Google is charging some small businesses for email and other apps after more than a decade of free use. Business owners say Google is being callous.
Some veterans have started businesses that draw from their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thrived.
Apple and Google are pushing privacy changes, but a shift in digital tracking is giving some platforms a bigger advertising advantage.
A new report urges officials to support New York City’s most vulnerable business owners, at a time when jobs lost to the pandemic may take years to return.
Instagram’s choice to prioritize videos over photos creates unforeseen costs for small companies, leaving many owners disheartened.
The company has opposed singer-songwriters, school districts and food blogs for trying to trademark names or logos featuring an apple — or a pear or pineapple.
The mint Charizard trading card will be auctioned off with other fraudulently obtained luxury items seized by the U.S. Marshals. Its former owner was sentenced to three years in prison.
In a new book, the candidate for Georgia governor delves into lessons she learned as a business owner. She says they’ve been useful for politics, too.
In New York City, neighborhood stores are struggling to confront the crimes that have cascaded from the disruptions of the pandemic.
One of South Korea’s poorest regions hoped that hosting the 2018 Games would bring tourists and prosperity. It hasn’t really happened.
Only about a quarter of the funding went to jobs that would have been lost, new research found. A big chunk lined bosses’ pockets.
Businesses that held on through several outbreaks are now trembling as the highflying metropolitan hub struggles with supply chain issues and a relentless approach to the pandemic.
First, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund was supposed to promote equity. Then the grants were meant to be first come first served. Both ways had problems.
The monthly payments of up to $300 per child put food on the table, paid bills and even went toward the occasional splurge.
Not every case of big profits is unethical or illegal.
Some independent stores ordered in bulk well in advance, and now are hoping they’re able to sell what they have.
Facing delays, shortages and higher prices for raw materials, companies are finding new sources. Not all are able to pass along the costs.
Will the crowds be enough to recoup months of lost revenue?
As an aspiring entrepreneur, you may have a good idea, but tread lightly before using retirement savings as capital.
Following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ida in Millburn, N.J., small business owners are facing an uncertain future, even as the community rallies to help.
Black business owners were more likely to get Paycheck Protection Program loans from online lenders than from banks, according to new research.
Prosecutors said David A. Staveley, who cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and left suicide notes with friends and relatives, was sentenced to 56 months in prison.
A program gave money to 700,000 self-employed people who improperly claimed to have as many as a million employees, according to an inspector general’s report.
Perhaps no commercial district in Manhattan has been hit harder by the financial havoc caused by the pandemic.
No commercial district in Manhattan may have been hit harder by the financial havoc caused by the pandemic.
Some businesses are still hurting, and federal aid has wound down. But economists see sources of resilience and signs of strength.
As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the fallout, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul.
Both as a term and as a financial product, “buy now, pay later” has become mainstream in the past few years. BNPL has evolved to assume various forms today, from small-ticket offerings by fintechs on consumer checkout platforms and marketplaces, to closed-loop products offered on marketplaces such as Amazon Pay Later (which they are now extending for outside use as well). You can also see some variants offered by companies that want to expand the scope of consumption and consumer credit.
Globally, BNPL has seen the most growth in the consumer segment and has driven retail consumption and lending over the past few years. Consumer BNPL offerings are a good alternative to credit cards, especially for people who do not have a credit history and can’t get credit from banks. That said, a specific vertical of BNPL products is gaining traction — one targeted toward small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This new vertical is known as “SME BNPL.”
BNPL can be particularly useful when flow-based underwriting or transaction-based underwriting is used to offer credit to small businesses.
B2B commerce in India is moving online
E-commerce has seen tremendous growth in India over the past decade. Skyrocketing smartphone and internet penetration led to rapid growth in e-commerce across large cities and smaller towns alike. Consumer credit has also taken off in parallel as credit cards and digital lending spurred credit-based consumption across offline and online stores.
However, the large B2B supply chain enabling the burgeoning retail market was plagued by bottlenecks and inefficiencies because it involved a plethora of intermediaries and streamlining became a big problem. A number of tech players responded by organizing the previously disorganized B2B commerce market at various touch points, inserting convenience, pricing and easier product access through tech-enabled logistics and a modern supply chain.
India’s B2B e-commerce space has developed rapidly since 2020. Small businesses have moved from using paper to smartphone apps for running a significant part of their day-to-day business, leading to widespread disruption in how businesses transact today. The COVID-19 pandemic also forced small businesses, which were earlier using physical means to procure goods and services, to try new and online models to conduct their affairs.
