London Cab Driver Turns Backseat Into A Hotel

With hotel prices skyrocketing in and around London due to the 2012 Olympics, a taxi driver has decided to offer his backseat as a sleeping option for visitors.

David Weekes has turned the backseat of his cab into a hotel with a bedding mattress, alarm clock and a stuffed animal for those looking to cuddle.

Many taxi drivers have followed in his footsteps as they lose hundreds of dollars in fares due to numerous lanes being closed because of the Olympics.

Weekes is charing those who stay $75 a night. He parks the car in his driveway and allows them to use the bathroom in his home.

Read more at the Huffington Post

London Cab Driver Turns Backseat Into A Hotel

With hotel prices skyrocketing in and around London due to the 2012 Olympics, a taxi driver has decided to offer his backseat as a sleeping option for visitors.

David Weekes has turned the backseat of his cab into a hotel with a bedding mattress, alarm clock and a stuffed animal for those looking to cuddle.

Many taxi drivers have followed in his footsteps as they lose hundreds of dollars in fares due to numerous lanes being closed because of the Olympics.

Weekes is charing those who stay $75 a night. He parks the car in his driveway and allows them to use the bathroom in his home.

Read more at the Huffington Post

Why And How Black Businesses Should Improve Their Customer Service

From TheGrio

There is a very negative stigma customers hold regarding black-owned businesses having poor customer service. Although this is definitely not true for many black businesses, it is an area in which we need to pay special attention.

Due to the negative stigma, customer service has become a critical success factor (CSF) if a business is black-owned. Not all attributes of a company (i.e. customer service, prices, quality, etc.) are weighted equally in the minds of consumers; CSFs are those things that need to be excellent in order to build a sustainable customer base.

Delighting customers does three things for your business:

Check out the three things and the rest of the piece at TheGrio

Why And How Black Businesses Should Improve Their Customer Service

From TheGrio

There is a very negative stigma customers hold regarding black-owned businesses having poor customer service. Although this is definitely not true for many black businesses, it is an area in which we need to pay special attention.

Due to the negative stigma, customer service has become a critical success factor (CSF) if a business is black-owned. Not all attributes of a company (i.e. customer service, prices, quality, etc.) are weighted equally in the minds of consumers; CSFs are those things that need to be excellent in order to build a sustainable customer base.

Delighting customers does three things for your business:

Check out the three things and the rest of the piece at TheGrio

Mountain Lion Offers New Features for Small Business Customers

Apple has just released the latest version of its OS, Mountain Lion, which includes a whole host of features that may be helpful for small businesses and entrepreneurs, including a system-wide sharing application, a new alerts system, and a gatekeeper platform for improved cyber-security.

Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion includes changes to the Notification Center, which streamlines alerts from different programs like Mail, Calendar, Messages, and even third party apps. Having all alerts come from one notification center could have an impact on productivity, since users wouldn’t have notifications and distractions coming from several different programs at the same time.

Another time saver could be Mountain Lion’s system-wide Sharing application, which can make it easier for companies to share files and media content from one centralized platform. The system can also integrate with social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo, so companies that use social media marketing can make sharing easier and more streamlined.

Apple has also gotten rid of iChat in the new OS, and replaced it with a new Messages app, which people can use to communicate with anyone using an iPhone, iPad, or other mobile devices with iMessage. So companies that switch over to Mountain Lion can easily communicate with other employees, collaborators, and clients while they’re on the go, which could prove to be exceedingly helpful due to the large number of businesses that have begun using iPads and other mobile devices.

And finally, Apple’s new Gatekeeper platform aims to make downloading software from the internet safer, especially for companies that don’t have an excess of IT resources. Gatekeeper gives users more control over what apps are installed, and helps to protect users from installing malicious apps and other software from any sites on the web.

Though most businesses have stuck with Windows operating systems through the years, the new OS from Apple could at least be worth a second look. Mountain Lion includes over 200 new features, though many are smaller changes that some Mac users might not even notice.

The software update is currently available for $19.99 from the Mac App Store.

