In late 2005, while working as a sales associate for a software company in Southampton, U.K., Neil Moodley came up with what he thought was a real moneymaker. The idea: a financial Web site that served up the names of top executives, public financial information and a brief summary of what a business is and does.
"We were trying to find businesses that would want to buy our software, but it was hard to get new leads," says Moodley, 36. He figured other sales organizations would be willing to pay $30 a month to drum up new business through his site, which would offer more targeted information than, say, mainly free sites hosted by Bloomberg and Schwab.
A decade ago — with the dot.com boom in full swing and no shortage of venture funding — entries in the Wharton Business Plan Competition (BPC) were dominated by technology-oriented ideas. This year, with the economy in disarray, business plans from the "Great Eight" finalists played the field, with products ranging from a new training machine for crew teams to artificial eyes that dilate to a noninvasive way of measuring blood sugar levels.
If past winners of the BPC are any indication, the chances for success look good for this year's group. At least seven of the grand prize winners from the past decade are still in business, with several taking in millions in revenue and/or financing. Other BPC teams that have gone on to become successful businesses include PayMyBills.com, buySAFE, NetConversions, Integral Molecular, DealMaven, InfraScan, Verge Solutions, Embrace Pet Insurance, PetPlan USA and MicroMRI.
Just like its rivals for consumers' disposable income, America's $90-billion-a-year gaming and casino industry is significantly driven by database marketing. But gaming customers are very different in one major respect.
While adult patrons of a hit movie, for example, know they will spend about $8 to $10 on a ticket, perhaps buy soda and popcorn and then head home, some casino customers lose huge sums of money while a few others might actually make a profit, especially those who are skilled at games such as blackjack.
Can casino owners more accurately identify and predict which of their regular customers will lose the most money? How often will these customers visit? How will they allocate their bets among slots and tables? By targeting those players, can casinos follow up with a more effective direct marketing campaign?
Business incubators–organizations that help entrepreneurs get off the ground through mentoring, funding and facilities–have been around since the 1950s. At the turn of the millennium, for-profit incubators were a hot commodity until they deflated with the dotcom bubble. But this year, despite a down economy, the luster is returning to incubation. President Obama has pledged $250 million a year in federal funds to seed a regional network of such organizations–an effort aimed at growing jobs and innovation. So people are talking about incubators again.
“This is the first time in the U.S. that a new administration has made this kind of commitment to innovation, entrepreneurs and technology,” says Dinah Adkins, president and CEO of the National Business Incubation Association. “This is the first time we’ve had a presidential administration that wants to invest in this.”