Moreover, the Indian government’s widespread promotion of an instant payments system in the form of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has changed how people send money to each other or pay merchants for their goods and services. The next step for solving the digital B2B puzzle is to embed credit inside every transaction and invoice.
If we compare online B2B transactions to the offline world, there is only one missing link: The terms offered to small businesses by their supplier/distributor or vendor. Businesses, unlike consumers, must buy goods and services to eventually trade them, or add value and sell to consumers or others down the value chain. This process is not immediate and has a certain time cycle attached.
The longer sales cycle means many small businesses require credit payment terms when buying inventory. As B2B commerce scales and grows through digital means, a BNPL product that caters to the needs of SMEs can support their growth and alleviate the burden on their cash flows.
How does consumer BNPL differ from SME BNPL?
An SME BNPL product is a purchase financing product for small businesses transacting with suppliers, distributors, aggregator platforms or B2B marketplaces.
The uproar that arose after Dolly Parton rewrote the lyrics to “9 to 5” for a Squarespace Super Bowl commercial revealed a problem with the English language: A worker is no longer a worker.
As she sang in celebration of entrepreneurs:
“Working 5 to 9
you’ve got passion and a vision
‘Cause it’s hustlin’ time
a whole new way to makе a livin’
Gonna change your life
do something that givеs it meaning…”
Some criticized it, saying it celebrated an “empty promise” of capitalism, as if people aiming to establish their own businesses were “workers” who needed to be protected from powerful corporations. Others grasped that there is more nuance in our economy than ever before and that, perhaps, Parton was on to something.
In fact, her updated lyrics represent a shift in the primacy between capital and labor in the 40 years since she penned the original. Gone is the idea that getting ahead is only a “rich man’s game… puttin’ money in his wallet.” Workers today have a different potential than they did in 1980 when she first sang:
“There’s a better life
And you think about it, don’t you?
It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it,
And you spend your life
Puttin’ money in his wallet.”
There are abusive corporations, and we do need a better social safety net so that people aren’t at the mercy of the doctrine of shareholder primacy, but that truth disguises a more complicated reality. The divide between capital and labor increasingly looks like an anachronism, a throwback to the language and illusory simplicity of another time. Yet still, the media persists in pushing this false dichotomy; this mistaken idea that labor and capital are two separate and oppositional forces in our economy. Perhaps doing so is human nature.
Or perhaps it simply sells more newspapers or generates more clicks. The media certainly thrives on conflict (real or imaginary) and, along with human nature to try to group things into black and white, the continued framing of our economy as somehow consisting of individual actors who exist solely on one side of the capital/labor line makes for easier narratives.
The truth of this aspect of our economy, as with most things, exists in the gray areas. In the nuance and the movement between groups. The U.S. economy has always been uniquely entrepreneurial, from the discovery of the “new land” to the formation of our government to the expansion of our country and eventually its industrialization. Entrepreneurs have long led the way. Today, nearly 60 million people are entrepreneurial in some way.
The vast majority inhabit the frontlines of the economy. They are freelancers or the late-night business starters that Parton sang about. They are freelancing on the side to earn money to support some other dream, or are stitching together lives for themselves by being their own boss. They’re driving Ubers, delivering meals for GrubHub and selling their crafts on Etsy. Never have more people had more access to expand their horizons through pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams than right now. And they exist in the world of technology, where a single person at a kitchen table has the same power to bring an innovation to market as giant corporations did four decades ago.
Victor Hwang, CEO of Right to Start and a former vice president of entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation, described the capital-versus-labor debate as “the biggest false narrative out there. It’s an artificial narrative that we’ve created: employer versus employee; big versus small; corporation versus worker. All are false narratives and contribute to the incorrect notion that the most important fight in our economy exists between these supposedly oppositional forces.”
But our economic and government funding debates are framed, often by the media, around the idea of capitalism versus socialism, corporations versus workers. That increasingly divisive conversation has some of the hallmarks of a deliberately engineered division, like the ones over climate change or gun rights. Right-wing groups with an interest in freezing the government into inaction figured out how to divide the country into two groups and get them fighting.
Why don’t we have universal health care, parental leave, working infrastructure — all things that would, not incidentally, boost entrepreneurship and small business? We’ve been too busy fighting about a socialist takeover and the evils of capitalism.
