Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Web entrepreneurs get a hip new makeover. Making Internet entrepreneurs - a group not exactly known for their fashion savvy - look cool is no small challenge. Today's New York Times has the story of one designer who is giving start-up fashion a shot. Fashion designer Kristen Slowe has created Saboteur, a fashion line sold online that's targeting Silicon Valley-types. The collection is composed of an assortment of sharp shirts and blazers that can be worn to the office or out on the town - some are even waterproof. As Slowe explains, "After going to tech meet-ups and tech events and seeing the same items again and again, we realized there was a real void in the menswear market." So Slowe created such items as the "Founder Jacket" and the "Banker Shirt." There's also the "Sea Captain Shirt" or "Vice Shirt" for when you're feeling more devious. The fashion line already has one tech entrepreneur as a fan: Justin Kan, founder of Justin.tv, (which incidentally hosts our Inc.Live chats), has invested "tens of thousands" in the company.
The Catch-22 of landing new clients. When sales aren't exactly pouring in, when budgets are tight, small businesses need to find new customers to pick up the pace. But to get more customers, you need to market and advertise, right? Laying out the cash for that - especially amid the economic downturn - is just too risky for many small businesses. A study of entrepreneurs, which is referenced in the Wall Street Journal, says nearly half of small business owners are struggling to "find efficient or innovative ways to market their products or services." But fret not, entrepreneur: there are ways. And the Wall Street Journal has compiled a dozen of them, from using targeted online referrals to staging a publicity stunt.
The great business-collapse quiz. In 2000, the Web portal and search engine Lycos sold for $12.5 billion; recently, it fetched a puny $36 million. So in its honor, our Fast Company brethren have put together a little pop quiz that serves as a cautionary tale to acquiring companies everywhere. (For another tale of a business gone awry, check out this classic on Jonathan Abrams of Friendster.)
When shareholders revolt. Dell's investors are unhappy with founder and CEO Michael Dell, and in a recent vote, a whopping one-fourth of them voted against keeping Dell on the company's board. According to the New York Times, the issues could stem from the recent charges of accounting fraud filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Though Dell never fessed up to the charges, the company forked over $100 million to settle the case. Stanford law professor Joseph A. Grundfest tells the Times: "It is extremely rare to have that amount of shareholder disaffection directed toward an executive who is so central to the company's past, present and future." Still, the story points out Yahoo's similar situation when, in 2008, 33.7 percent of the board voted against the re-election of co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang.
The local charm offensive. If you've ever traveled abroad on a business trip you've probably noticed when you're in a city or country where the food franchises you know from home seem like they haven't set up shop yet. Whether that fills you with nostalgia for a Big Mac or you revel in the experience of visiting mom-and-pop local businesses there's a notable new trend in the United States of towns banning formula restaurants which could change the small business landscape (via USAToday). Here are 5 tips for franchisees to make their ventures successful.
John Byrne launches a website for MBAs. Last year, Byrne, a former editor of Inc.'s sister magazine Fast Company, quit his job at BusinessWeek, where he'd been the editor of the website, to strike out on his own. Now his new company, C-Change Media, has launched its first product, a website aimed at business school students called, charmingly, Poets and Quants. He plans to make money by selling advertising to business schools and white papers to applicants looking for the inside track. Byrne tells BayNewser that he's funding the site himself for now. "Luckily, I didn't waste too much of my time [shopping for money]," he says. "It's a sinkhole. If you want to do it, you have to do it. You have to put your money up and make it happen. Running around asking people for money wastes time that's too precious."