- From 1980–2005, firms less than five years old accounted for all net job growth in the United States.
- More than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession or bear market, along with nearly half of the firms on the 2008 Inc. list of America’s fastest-growing companies.
- Contrary to popularly held assumptions, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55–64 age group over the past decade. The 20–34 age bracket has the lowest.
- Only 16 percent of the fastest-growing and most successful companies in the United States had venture investors.
- More than a quarter of technology and engineering companies started in the United States from 1995 to 2005 had at least one key founder who was foreign-born.
- Foreign nationals residing in the United States were named as inventors or co-inventors in 25.6 percent of international patent applications filed in the U.S. in 2006.
I made several more loans using Kiva today to entrepreneurs in: Mongolia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Togo and Peru. One nice improvement they have made to the layout of the site is to show the “portfolio yield” (which is their form of APR – to provide an idea of the fees an entrepreneurs must pay).
Since I am making loans on Kiva to help others out one of the big factors for me is the cost to the entrepreneur. I just would much rather provide funding for loans where the entrepreneurs gets a reasonably low rate. I understand there are costs the lenders have to cover. I have no problem with that, but if my choice is helping an entrepreneurs get a loan at 20% or 40% I am going to take 40%. I figure the odds that the entrepreneurs benefits will be much greater with lower costs. I also prefer loans where I see how the loan will let them be more productive, for example by purchasing a machine to help improve productivity.
I wish Kiva would let me selected lenders I like and then have the results shown only for those lenders (as one option).
I really like micro-credit as a tool to improve the lives of those willing to put in the effort to build a successful business. I do worry however, that the actual success is less than what is hoped. The idea is so appealing but objective results are not as obvious (for one thing the results, do not seem to be available). I want to find research that indicates what will make micro-credit most effective at improving the economic well being of people. Small change by Drake Bennett
They created their controlled experiment by altering the algorithm the bank used to evaluate creditworthiness so that some borderline applicants were randomly denied loans while other otherwise identical applicants had loans approved.
Working with a microcredit bank in India that was looking to expand in the city of Hyderabad, the researchers did find some small positive effects. Borrowers who already had a business did see some increase in profit. Households without businesses that the researchers judged more predisposed to start one were found to cut back on spending, suggesting they were saving to augment their loan for a capital business expense like a pushcart or a sewing machine.
Overall the article suggests that the data is hard to get. The time of the studies may be too short to see improvement. And the gains seen are small. I do believe we are in danger of creating problems with the rapid expansion of micro-credit. I can understand why, the situation is desperate for billions of people still. And we do not have many good methods for improving economic conditions for the world’s poor. I still strongly support micro-credit but I worry, especially if interest rates are high, that it may not help. We need to study what is working and adopt methods that will bring about improved results.
Main Street vs. Wall Street by Kevin Kelly
Fees are only one part of the problem. Several owners I spoke to talked about how difficult it has been to get loans, or how restrictive loan covenants had become. “My bank won’t even talk to me,” confessed the owner of one local eatery who had received a Small Business Administration loan nearly two years ago that financed an upgrade and expansion of his kitchen.
As for my relationship with Wells Fargo, it endures. Our line of credit comes up in six months, and I’m expecting the bank to try to boost our interest rate, especially given how much it has complained about how it’s too low. Where we once bundled many of our services through Wells Fargo—including our corporate, commercial, and equipment lending and our 401(k) plan, a policy the bank encouraged to deepen our ties—we’re looking to back out of some pieces…
Good idea, big banks have shown over and over again they take pride in consistently raising fees, reducing service and treating customers as though they are a bother. It is annoying that the big banks are constantly buying out the little banks to eliminate competition (and that regulators allow this is a sad commentary on our disrespect for the principles of capitalism) but when that happens move your banking needs to a small bank and you will be much better off in the long run.
Choosing to deal with big banks is bad idea. They have provided lousy service for quite some time. Obviously they do not chose to provide value to customers.
Kiva is one of my favorite charities, as I have mentioned several times. They provide a platform that connects those with funds to lend to entrepreneurs. This week they added the ability to lend money to entrepreneurs in the USA. And they also added short webcasts to some of the entrepreneur profiles.
One of my goals for this blog is to increase the number of readers participating in Kiva – see current Curious Cat Kivans. I have also created a curious cat lending team on Kiva. If you lend through Kiva, add a comment with a link to your Kiva page and I will add you to our list of Curious Cat Kivans.
Tight windows enable “good enough” design. Most Y Combinator–funded companies are expected to release a version of their idea in less than 3 months. That tight time frame forces entrepreneurs to introduce “good enough” software packages that can then iterate in market. This approach contrasts to efforts by many companies to endlessly perfect ideas in a laboratory, only to fail the real test of being exposed to real market conditions.
Business plans are nice, not necessary. Y Combinator doesn’t obsess over whether entrepreneurs have detailed business plans. Again, the focus is getting something out in the market to drive iteration and learning. After all, if you are trying to create a market, most of the material in a business plan is assumption-based anyway.
Y-combinator is very interesting. I have posted about them several times: Find Joy and Success in Business, Build Your Business Slowly and Without Huge Cash Requirements. Investors can learn a great deal about how to grow businesses from their model. Brains, effort, customer focus, the ability to learn and business savvy can do huge things with little cash in information technology. The opportunities are available today. Y-combinator’s support of the businesses with knowledgeable resources and education (startup school) are far more important than the money they provide.