The conflict thrives in part because we don’t have the right language to describe what’s happening now: “These debates should be viewed as part of a larger discussion,” Hwang said. “We should be striving to encourage highly innovative people and companies. What are the categories we need to develop? How do you classify someone’s role in the economy?”
What we need as an economy is a system that empowers more people to be producers and entrepreneurs. To solve problems and look for opportunities to create change in their communities. Instead, we’ve built a system that supports incumbents; that thrives on the status quo; that stifles innovation and uses the tactics of division to do so. It’s a tension that stems from our neoliberal worldview that achieved an almost consensus in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Beyond just arguing that free markets and open trade make it easier and better to do business (which we generally agree with), it also implied that the only thing that mattered in our economy was making big companies bigger (while, perhaps, allowing for the occasional upstart — but only those that had the potential to grow quickly and become big companies themselves). Lost was the value of smaller businesses, operating in the in-between spaces in our economy. We don’t even effectively measure their impact.
Wanting to know how the “economy” is doing, we look no further than the fate of the 500 largest publicly traded companies (the S&P 500) or the 30 massive businesses that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average. No wonder people across Main Streets are scratching their heads as pundits describe the economy as thriving by citing the continued rise of the Dow when they can see the millions of small businesses closing all around them.
In our book, “The New Builders“, we describe entrepreneurs as “builders.” Builder is a word with Old English roots in the ideas “to be, exist, grow,” according to the Online Dictionary of Etymology. In a century where change is the lingua franca, builders own the value of their own labor as a mechanism to build independence and, eventually, capital.
We often forget that the majority of these builders — the small business owners of America — create opportunities with the most limited resources. According to the Kauffman Foundation, 83% of businesses are formed without the help of either bank financing or venture capital. Yet small businesses are responsible for nearly 40% of U.S. GDP and nearly half of employment. Perhaps that’s why International Economy publisher David Smick termed them “the great equalizer” in his book of the same name.
Technology has fundamentally changed the landscape for businesses of all sizes and has the potential to enable a resurgence of our small business economy. Rather than pushing a false narrative that individuals need to choose between being a part of the labor or capital economies, we should be encouraging fluidity between the two. The more capital ownership we encourage — through savings, investment in their own businesses, and by allowing more and more people to become investors of all kinds — the more we drive wealth creation and open economic activity for generations to come.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of The International Economy Magazine.
Gilbert N. Michaels, of West Los Angeles, Calif., preyed on tens of thousands of small businesses and charities by overcharging them for toner they didn’t need, federal prosecutors said.
Repeated shocks from hurricanes, fires and floods are pushing some rural communities, already struggling economically, to the brink of financial collapse.
The emptying of Manhattan’s office districts has benefited Brooklyn neighborhoods where residents worked from home, testing the balance of power between the city’s boroughs.
The lack of tourists during the pandemic may have made the city more livable, but empty streets don’t buy jewelry.
Flexible Fridays, employee empowerment and creative problem-solving all helped these companies bring on new workers during the pandemic.
The Delta variant has upended events, office reopenings and travel, raising new challenges for service businesses and their workers.
After waning for decades, applications to start businesses surged last year. If the rebound proves durable, it could provide a more resilient economy.
Some $76 billion of the program’s $800 billion in loans may have been taken improperly, a new paper concludes.
Trust wants to give smaller businesses the same advantages that large enterprises have when marketing on digital and social media platforms. It came out of beta with $9 million in seed funding from Lerer Hippeau, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Upfront Ventures and Upper90.
The Los Angeles-based company was started in 2019 by a group of five Snap alums working in various roles within Snap’s revenue product strategy business. They were building tools for businesses to fund success with digital marketing, but kept hearing from customers about the advantage big advertisers had over smaller ones — the ability to receive good payment terms, credit lines, as well as data and advice.
Aiming to flip the script on that, the group created Trust, which is a card and business community to help digital businesses navigate the ever-changing pricing models to market online, receive the same incentives larger advertisers get and make the best decision of where their marketing dollars will reach the furthest.
Trust does this in a few ways: Its card, built in partnership with Stripe, enables businesses to increase their buying power by up to 20 times and have 45 days to make payments on their marketing investments, CEO James Borow told TechCrunch. Then as part of its community, companies share knowledge of marketing buys and data insights typically reserved for larger advertisers. Users even receive news via their dashboard around their specific marketing strategy, he added.
