• Billion Dollar BabyThere was a time, not so very long ago, when $1 billion was a lot of money. But apparently that is no longer the case in Silicon Valley, where these days not a week goes by without a rumor about yet another company raising money at or near a $1 billion valuation.

    Lately there’s been Snapchat, an app that lets you send photos that disappear in seconds, which TechCrunch reports has raised money at an $800 million valuation, two weeks after originally reporting that the company was being valued at $1 billion. Also rumored to be valued at $1 billion are Path, a social network, and Fab.com, an online commerce site.

    This might not be so strange, except these companies (e.g. Snapchat, Path) have little in the way of revenue, and as for profits, well, you must be joking.

    If this seems a bit extreme to you, you’re not alone. As Quentin Hardy of the The New York Times recently reported, “The number of privately held Silicon Valley companies that are worth more than $1 billion shocks even the

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  • There aren’t many people as qualified as AJ Ware is to teach entrepreneurship to convicts.

    After serving a four-year sentence for committing robbery with a dangerous weapon at age 25, Ware was on food stamps when he started a house painting company with $25. He grew it to 18 employees generating close to $3 million in annual revenues, and sold it. Now, at 43, he’s the owner-operator of a racetrack in North Carolina with “a nice home, a car, a wife, kids, the whole nine yards,” he says.

    For the past year, he’s also been Executive Director of Inmates to Entrepreneurs. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2008 as the community outreach arm of Raleigh, NC, financial information company Sageworks, and is now a separate organization that Sageworks employees continue to support with time and resources.

    With a mission to reduce recidivism and support small business in the region, Inmates to Entrepreneurs offers business seminars and one-to-one mentoring at state prisons. Ware says, the

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  • No website? Why you should go for a mobile app instead

    Is your small business among the many that still haven’t gotten around to establishing a website? Here’s advice you might not have heard before: forget about it. With consumers increasingly using mobile devices to find businesses and shop online, a mobile app could be a better way to bring in customers than a traditional website.

    Paul Choi, CEO of the design and development firm Worry Free Labs, which has created apps for well-known brands including Disney, says, “Everything is moving to mobile. The trends are enormous, especially for the 18-40 year old market.” Choi sees Mom & Pop shops using mobile apps to engage customers outside of purchasing goods. And smart retailers use apps to create loyalty programs that get customers in the door, but also let the business track users' behaviors, such as how often they’re purchasing which goods, he says.

    Starbucks’s app is one stellar example: “Their loyalty points program gives you a free cup of coffee on your birthday and lets customers store

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  • How a used car salesman closes deals with a mobile app

    Yossi Levi of Dani's Auto Sales

    Without his tech-savvy 20-year-old son's input, it's unlikely that used car salesman Dani Levi would be using a mobile app to move inventory. But that he is.

    Yossi Levi says he practically grew up at his dad's business, Dani's Auto Sales in Philadelphia. And today, in addition to studying finance and marketing at Temple University, he's in charge of "all the marketing and anything to do with advertising" for the family business.

    The younger Levi says the idea for creating a car sales app came to him when he stumbled across a Facebook ad for Conduit, a company that offers DIY tools to enable individuals and businesses to create their own apps and mobile websites. "I always look for new and fresh opportunities, and this was something no other dealers in the area had," Levi says.

    Using the Conduit tools, he built a mobile app that customers can install on their iPhones and Androids. It offers the dealership's entire current inventory, coupons and discounts, a credit application function,

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  • Q: What is one tip you have for telling a great story on your company "About Us" page?

    The following answers are provided by The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

    A: Include the "Aha!" Moment

    Not every company was started by two friends in a dorm room. Those are the easy stories to write about. But if there isn't a touching story behind the brand, talk about that "aha!" moment when you discovered a problem that many others faced and how you went about solving it.

