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What Really Scares Entrepreneurs?

Taking a deeper look at big risks. Plus, who's making money from Mardi Gras, and the rest of the day's news for entrepreneurs.
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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.

The biggest risk you never took. For some entrepreneurs, taking risks is all a part of the game. But aside from forsaking the "traditional," or corporate, route, what are the risks that really strike fear in an entrepreneur's heart? Forbes put together a slideshow of 39 self-described "big achievers," from tech start-up founders to CEOs, asking: "What's the biggest risk you ever took?" Gurbaksh Chahal, the founder of RadiumOne, an online advertising network, said his biggest risk was quitting high school at age 16 to launch his company. The result? "Three months after I turned 18, I sold it for $40 million," he said. Perhaps the greatest risk-takers really do reap the greatest rewards. Also consider Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga, an online social gaming company. In 1996, Pincus turned down funding for his first company in order to pursue Zynga. It may have been crazy at the time, but it looks like it was the right call: Zynga's reported valuation is as much as $10 billion.

The cost of Carnival. It's Mardi Gras—and that's big business. Fast Company has put together a really cool infographic with data on the debauchery, including that 2,300 parade krewe members toss 1.5 million plastic cups, 2.5 million doubloons, and 200,000 beads to parade bystanders. Go ahead, break out that king cake. It's just one of 57,000 Haydel's Bakery sold this year. 

AOL's stock sinks. The AOL-Huffington Post acquisition deal officially closed on Monday. However, that day also marks the historical low for AOL's stock price. According to a Los Angeles Times report, investors were not swayed by the $315 million acquisition of the content giant. The price of a single share of AOL fell to $19.26, representing a 4 percent loss. Speculation into the cause of the price drop, which rests one-third less than the one-year high it reached last April, is the rise of Arianna Huffington as president and editor-in-chief of an AOL-backed Huffington Post Media Group. Last month, AOL's chief executive, Tim Armstrong bought $10 million in AOL stock, possibly to buoy confidence in his future plans for AOL. It looks as if more than a hefty stock purchase will retain investor confidence in AOL's post under Huffington.

Your website is down. What do you do? Microsoft has paired up with a research firm that specializes in "the psychology of social media," (and it even has a start-up-y name: Psychster) to find out what least-annoys users. Apparently, as TechCrunch reports, it's tweeting about the problem. The full research study found that about half of respondents would consult a company's Twitter feed to "get information about the outage" and that negative feelings would be reduced if the company "seemingly cares enough to tweet about it."

Small businesses look optimistic. The National Federation of Independent Business, which is based in Washington, D.C., released its latest survey measuring the levels of optimism among small businesses. According to Bloomberg and the NFIB, optimism among U.S. small companies rose in February to its highest level since 2007, thanks in part to increased hiring and sales expectations. The report, which surveyed 774 U.S. small businesses, found that sales, earnings, plans to hire, and add to payrolls all slightly increased in February, a sign employment may pick up in coming months. "The future is looking brighter for a few more small business owners," said the NFIB in a statement. "With an improving economy, more and more of these hikes will 'stick.'"

Google takes heat over lack of app security. The Wall Street Journal reports that last week more than 50 malicious applications were uploaded to and distributed from Google's Android Market. Because the company doesn't have a team dedicated to inspecting apps, it has made a habit of relying on users to rate and report any problems they run into. Computer-security experts say that Google needs to get with the program, and follow the example of Apple and Blackberry, and take greater steps to ensuring its apps are safe before they're offered to users. Rich Cannings, head of Google's Android security team, recently announced that the apps, that were downloaded onto about 260,000 devices, have been removed and the accounts of the developers believed to have caused the incident have been suspended.

Meet the maddest mad scientists. Just when you thought your R&D team was as nutsy as it could get, Wired this month profiles seven renegade researchers, from a "space cowboy" to the "snow bombers." Our favorite? The "bee queen," a University of Minnesota entomologist who wants to fight honeybee blight by genetically building heartier bees.

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Last updated: Mar 8, 2011

CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer

Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.




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