“The ad platforms are a wall of gardens, and most people don’t know what is going on inside, so our customers work together to see what is going on,” Borow said.
The growth of e-commerce is pushing more digital marketing investments, providing opportunity for Trust to be a huge business, Borow said. E-commerce sales in the U.S. grew by 39% in the first quarter, while digital advertising spend is forecasted to increase 25% this year to $191 billion. Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all recently reported rapid growth in their year-over-year advertising revenues, Borow said.
The new funding will go toward increasing the company’s headcount.
“We have active customers on the platform, so we wanted to ramp up hiring as soon as we went into general release,” he added. “We are leaving beta with 25 businesses and a few hundred on our waitlist.”
That list will soon grow. In addition to the funding round, Trust announced a strategic partnership with social shopping e-commerce platform Verishop. The company’s 3,500 merchants will receive priority access to the Trust card and community, Borow said.
Andrea Hippeau, partner at Lerer Hippeau, said she knew Borow from being an investor in his previous advertising company Shift, which was acquired by Brand Networks in 2015.
When Borow contacted Lerer about Trust, Hippeau said this was the kind of offering that would be applicable to the firm’s portfolio, which has many direct-to-consumer brands, and knew marketing was a huge pain point for them.
“Digital marketing is important to all brands, but it is also a black box that you put marketing dollars into, but don’t know what you get,” she said. “We hear this across our portfolio — they spend a lot of money on ad platforms, yet are treated like mom-and-pop companies in terms of credit. When in reality Casper is outspending other companies by five times. Trust understands how important marketing dollars are and gives them terms that are financially better.”
FreshBooks, a Toronto-based cloud accounting software company focused on SMBs, announced today it has secured $80.75 million in a Series E round of funding, as well as $50 million in debt financing.
Existing backer Accomplice led the equity financing, which the company described as “an inside round” that propelled FreshBooks to unicorn status with a valuation of “over $1 billion.”
J.P. Morgan, Gaingels, BMO Technology & Innovation Banking Group and Manulife also participated in the equity investment, along with platform partner and new backer Barclays. With the new capital injection, FreshBooks has now raised a total of more than $200 million in funding over its lifetime.
FreshBooks has built a cloud-based accounting software platform designed to make things like invoicing, expenses, payments, payroll and financial reporting easier for small business owners and self-employed people (and their clients). The company, which says it has served more than 30 million people in over 160 countries, was bootstrapped for the first decade of its life.
As in the case of many startups, FreshBooks was started to solve a pain point for one of its founders. In 2003, FreshBooks’ co-founder Mike McDerment was running a small design agency. When it came to billing clients, he found Word and Excel frustrating to use and felt like they weren’t built to create professional-looking invoices. So he coded his own solution that became the foundation of what is now FreshBooks. The company was self-funded until 2014, when McDerment decided to bring on outside investors and raised $30 million from Oak Investment Partners, Accomplice and Georgian Partners.
In 2019, Don Epperson joined FreshBooks as executive director before transitioning to the role of CEO this year. McDerment, who previously held the position, remains as executive chair of the company.
FreshBooks has 500 employees in Canada, Croatia, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United States — hiring over 100 people in the past year. Also in the last year, the company entered the LatAm market after acquiring Mexico-based e-invoicing company Facturama in September 2020 in an effort to expand its audience in Spanish-speaking markets.
FreshBooks plans to use its new capital toward sales and marketing, research and development and additional strategic acquisitions.
The company will also use its new funding toward investing in markets that are becoming more regulated and helping owners manage their finances through “simplistic workflows,” according to Epperson.
For example, he said, more business owners are working to become digitally enabled to meet local tax and invoice compliance systems.
“The need for owners to manage their business digitally has accelerated, and this has changed how small business owners work with bookkeepers and accountants,” Epperson told TechCrunch. “The funding comes as an injection of confidence in our mission to digitally enable small businesses.”
When it comes to growth metrics like year-over-year revenue percentage growth, the exec was tight-lipped, saying only that FreshBooks has “seen significant growth” in the number of new customers since last year, in part fueled by a pandemic-driven increase in new small businesses.
The pandemic also uncovered the need for us to understand how seismic events affect our customers, Epperson said.
“After analyzing FreshBooks’ own proprietary data, we learned that businesses owned by women were taking three times longer to recover in the U.S. versus businesses owned by men,” Epperson said. “This stat laid the foundation for conducting more research into how the pandemic was affecting businesses across multiple industries and entering into data-sharing partnerships with local governments to help policymakers enact change in the support available to small business owners.”
