company," to learn about why ditching the office might just be the best thing your company ever did. By the time you've finished that, you'll probably have worked up an appetite, so you'll have to check out the story of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, also from our April issue.