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The Pros and Cons of Going Viral

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What happens when your product goes viral. Awkwardly viral. The New York Times tries to unpack the marketing implications of "icing" for the beverage company Smirnoff. The game, which seems to have bubbled up on certain college campuses (no one knows for sure), mocks Smirnoff Ice, but also seems to be driving sales through the roof. Industry experts say this will end badly for Smirnoff--"Beyond the implicit slur on the beverage's taste, I doubt any alcoholic beverage company would want to be associated with a drinking game that stretches the boundaries of good taste and common sense like this one does," one executive told the Times--but the company has had success with viral hits before, including a rap video about spiked iced tea. The Times manages a surprisingly nuanced take given that the game involves frat boys chugging booze: "[I]t has exposed the mercurial line between guerrilla advertising and genuine social media trends," the article notes.

A PR nightmare for a Google-connected start-up. Genetics testing company 23andMe, co-founded by Sergey Brin's wife, which both took funding from and is currently housed by Google, is no stranger to controversy. But Valleywag reports that its latest mishap (misdirecting 96 genetic test results to families) resulted in panic and tears when parents got results saying their children might not be their own and when tests saying individuals were a different race than they had been raised to believe arrived in the mail. Valleywag's Ryan Tate chalks it up to the practice of "recreational genomics." Besides, he advises, "Always try to have a sense of humor about your grossly inaccurate genetic test results. It's only the blueprint of organic life we're talking about, here."

What your e-mail sign-offs say about you. You probably don't think twice about how you end each one of the many e-mails you send each day, but Web Worker Daily breaks down the hidden messages behind some of the most common e-mail closings. According to the post, signing off with "Cheers" says "I'm casual, yet professional. We could share beers at the bar, or we could do an angel VC deal. Or both." Another common sign-off, "Thanks," signals "Just do what I've asked in the body of this e-mail, and let's leave it at that," while "Best" is a little more ambiguous. "It basically means, 'I wish good things for you.' That's OK, but chances are that tone doesn't mesh well with what you're communicating in the body above. However, 'Best' is innocuous enough that people don't really digest it."

Women entrepreneurs of the world unite. Yesterday, the non-profit organization Astia held the We Own It summit to address strategies for increasing the number of women running high-growth companies. The summit included workshops on finding funding, networking strategies, and becoming an angel investor. Esther Dyson, Brad Feld, Gilt Groupe CEO Susan Lyne, Ernst & Young director Maria Pinelli, and moderator Vivek Wadhwa kicked things off with a discussion on factors limiting the number of high-growth, woman-run companies. Feld elicited a chorus of boos when he suggested that it may be "too late" for middle-aged would-be entrepreneurs. Marsha Firestone, founder of the Women Presidents' Organization, noted that the average founding age of WPO members is 40, which suggests that VCs obsessed with finding the next Mark Zuckerberg may want to rethink their 'pattern matching.' On a similar note, on today's "You're the Boss" blog, Cindy Padnos, founding managing director of the tech-focused VC firm, Illuminate Ventures, discusses some of the reasons behind the scarcity of women in technology.

More help for New York's entrepreneurs Mayor Bloomberg's NYC Entrepreneurial Fund has already promised $22 million to support tech start-ups in the Big Apple, and now, another organization is coming forward to get young tech entrepreneurs off the ground. According to the Wall Street Journal, HackNY hopes to lead promising computer science and math students away from Wall Street and into new careers with start-ups. The program will begin with 12 fellows, who will be paid $400 a week and given free housing through New York University, as they pursue summer internships at the city's many start-ups. The organization also offers workshops that focus on technical skills and landing crucial funding. Some start-up founders like Mike Galpert, who runs Aviary, tell the Journal this organization may make it easier to find top talent outside Silicon Valley. "New York is really a hotbed for start-ups, but students don't necessarily know that just yet," Galpert says. "They don't have to go on the West Coast to spend their summer working with cool start-ups. They can do that in New York."

Apple's solar aspirations. After the debut of a redesigned iPhone 4, it has come to light that in 2008 Apple filed for a patent for "media players with integrated touch sensor solar panel surfaces." Yes, that's right: Apple thinks it could create a touch screen that also powers itself. There's plenty of speculation online that the new iPhone 4 design - with a non-metal casing - could support both front-and-back implementation of solar panels. Good Clean Tech writes: "With a glass, solar-charging back to the phone ... you wouldn't need to worry about what side you put it down on. Plus, it could be charging even as you talk on it."

America's brightest social entrepreneurs. BusinessWeek has the run down of some entrepreneurs who are intent on not just on making a buck but on improving the world. These include enterprises such as BTTR Ventures, a pair of recent Berkeley grads using coffee grounds to grow mushrooms and Hello Rewind which makes old t-shirst into laptop sleeves and gives the profits to job training for former sex workers. Take a quick crash course in social entrepreneurship from Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman.

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Last updated: Jun 9, 2010




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