Google's Pound of Flesh

We all know Google’s corporate philosophy is “don’t be evil, ” but what does that really mean? Is it okay, for example, to be just a little evil, rather than bad to the bone? Or is it okay to enable evil in others? The latter case certainly represents the minimum coefficient of evil I see operating at the Googleplex now that I know the search giant is involved with the Online Lenders Alliance. You know, payday loans.

Payday loans are cash advances provided to consumers until their next pay cycle secured by post-dated checks with most advances not exceeding $500. These loans are for people who can’t find money any other way to buy milk for […]

By |September 27th, 2010|2010|176 Comments

Motivating Miss Daisy

Driving around America for nine weeks and more than 10,000 miles, I’ve had a chance to see how our economy does and doesn’t work. The startups I visited were all good companies — reader favorites, after all — so they tended to shine. And their glow was generally green and even a bit altruistic, yet still based in for-profit philosophy. These are the kind of companies that create industries, build or renew cities and industrial centers — companies that create jobs in the kind of abundance needed to keep our nation prosperous. Yet in terms of government policy, it is as if they are unknown. The Obama Administration just successfully passed important small business legislation, […]

By |September 16th, 2010|2010|157 Comments

Enemy Mine

Shortly after our Startup Tour began this summer, Heath Ledger died. No, not Heath Ledger the actor, who died a couple years ago of an accidental drug overdose — Heath Ledger, my four year-old Garmin NUVI GPS who spoke with an Australian accent. My Heath had been going quietly insane for some time. This is his story.

It seemed like nothing serious at first — a forgotten route, a missed turn, some confusion about where home was. Heath was still Heath but maybe a step slower than in his youth. Then he started routing us gratuitously, sending us to places we didn’t want to go. After that came the endless loops, which with a driver like […]

By |September 16th, 2010|2010|99 Comments

How Much is Enough?

So the phone rings at a big publishing company in New York. “How long is a book? ” asks the caller.

“Well it varies from book to book and genre to genre,” explained the publishing company receptionist.

“This is a novel. How long is a novel?” the caller asked.

“That varies, too, but many of ours are around 80,000 words,” the receptionist said.

“Thank God, I’m finally finished!” said the caller.

By the same token, how much money does it take to start a technology business? I’ve just spent the summer with more than 30 startups and can tell you the amount varies greatly — more than you could even imagine.

In the simplest sense how much money it takes to […]

By |September 12th, 2010|2010|53 Comments

Where's the Beef?

The Cringely (Not in Silicon Valley) Startup Tour is less than two weeks from being over yet where is all the video? It’s coming, I promise.

We have so far visited companies in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and are now in Texas. Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina are yet to come. We’ve driven 8,700 miles with about 2,000 to go.

That’s a lot of driving. And there’s the problem. It is hard to shoot video all day and evening, write a blog, be a husband and dad, drive an average of 300 miles per day and do a fair job of editing […]

By |September 4th, 2010|2010|75 Comments