Screw business as usual

Posted November 23, 2011 at 3:55 am

Richard Branson admits that business, including his own, helped cause the downward spiral to turn even faster. Which is why he has a new approach: Capitalism 24902

by Richard Branson

I have always tried to be socially aware and have always felt strongly that everyone should have the same chance to thrive in life, which is probably why all my businesses have focused on giving everyone a “fair go”, as they say in Australia.

After starting Student magazine at school, I went on to open a student advisory centre where young people could walk in off the street and get information to help with problems such as venereal disease, psychiatric problems, pregnancy issues and birth control.

That centre evolved to provide free mental health support and it still exists in London, on Portobello Road, where it has provided a service for more than 40 years.

During the height of the HIV/Aids crisis in 1987 we set up Mates, a company that produced condoms at a low price. Profits were ploughed back into building awareness about HIV/Aids.

We even got the BBC to run its first-ever advertisements, a cheeky play on that nerve-wracking moment when a young man goes to buy condoms and is mortified at having to ask for them from the girl behind the counter.

This is still one of my favourite campaigns as it really helped to build awareness, and was a good reminder for all of us that humour can often be a far better way to change behaviour than just trying to scare the hell out of people.

If Martin Luther King’s famous quote, “I have a dream” had been “I have a nightmare” it would never have been so successful.

As Virgin expanded, so did our ideas for treating the people who worked for us well, and for considering the environment.

We’ve always had, at our core, a focus on our people, and making sure they are empowered to make decisions and feel part of a company that stands for something beyond making money.

I’ve always believed that by taking care of people in my companies the rest will take care of itself. This can be something simple, like [continue]…

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The new whiz kids

Posted November 22, 2011 at 3:52 am

by Ryan Lawler

Jobs. Gates. Ellison. McNealy. A generation ago, they changed the way we live, work and communicate with each other.

Those are the kinds of names that sprang to mind when I first saw the lineup for GigaOM RoadMap, and I thought about the new generation of entrepreneurs that we’re seeing spring up right before our eyes.

There’s a whole new set of revolutionary applications and technologies that are being launched today, and a whole new generation of whiz kids leading that charge.

WV Note: This syncs up nicely with our “We’re bullish on human beings” post.

This week I was lucky enough to see people like Jack Dorsey, Brian Cheskey and Drew Houston take the stage and talk about how the world is changing, and how technology is revolutionizing the way we interact with each other.

They’re not alone, of course. We could throw out other names — Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, David Karp of Tumblr, Dennis Crowley of Foursquare and Kevin Systrom of Instagram. Each is, in his own way, contributing to a fundamental shift in communication and consumption enabled by the Internet.

Lessons from Outliers

What interests me about this new crop of entrepreneurs is the enabling force behind their rise. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that it was timing more than [continue]…

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Building a credit card killer from Iowa ?

Posted November 21, 2011 at 1:42 am

by Alyson Shontell

There’s a tiny 12-person startup churning out of Des Moines, Iowa.

Dwolla was founded by 28-year-old Ben Milne; it’s an innovative online payment system that sidesteps credit cards completely.

Milne has no finance background, yet his little operation is moving between $30 and $50 million per month; it’s on track to move more than $350 million in the next year.

Unlike PayPal, Dwolla doesn’t take a percentage of the transaction. It only asks for $0.25  whether it’s moving $1 or $1,000.

We interviewed Milne about how he is building a credit card killer and Square rival from the middle of the nation where VCs and press are scarce.

BI: We hear you’re making credit card companies angry. How are you doing that?

Ben Milne: Ultimately we’re trying to build the next Visa, not the next PayPal.  We’re building a human network based on how we think the future of payments will work. The current model needs to be blown up.

Dwolla started out of my old company.  I owned a speaker manufacturing company and we sold everything directly through a website.  I got really obsessed with interchange fees and [continue]…

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Homeless man turns his life around by selling soap

Posted November 17, 2011 at 3:55 am

by Steven Greenberg

Dennis Anderson never thought that he would be unemployed and then homeless after college. But that’s exactly what happened to him after he graduated in 2005 from Massasoit Community College in Massachusetts.

The only jobs he could find were meager-paying retail ones. And it didn’t look like his employment options were going to get any better. So on a whim, he took his last savings, packed up his car and drove cross country to the West Coast.

When he arrived, he had no job, home, family or friends. He did have ambition, which helped him launch and build Oregon-based Anderson Soap Company, which manufactures whipped soaps, and lip balms and other cosmetics.

He now has a home, a family, and dreams for an even better future. Anderson recently spoke about his change of fortune — including how Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and different kinds of foods figure into his success — with Steven Greenberg, CBS radio expert for jobs and host of the nationally syndicated radio program, “Your Next Job.”

Just a few years ago, you hit bottom — you had no job, and you were homeless. How did you turn things around?

I was completely tapped out just five years ago. I didn’t have a place to live or a job, so I filled up my car with my few belongings, emptied my bank account of the $300 I had to my name and used that for gas to drive across country to California. Things were very tough, but I tried to view my situation as an opportunity to do something new, not as a dead end.

Did you think you would remain homeless for long? [continue]…

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10 U.S. companies that are hiring like crazy

Posted November 14, 2011 at 1:45 am

by Christina Settimi

With unemployment hovering above 9 percent and the whiff of recession in the air, many companies are keeping their expansion plans on hold. A select few, however, are expanding like mad.