From Small Business Trends

Mountain Lion Offers New Features for Small Business Customers

Groupon Begins Accepting Donations For Low-Income Chicago Students

NBC Chicago is reporting that Groupon and the Chicago Public School System have joined forces for low-income students.

For the second year in a row, the daily deal company will take donations on CPS’ behalf, through August 7th.

The donations will range from either $11 or $18 to give kids back-to-school kits or a kit and a backpack.

Last year, more than $15,000 was donated through Groupon for 1,200 CPS students. You can donate here.

Read more at NBC Chicago

Box Raises $125 Million in Funding

The cloud content management service announces a staggering round of funding led by General Atlantic.

Cloud technology company Box announced today that it raised $125 million in funding led by General Atlantic.

“At Box, our focus is to build the simplest way that businesses can store, manage and access their data or business content from anywhere,” says Box CEO Aaron Levie. “The investment is going to be going into a bunch areas to ensure that we can reach all of the world’s largest enterprises no matter where they are and with the right technology to solve their problems.”

The content-sharing platform also announced Gary Reiner—the operating partner at General Atlantic and former CIO at General Electric— will join its board of directors.

Levie stressed that Reiner’s experience with a large corporation like GE will be beneficial to Box as the company continues to grow and expand. Reiner’s appointment comes on the heels of Dana Evans’—former VeriSign CFO—appointment to the board.

“I think this partnership really came about because of how much change is happening in the landscape and how we are building up to capture and capitalize on that change,” adds Levie.

Box’s windfall investment follows a period of record growth–sales increasing 200% year-over-year. The company recently opened a London office. Levie says much of the investment will go toward further global expansion and continuing to build out Box’s platform.

Launched in 2005, Box also saw sales double in average size over the first half of 2012 in conjunction with its rapidly expanding consumer base. Box serves many large companies including DreamWorks, Netflix and Proctor & Gamble.

Bessemer Venture Partners, DFJ Growth, New Enterprise Associates, SAP Ventures and Scale Venture Partners and Social+Capital also contributed to the investment.






Google Maps Shows Service Alerts to New York City Subway Riders

(Image: Google)

Whether you’re a native New Yorker or tourist visiting the Big Apple, it only takes one encounter with New York City’s public transportation system to realize that delays and scheduled maintenance can throw your entire schedule, or day, off. And sad to say, it happens more times than the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) would like to admit. But Google Maps has a handy solution.

Google announced on Tuesday it will be unveiling service alerts and scheduled maintenance notifications for NYC’s subway system within the popular mapping site.  Transit Partner Technology Manager at Google Maps Csaba Garay said on the company blog:

Now when you click on any of the 468 New York City subway stations labeled on Google Maps, you’ll see whether any planned service changes are expected to affect that station at the time. In addition, the relevant alerts will be included in the step-by-step transit directions pointing you wherever you’re going.

The notifications will work on the Google Maps website and on the company’s mobile app for its Android OS, according to the Wall Street Journal. Also, according to a company spokesperson, Google will aggregate the advisory information from MTA’s public feed of data.

Garay added the company is looking to bring public transportation updates to over 400 regions around the world.

Do you think Google Maps’ service alerts will make traveling on public transportation in NYC easier? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Bootstrapping a Global $7M Software Company from Kolkata, India

Those who know me know that I am a strong advocate of bootstrapping. Of course, it’s not always feasible, but when it is, as in the case of Pallav Nadhani, CEO of FusionCharts, I believe every entrepreneur should bootstrap.

bootstrapping

Pallav was born in the small Indian town of Bihar where he lived until the age of 15. After that, he lived in Kolkata with his father, a man with an entrepreneurial spirit of his own. Pallav’s father had started his own Web design company and Pallav helped out. He’d gotten his first computer at age nine and used it to teach himself Basic and C++. While helping out at his father’s Web design company, Pallav “picked up a few different Web technologies.”