    Michael Portman ( https://twitter.com/birdsbarbershop ), Birds Barbershop ( http://www.birdsbarbershop.com )

    A: Share the "Why"

    The "why" part of your business's story -- what motivates your team to live and breath what

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  • Optimistic business owners will work on vacation

    Hard working and eternally optimistic. Those are the traits that seem to characterize the majority of small business owners we write about here, and they're verified by those who responded to a survey conducted in May by Rocket Lawyer. The online legal services provider polled more than 1,000 of its small business customers nationwide in its 2013 Semiannual Small Business Survey.

    More than half of respondents across all age groups say their businesses have been growing or even "booming" in the first half of 2013. More than one-third say business is still flat and not much has changed since a year ago, but an overwhelming number of respondents—73%—say they expect the second half of this year to be better. Rocket Lawyer's June 2013 survey results show markedly increased optimism since a year ago, when the survey showed that 56% had such sunny outlooks, but a slight drop in optimism since January 2013, when 81% predicted the next 6 months would bring better business.

    Rocket Lawyer infographic

    How do small

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  • customersYou’re not selling a product. Or a service. You’re selling a means to an end. Does that sound harsh? Deflating, perhaps? Let me explain.

    The German philosopher Heidegger famously distinguished between objects that are “ready at hand” and objects with properties. In other words, when we use a product (an object), we’re not usually focused on the product itself -- its fancy label, its color, and so on -- but on what it does for us. Heidegger used the hammer as an example: We don’t look at a hammer as, well, a hammer, but as something that can drive in a nail to help us do something like build a house. Only later, maybe, will we ponder the hammer as a hammer.

    How does this apply to a business? Quite simply, customers don’t care as much about that your product is as what it does -- and what it does for them in particular. Sure, they care about the product and will think about it as a product, but first they need to see how the product can add value to their lives. Only then will they “look

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  • Announcing the new Young Entrepreneur Blog

    launchIn partnership with the Young Entrepreneur Council we are launching a new blog here on Yahoo! Small Business Advisor aimed at young entrepreneurs from teens to twenties - and the older entrepreneur who is young-at-heart will also find a home here.

    We will feature advice, case studies, news, announcements, features and practical how-to information for those already running a startup, in the process of setting one up and those who are just thinking about taking the leap.

    We are kicking things off with a live twitter chat with Scott Gerber, Founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council and Phyllis Weber, Director for Local Retail at the Bay Area News Group and Owen Linderholm, Editor of Yahoo! Small Business Advisor on how to drive business in a world where shopping starts online. The chat will happen on Thursday June 20th at Noon PST (3PM EST) and you can join in by following @ysmallbusiness and the hashtag #GoSMB

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  • When things go wrong. Leadership lessons from Lieutenant General David Morrison

    Things go wrong in business all the time. Mostly they are small problems and can be dealt with just by accepting them and dealing with them. But big problems, crises, are a different matter. Suddenly the future of the business is in question - and that makes dealing with the problem that much harder. But confronting problems is at heart the same no matter how big or small and no matter the venue.

    One of the best demonstrations of how to confront problems the right way came just yesterday from the Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, to the Australian Army. Before you do anything else, watch the video embedded below and think about the ramifications for the Australian Army, Australian society and how Morrison is facing this problem. Other military leaders can learn from his example. And so can business leaders - both on this topic but also around any serious problem.

    The story essentially is that it has come to light that a group of Australian Army officers and

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  • Angie's List founder Angie Hicks is among Small Business Week speakers whose talks will be livestreamed.

    During the 50th annual National Small Business Week, the US Small Business Administration will offer tips, tools, and training on a variety of topics for small business owners. Register to attend live, or stay home and watch it all on your computer screen June 17-21.

    At live events five days next week in Seattle, Dallas, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and finally Washington, registered participants can attend workshops on topics including how to start a business, exporting, going global, blogging, cyber security, finding capital, supplier diversity, social media, crowdsourcing, small business certifications, and the Affordable Care Act.

    But you don’t need to register or even leave your shop, office, or home to glean all the same information online. All events will be live-streamed at the SBA Small Business Week website.

    SBA will also host daily online Google+ Hangout panel discussions with leading small business vendors and supporters Monday-Thursday starting at 4:00 pm EDT. Participants in

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