Is Russia scaring off its entrepreneurs? In a bid to revive their ailing economy, Russian officials are building a $3.5 billion "Innovation City" just outside of Moscow which they hope will attract the country's best and brightest entrepreneurs. The goal is to essentially create the Russian equivalent of Silicon Valley. Some would argue, however, that it is the Russian political climate that needs to be improved before entrepreneurs will feel safe in launching their businesses. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Russian studies expert Leon Aron says that corruption and the Kremlin's Big Brother approach stifles innovation and doesn't lend itself to the "encouragement of brave, even brash, entrepreneurs who can be confident they will own the results of their work."
Start-up mistakes to avoid. BusinessWeek has a Q&A with Irina Patterson, a counselor to entrepreneurs for One Million by One Million, a Silicon Valley-based initiative to help 1 million entrepreneurs globally reach their first $1 million in revenue. She explains to BusinessWeek that about a quarter of the entrepreneurs she advises don't talk to prospective customers in their target market before they start building products. "[Some entrepreneurs] are infatuated with their own brilliance," she tells BusinessWeek. "They're really enamored of their own ideas, and they can't imagine someone wouldn't want it. Unfortunately, the market thinks otherwise." Another mistake Patterson often sees is entrepreneurs looking to raise funding too quickly. "They exhaust their enthusiasm and get beaten down. They don't realize that at this very early stage of their business, they're not going to raise the capital. It's against the laws of nature, or at least of business."
Microsoft opens its technology to entrepreneurs. ReadWriteStart marks the fifth anniversary of Microsoft's IP Ventures program, which identifies technology not being used by the corporation, or even tech that could be applied in different ways, and treats that intellectual property as "a form of currency that can be invested in other businesses." The new companies that launch as a result still need to seek out financing, but the IP Ventures program provides tech support and advice as they bring it to market. Think of it as a tech transfer, but out of Microsoft, rather than a university. In the past five years, says ReadWriteStart, the program has helped launch a mobile media company called Zumobi; Sabi, a children's learning game company; and Inrix, a Seattle-based traffic reporting company.
The iPhone 4 reviewed. Apple's latest version of the iPhone hits stores tomorrow, and Walt Mossberg says it'll be worth the long lines. Mossberg calls the iPhone the "most influential smartphone in the world," particularly because of the huge ecosystem of apps that has grown up around it. The new device should please those app entrepreneurs. It has a much-improved battery life, a better screen, multitasking, and a front-facing camera that allows for video calling. The one downside? AT&T's network, says Mossberg, "which not only still operates a network that has trouble connecting and maintaining calls in many cities, but now has abandoned unlimited, flat-rate data plans."
The business of beautiful babymaking?BeautifulPeople.com, a dating site for attractive people, received tons of flack when it booted 5,000 members from the site for packing on a few pounds over the holidays. Now, it seems, the site is reaching new extremes--launching a "virtual sperm and egg bank for people who want to have beautiful babies." (via ABC News) Greg Hodge, managing director of Beautiful People, tells ABC News, "Right or wrong, infertile couples highly value attractiveness in their donors...It may not give us all a warm, fuzzy feeling inside but you can't argue the fact that parents want to secure every advantage for their child." The site's hotties-only policy won't apply to the fertility forum because, says founder Robert Hintze, "Everyone--including ugly people--would like to bring good looking children in to the world, and we can't be selfish with our attractive gene pool." This way, even "non-beautiful" people will be able to link up with the site's member who are interested in donating. Though we did name sperm banks as one of the best industries for 2010, the prospect of genetically engineering babies to be beautiful has scientists reeling. "It's another step in turning children into products rather than persons," says bioethicist Dr. Daniel Sulmasy of the University of Chicago. "The beauty may not come through in the genetics. ... What are the parents supposed to do then? Turn it in?"
Apple sues HTC...again. Apple has filed yet another patent infringement suit against High Tech Computing and its subsidiaries. The suit adds one extra patent to the 20 existing ones Apple alleges are being infringed upon by HTC. The patents are for "system for real-time adaptation to changes in display configuration." TechCrunch has some explanation of what that means. It's barely been months since Apple's iPad naming dispute? Learn how to protect your company's trade secrets here.
How to use QR codes to market your business. While they are already wildly popular in Japan, QR codes, a two dimensional code that allows smart phones to access text, photos, video, or urls, are just beginning to take off in the U.S. To be early on the bandwagon using them in marketing your small business, Mashable suggests incorporating them into your business cards, marketing materials, and storefront windows. They also provide useful links to tools for tracking the success of your QR code campaigns. Here's another company that's using QR codes to communicate beyond the grave.