One day, while browsing the Web, he discovered ASPToday.com, which was published by Wrox Publication. The idea for FusionCharts came when Pallav noticed that desktop applications didn’t look as good as Web applications, and came up with an idea to change Excel’s charting to a “webified interface.”

He described his idea in a tutorial article that ASPToday.com published. Pallav earned $1,500 for that article and used it to fund what would grow into a multi-million dollar operation with close to 500,000 people using its products.

Many people who read Pallav’s article started contacting him. They wanted to know if he could customize some aspect of his tutorial. So, he decided to create all of the requested customizations and use them as the foundation on which to build a product that he could sell. Because he didn’t know how much he should charge, Pallav started out only charging $15 because that was the minimum amount that a payment gateway he had signed up with would accept. That was in 2001.

Once Pallav’s first customers deemed the product a good one, Pallav put it up on a website and started marketing it by writing articles about “why people should not be using outdated charts in Excel when there was a better technology.” He had no money at the time, so guerilla PR – writing articles that indirectly promoted his product – was the only option available to him.

FusionCharts gained traction with the help of recommendations from clients whom Pallav helped integrate his application into the product for free, only charging them a licensing fee. In return, they wrote recommendations that led to more clients. Pallav continued to write guest posts. He also visited Web forums and talked about the features of his product.

Because one of the clients for whom Pallav provided free integration services had a wide reach, Pallav’s business grew steadily early on. He launched the first version of his product in October 2002. By March of 2003, the company had earned $10,000. In 2003, the company earned $100,000; in 2004, $300,000; and in 2005, FusionCharts earned $750,000 in revenue and so on.

Increased earnings allowed Pallav to start paying for online advertisements, which helped the company to grow even faster. By 2006, FusionCharts had almost earned $1 million and had a staff of 10 people.

Of course, pricing has come a long way. Where Pallav once charged $15 dollars for a product that’s designed for developers who can integrate charting with software applications, he now charges from $199 to $13,000 for the reseller license. Enterprise licensing can cost as much as $100,000.

FusionCharts has another product that’s designed for SharePoint users who require visualization on the platform. The fee for that is $1,299 per server. The third product is for non-technical users who need visualization that’s better than what they can get with PowerPoint. For that, the charge will be $49 per user.

The introduction of the iPad presented Pallav with a serious challenge because FusionCharts’ products require Flash and Apple doesn’t support it. Pallav’s answer was to partner with one his competitors to create a hybrid product that works on iPad, iPhone, Android, PCs and the Web, a strategic move that gave FusionCharts a big boost in business and, consequently, revenue.

Today, FusionCharts is a $7 million enterprise with a global clientele, many of them Fortune 500 companies. Pallav has increased his team to 60 people and increased its product offering to a total of 14. In 2011, FusionCharts opened a location in Bangalore.

Pallav has no interest in financing because, as he puts it, financing would not help him grow at this point. He runs a lean operation that for the seven years of its existence ran at 80% profit margin.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a young man who started his company with $1,500.

Boot Photo via Shutterstock

From Small Business Trends

Bootstrapping a Global $7M Software Company from Kolkata, India

Go Daddy CEO Steps Down

The top domain name firm goes through yet another power shift.

After eight months in the position, Go Daddy’s Warren Adelman announced that he is stepping down as CEO.

“I have reached a juncture in my life when I would like to spend more time with my family,” Adelman said in a press statement.

This move marks Go Daddy’s second power shift in under a year: Adelman replaced controversial founder Bob Parsons as CEO last December. Adelman has spent ten years with the company, serving previously as president and COO, and he says he plans to remain with Go Daddy as a special advisor.

While the company searches for a permanent successor, Scott Wagner, an executive for Go Daddy investor KKR Capstone, will serve as the interim CEO. Wagner spent the last year working with the company on its international strategy after KKR, together with several other companies, invested $2.25 billion in the Go Daddy last June.

Go Daddy ruffled some feathers last year by supporting SOPA, but apparently the company’s revenues didn’t suffer: Go Daddy made $1.1 billion in sales and hit the 10 million user mark in 2011.