A close look at the Forbes annual ranking of 100 best small public companies offers some hope on the dreary jobs front. During the previous three fiscal years, 84 of the 100 companies boosted payroll — by an average 48 percent — adding a total of 56,885 heads.

A vast majority came aboard during the natural course of business, not via acquisition.

We drilled down further and found the 10 most powerful job creators of the bunch [continue]…

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Steve Jobs biography in 3,000 words

Posted November 10, 2011 at 2:17 am

In the current New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell boils it down to this: Jobs was a “tweaker”

by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

I’m only 46% of the way through Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, according to the Kindle app on my iPad, but I’ve read enough to recognize that Malcom Gladwell has captured the essence of the book — and the man — in his 3,000-word review in the current New Yorker.

Gladwell’s thesis is that Jobs, at heart, was an information-age version of those 18th and early 19th century engineers who put Britain in the forefront of the industrial revolution by creating and perfecting the automatic mule for spinning cotton.

Such men, according to a recent article by economists Ralf Meisenzahl and Joel Mokyr, provided the “micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative.”

It’s a strong thesis — one that Isaacson doesn’t offer his readers — but what brings it to life in Gladwell’s piece are the [continue]…

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More trash than treasure at storage auctions

Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:13 am

By Jonathan Berr

Attention Storage Wars fans: The odds of you striking it rich at a storage auction are as remote as those of mortal enemies Darrell Sheets and Dave Hester dancing the cha-cha cheek-to-cheek, or fashion maven Barry Weiss wearing beige.

Though the hit cable-TV show does give viewers an idea of what goes on at the auctions, it doesn’t give the entire picture. Buying and selling merchandise based on a cursory inspection of an abandoned storage locker is not an easy way to make a living.

Indeed, what gets viewers hooked on Storage Wars is that the cast members don’t always make a profit.

Anyone tempted to take a stab at being a “storage warrior” should be advised that lots of people are getting the same idea. Attendance at storage auctions has soared thanks to the cable show, and prices for lockers have followed suit.

“Yes, they are [up] big time,” said Sheets, who calls himself “The Gambler,” in an email. “A locker that would normally sell for $300 a few years ago now costs $1,000 and up.”

Storage Wars has worked the growing crowds at auctions into its plotlines. Weiss, a self-styled collector who buys auctions in the hopes of [continue]…

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Build your home-based dream business

Posted November 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Tear up that office lease. Starting a business from home isn’t just about the money you save, it’s about the lifestyle it creates.

by EricMarkowitz  

The age of the virtual company is upon us. Future historians may look back and declare that the concept of offices began their slow but inevitable extinction some time around 2011 A.D.

Our grandchildren will watch movies like Office Space with a touch of bewilderment—did people really have to sit in front of a desktop computer for eight hours every day?

Yes, this is all an exaggeration. After all, some offices will need to provide a space for face-to-face meetings. But it’s hard to argue that the growing popularity of the home-based business model isn’t becoming a characteristic of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Now, more than half of all small businesses in the United States are based out of the entrepreneur’s home, according to the Small Business Administration. That’s around 15 million home-based businesses, and represents about $500 billion in revenue every year.

Obviously, the costs of running a business from home is advantageous because it’s cheap.

It’s simple, says Danny Wong, co-founder of Blank Label, a start-up that offers custom men’s shirts. Wong and his co-founders have a completely bootstrapped approach to their business model—and opening an office just didn’t make sense for them.

“We just didn’t want to pay,” Wong says. Blank Label is also a paradigm for the 2011 version of a virtual company. They use video chat and Google Wave when the team isn’t together, and they’ve never even met one of their developers, who lives in Orange County. “We video chat with him, but he’s always kind of in the dark,” Wong says.

Cutting costs early on can be attractive to [continue]…

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10 of the world’s coolest jobs

Posted November 1, 2011 at 1:48 pm

by Brielle Jaekel with Constance Parten

Unless you’re a Powerball winner, or you’ve inherited a large sum of money, chances are you have to wake up every day, go to work and make a living.

For most people, a job is just a job, little more than a way to pay the bills. But what if work were more like play? What if, instead of living for the weekend, you lived for Monday morning?

There are people who feel that way; you just have to find them. We did. For instance, rock climber Steph Davis climbs up the north face of Castleton Tower in Castle Valley, Utah. Yeah, she gets paid to do that.

Here are 10 of the coolest jobs in the world, and the people who do them [continue]…

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$100,000 a year with a YouTube video?

Posted October 31, 2011 at 3:43 am

by Claire Cain Miller

Katie Clem posted a video on YouTube this month of her daughter Lily’s poignant and funny reaction to her sixth birthday present, a trip to Disneyland, for her friends and family. Then it went viral.

In three weeks it has been watched more than five million times, and Lily has become a minor Internet celebrity. Of far more importance, at least to Lily’s parents, the video is poised to make enough money from advertisements to send Lily to college.

Creating a video that attracts millions of viewers and becomes a pop culture phenomenon involves an unpredictable cocktail of luck and timing. A dash of cute babies or people acting like idiots can only help. But once a video goes viral, making some cold cash depends on quick action.

Here is some advice on how to take advantage of your 15 minutes of Internet fame from people who did just that [continue]….

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