Jeff Fagnan, founder and managing partner at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Accomplice, is clearly bullish on FreshBooks’ potential, saying of his firm’s continued investments in the Canadian company over the past seven years: “With more people choosing self-employment, the FreshBooks team fundamentally believes in the growth of small businesses, and the importance of helping these businesses scale. As insiders, we have better context for how the company is scaling and how the market is growing, and this is why FreshBooks is our largest investment to date.”
FreshBooks is the latest in a growing number of Toronto-based unicorns. Late last month, 1Password raised $100 million in a Series B round of funding that doubled the company’s valuation to $2 billion. 1Password first became a unicorn in 2019.
A program being started in Atlanta helps midsize farmers buy their own land while providing much-needed fresh food to urban consumers.
At an optical business in New York City, it took months of coaxing, a cash bonus and a weekly testing mandate to persuade 90 percent of the staff to get a coronavirus vaccine.
Ask any employee and they’ll tell you one of their least favorite things to do is file expenses. And for companies, the process of managing corporate spend is one of their biggest challenges.
Corporate credit cards help ease that pain, so it’s no surprise that the competition between startups in the space is heating up by the day.
One of the fastest growing players in the space is Ramp, a fintech company that earlier this year secured a $150 million debt facility with Goldman Sachs after having raised a $30 million Series B in late December 2020.
Today, the New York-based company is announcing a new feature that it says will give its corporate customers greater control and flexibility over the way their cards are used. Specifically, Ramp said it now offers its customers the option to approve or block merchants on the cards they offer to their employees.
In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Ramp co-founder and CEO Eric Glyman said the move was in response to customer demand.
“This was one of our most requested features, especially from companies with over 100 employees,” he told TechCrunch. “They said, ‘I can block a spam call. It’s crazy I can’t do this with my credit card.’ ”
With the new feature, Ramp says companies “have complete control” over how their employees use their corporate cards, down to the vendor level. It allows companies to outline specifically who employees can spend with, which vendors can be charged on what card and how much they can charge.
So, why is this a big deal? Glyman said this means that merchant-specific cards greatly reduce the risk from stolen or compromised cards. It also helps keep employees from inflating expenses or filing false reimbursement claims.
“This gives security and control back to finance teams in a way that was never before possible,” he said.
It also helps companies in their quest to save money by using corporate credit cards in the first place, Glyman added.
“For example, they can restrict spending to businesses or companies that they have discounts or preferential pricing with,” he said. “It’s another layer of enforcement for finance teams.”
The process was not an easy one since understanding and clustering unique identifiers to be able to identify merchants was “technically complex,” according to Glyman.
For its part, Ramp counts “thousands” of businesses as customers, with well into the tens of thousands individuals using its cards.
“We’re powering into 9 figures monthly and over $1 billion in spend,” Glyman said.
The company must be doing something right.
Since raising the credit line earlier this year, Ramp has seen continued growth, more than doubling volume over the past three months.
While Glyman declined to reveal specific revenue figures, he said Ramp grew by over 6,000% in 2020, compared to the year prior and has grown over 1,000 over the past 12 months. Customers are typically fast-growing startups as well as small businesses. Some of its more well-known startup customers include Ro, Sleep Eight, ClickUp, Marqeta, Candid, Better, Truebill and Nuggs.
While Ramp makes money mostly by interchange fees, Glyman said the two-year-old startup thinks of itself as a SaaS operator.
“Our long-term strategy to develop great software,” he said.
More than 100,000 business owners got help from the relief effort, but 265,000 were turned away — some after awards were rescinded.
Blueacorn and Womply processed one-third of all Paycheck Protection Program loans this year, stepping in when big lenders wouldn’t.
Crème and Cocoa Creamery survived the pandemic. But like many small businesses in New York, its future is hardly secure.
A Pennsylvania man was facing bank fraud and money laundering charges over Paycheck Protection Program loan applications when he submitted another one, U.S. prosecutors said.
Labor and small business were once natural allies against big business. They should join forces again.
Business leaders warn the mayor that an influx of aid could be squandered on short-term programs that won’t help the unemployed.
Approvals for thousands of Restaurant Revitalization Fund applicants were rescinded after court orders struck down a policy that favored historically underserved groups.