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The Next Billion-dollar Start-up?

Could Spotify really be worth a billion bucks? Plus, Amazon's answer to Netflix, and the rest of the day's news.
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Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:

A fresh billion-dollar valuation. Spotify, Europe's free music-streaming service, is seeking investment of $100 million from Digital Sky Technologies (a Facebook and Groupon investor) and Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins, the UK's Independent newspaper reports. That's for a 10 percent stake, which places the company's value at a cool $1 billion. Not bad for a service that's largely free, funded by advertising, and has only 750,000 paying users, who can skip the advertising. The Guardian continues its skepticism of hefty valuations, calling Spotify the "latest Internet company to get swept up in the current dot-com bubble."

Courts use Facebook to bounce biased jurors. How do you find out if a juror might sympathize with the defense? You Facebook them, of course! According to The Wall Street Journal, it seems the U.S. court system is beginning to take its cues from HR departments that, for years now, have screened potential applicants using social networking sites. "Facebook is increasingly being used in courts to decide who is‚ and who isn't‚ suitable to serve on a jury, the latest way in which the social-networking site is altering the U.S. court system," the article notes. Some critics argue that the practice, which is legal, will deliver "out-of-context" information to the lawyers. Still, many lawyers consider Facebooking an effect way to glean useful information. For example, David Cannon, a Los Angeles-based trial consultant, found that one of the jurors tried to contact aliens.  Cannon "discovered on blogs that a potential juror in a personal-injury case had made extensive attempts to contact extraterrestrials. He recommended that his clients, who were representing the defendants, not select her. 'It just showed an instability,' he said."

Having doubts about your business idea? Take comfort in knowing it didn't make this list. After publishing a list of this winter's most brilliant business ideas last week, Business Insider has now come out with a list of 10 new ideas it predicts will be surefire flops. Topping the list is a $144 vibrating device said to give users an instant nose job, followed by other bizarre ideas like MeatWater—think VitaminWater that tastes like beef stroganoff and wiener schnitzel.

Amazon launches its new-look Prime service. Move over, Netflix. Ars Technica reports Amazon has launched its new and improved Amazon Prime, which will now stream several thousand movies and TV shows at no additional cost. While online streaming service Netflix has a much more extensive catalogue with about 20,000 available movies and TV shows, Amazon Prime's 5,000 titles is only an initial offering. However, Amazon Prime's price beats Netflix—a Prime subscription costs $79 per year, which is cheaper than Netflix's $7.99 per month, which totals about $96 a year. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime customers also receive free shipping on Amazon's physical goods with a subscription.

Spiking confidence. Consumer confidence rose in February, hitting a three-year high not seen since the onset of the recession. As reported by CNN Money, the Conference Board said that its Consumer Confidence Index jumped from a January high of 64.8 to 70.4 in February. Lynn Franco, director of the board's Consumer Research Center, said that the reason for the CPI hike was due to consumer optimism in the short-term future. "Looking ahead, consumers are more positive about the economy and their income prospects, but feel somewhat mixed about employment conditions," says Franco.

The story of Alibaba and the 100 thieves. Alibaba.com, China's biggest e-commerce company, has discovered that its dealers were defrauding overseas buyers. The scheme involved shady firms that set up online shops through Alibaba to scam customers. The discovery led to the ouster of CEO David Wei, COO Elvis Lee, a number of supervisors and managers, and 100 members of the sales staff. Chairman Jack Ma is an acclaimed visionary and, apparently, too important to walk the plank with his underlings. Read his pledge to transform Alibaba into a company that's "more open, more transparent, more sharing, more responsible, more global" on AllThingsD.

What's your (business) weakness? Everyone has one or a few: work tasks we're just not that good at.  While most will try to fake it until they make it, the Harvard Business Review suggests it's more effective to identify your weaknesses and then figure out a way to compensate for them. Make a conscious decision to master them: ask for help, take a class or get a mentor. 

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Last updated: Feb 22, 2011




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