Small Business Briefing

NYC vies for tech startup supremacy

The Globe and Mail

New York City is quickly becoming a hotbed for tech startups, and could overtake Silicon Valley in the coming years. (LUCAS JACKSON)

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The Big Apple poised to take on Silicon Valley

The Big Apple may be poised to beat out longtime technology hotbed Silicon Valley as the epicentre of technology enterprise, according to a recent report from CB Insights.

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Deal activity was strong, with 81 of New York's tech companies receiving venture funding in the first quarter of 2012, up from 73 the previous quarter and 72 a year earlier, according to the report .

And that prompted a piece in Forbes to proclaim that New York "could develop into a fertile greenhouse for tech startups equal to anything on the left coast."

Firms in the Empire State are aided and abetted by the fact that there simply aren't as many tech firms as in Silicon Valley, and that means fewer firms fighting over the money pot, according to Avi Muchnick, chief executive officer of Manhattan-based Aviary, an embedded photo editing tool startup, as quoted in the Forbes piece. Mr. Munchnick expects that the startup scene will continue to blossom in New York in the coming years.

"New York will probably be the number two, if not number one technology hub over the next 30 years," he told Forbes.

However, there continue to be difficulties in setting up a new epicentre for the technology industry, according to Mr. Muchnick and other entrepreneurs, quoted in Forbes. The expensive cost of living and prices of commercial real estate create a high price of admission, and with the current brain trust in Silicon Valley being across the continent, there is a dearth of mentors on hand.

"It seems necessary for a tech startup founder to make the extra effort to go out and get to know the right people in the tech community in order to find a mentor or support network," Mike Liu, founder of LibraryMixer, a New York-based file sharing service, told Forbes. "Hopefully when there are more successful startups from NYC, this aspect would become easier."

For another look at hot startup activity in New Yok, Time Inc. recently unveiled its second annual list of the 10 most promising tech startups in the Big Apple to watch this year.

Google Ventures invests in CustomMade

Artisinal U.S. custom goods site CustomMade can now count Google Ventures among its investors, as the refocused site raised a further $4-million to bolster its coffers to $8-million, reports TechCrunch. The site, which was founded in 1996. has seen a resurgence since 2009, when co-founder Mike Salguero and Seth Rosen pushed for more high-quality craftspeople to join the platform.

In contrast to Etsy, where premade goods are sold, CustomMade focuses on connecting craftspeople with customers who want bespoke items, allowing them to order exactly what they're looking for. The site currently counts more than 3,000 craftspeople among its numbers; more than half a milion dollars worth of project requests flow through the site every week, and transaction volume is growing at about 50 per cent a month, TechCrunch reported.

The new funding has been earmarked for expanding the site's technology infrastrusture, according to CustomMade.

Small business optimism hits four-year high

Small business owners are more optimistic than they've been since 2008, a new Wells Fargo/Gallup poll shows, mirroring the overall economic confidence numbers that Gallup collects.

Small business owners predicted their operating conditions over the next 12 months were more promising than at any other time in the past four years. They cited expected modest improvements inr revenues, cash flow and credit availability. This is the second consecutive quarter that small business owners have grown more optimistic, according to the poll, possibly indicating a sustained rise in optimism about the state of small business affairs.

The polls, which have been collected since 2003, are designed to survey small business owners on their current and projected perceptions of their financial situation. This year's survey was based on telephone interviews with 603 small business owners, conducted from April 2 to April 6, with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

EVENTS AND KEY DATES

PACE Yourself E-Marketing Workshop

This one-day intensive workshop aims to help small-business owners improve their business-to-business networking skills and funnel higher volumes of sales leads based on online marketing. It kicks off Thursday in Burnaby, B.C., and promises to offer resources relating to inbound marketing sysems and real-time tracking and business analytics. To register or find out more about the event, visit the event listing.

Toronto Talks presents Jumpstart Your Sales

In the latest in this series of workshops featuring industry experts, Toronto Talks will be joined by internation business speaker and trainer Eric Lofholm on May 8. Mr. Lofholm will be speaking about a number of business topics, including networking and ways to generate and convert leads. Tickets are $35 in advance, and $45 at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Toronto Talks website.

EDITOR'S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS

How to keep staff absences from being unexpected

Unexpected employee absences can leave small business owners in a bind, but there are ways to minimize the number of times your employees leave you high and dry, writes columnist Chris Griffiths.

FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES

Burgers go from Burnaby to Bangkok

When B.C.-based White Spot Restaurants began its expansion into Asia, plenty of eyebrows were raised. The chain had built a strong regional base in Western Canada, but began to notice a trend towards mushroom burgers, driven by the Asian ex-pat community. White Spot president Warren Erhart took to the Globe and Mail website to answer readers questions about the expansion in this Oct. 29, 2009, story.

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