Peet’s Coffee: In Africa, Brewing Good Works by Steve Hamm
Because of bad roads and delays at border crossings, it took 12 days for a truck with a container full of green coffee beans to travel 1,000 miles to the Kenyan port of Mombasa. The sea journey from Mombasa took nearly two months. Worse, when the shipment arrived in Oakland, Calif., in late February, a portion of the coffee was slightly damaged.
Moayyad traveled to Rwanda to cement relationships with farmer groups and gather stories about the farmers for use in marketing. With a videographer tagging along, she navigated molar-crunching roads in a four-wheel-drive pickup to remote villages and farms perched on hillsides high above Rwanda’s Lake Kivu. On the roadsides, children greeted the passing truck with an excited cry of “Abazungu [white people]!” Moayyad plans to post a journal of her travels on Peet’s Web site, aimed at the company’s most loyal customers, called Peetniks.
A good effort. Real world issues confront you when you take steps to build the capacity for capitalism to help people live better lives. We need more such efforts to help capitalists make better lives for themselves around the world.
A couple posts by Jeff Vogel, founder of Spiderweb Software, discussing the financial success of his small computer gaming company are quite interesting. They provide a nice view of one successful small businesses’ finances and the customer focus and market awareness needed to succeed.
Geneforge 4 cost about $120K and has made about $117K. Given current sales rates, it should be in the black in at most 2-3 months. After that, everything it earns is pure, tasty profit. And we will sell it in bundles (we sell a Geneforge 4-5 bundle already, and a Geneforge 1-5 CD is coming), making more money. So I don’t regret the time spent writing it at all.
And it gets better. What was my reward for the year spent writing Geneforge 4? It wasn’t just the cash. I also own the game! That means, in ten years or so, I can return to it, give it better graphics and interface, add a bonus 2-3 dungeons, and release it to a new generation of gamers. I’ve done it before, with my games Exile 1-3, Blades of Exile, and Nethergate, and the resulting products, since I didn’t need to write them from scratch, were immensely profitable.
Don’t underestimate the value of owning your own intellectual property.
A lot of people have commented that I should lower the game’s price to $10. The idea that this would increase my profits is, I feel, purest nonsense. Bearing in mind that the percentage cost of credit card processing increases as the price goes down, and, to make the same profits from Geneforge 4, I would have had to triple my sales. Triple! As in, go from a conversation rate of about 1.5% to almost 5%. This is just not realistic.
Or, to put it another way, Geneforge 4 was the game where we raised our prices to $28. Our sales did not go down from Geneforge 3 (which was $25). They went up. A lot. And Avernum 5 ($28) sold a lot more than Avernum 4 ($25).
But I think the most important thing to note is that Geneforge 4, after a few years, is almost in the black, and it continues to sell. In the long run, the time spent on it will be quite profitable. Despite the crude graphics. Despite the high price.
A neat example, I think. he doesn’t specifically talk about cash flow but you can see that the business needs to pay salaries and sales come much later. So you need to have cash to sustain the business (which could be a loan, that then is paid back as sales are made). And then, as you have games that were developed earlier you get sales with very little cost to you in the present time (you paid for the bulk of the effort earlier).
Don’t let the talking heads on TV convince you that capitalism is about corrupt businessmen that think they are entitled to loot companies. That is about the powerful accepting money from their golfing buddies to share the loot among themselves. Capitalism is about places like Trickle Up, micro-finance, appropriate technology and entrepreneurs making better lives for themselves and their families. Donate to Trickle Up (I do).
For me, giving back to others is part of my personal financial plan. As I have said most people that are actually able to read this are financially much better off than billions of other people today. At least they have the potential to be if they don’t chose to live beyond their means. Here are some of the ways I give back to others.
Kiva is a wonderful organization and particularly well suited to discuss because they do a great job of using the internet to make the experience rewarding for people looking to help – as I have mentioned before: Using Capitalism to Make a Better World. One of my goals for this blog is to increase the number of readers participating in Kiva – see current Curious Cat Kivans. I have also created a lending team on Kiva. Kiva added a feature that allows people to connect online. When you make a loan you may link you loan to a group.
I actually give more to Trickle Up (even though I write about Kiva much more). I have been giving to them for a long time. They appeal to my same desire to help people help themselves. I believe in the power of capitalism and people to provide long term increases in standards of living. I love the idea of providing support that grows over time. I like investing and reaping the rewards myself later (with investment I make for myself). But I also like to do that with my gifts. I would like to be able to provide opportunities to many people and have many of them take advantage of that to build a better life for themselves, their families and their children.
The photo shows Frew Wube, Haimanot and Melkan (brother and two sisters), an entrepreneur that received a grant from Trickle up. Trickle Up provides grants to entrepreneur, similar to micro loans, except the entrepreneur does not have to pay back the grant. They are able to use the full funds to invest in their business and use all the income they are able to generate to increase their standard of living and re-invest in the business.
“I also save every month,” says Frew, who has over $40 stored in a cooperative savings fund. The capital he has saved with other people in his group is used to provide loans to group members at a low interest rate. Frew, now able to access credit thanks to his Trickle Up clothing business, has taken progressively larger loans from the group, including his latest loan of $300 to start a candle business.