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Big Ideas for 2010

Posted by: John Tozzi on December 31, 2009

What big ideas will change small business and entrepreneurship in 2010?

I’ll start with two that are on my radar.

New ways to finance social ventures. Right now profit-making enterprises that also have social and environmental goals don’t neatly fit into existing legal structures like corporations or nonprofits. That limits how they can raise money. People are working to create a new corporate form for hybrid social ventures (see this briefing from B-Corp). That could unlock new capital — think of assets in philanthropic and university endowments — for social enterprises.

Local capital markets. Speaking of unlocking new sources of capital, people are looking for ways to easily invest in local businesses. It’s a natural extension of the “buy local” and “eat local” movements. The nascent Slow Money movement wants to develop vehicles to invest in local food enterprises. Others are floating new types of financial instruments or the return of local stock exchanges. The point is right now you can easily invest a portion of your retirement savings into a diverse mix of global companies, but you can’t use the same savings to capitalize local businesses in your city. Changing that would open a huge new source of capital to small businesses.

What big ideas are you tracking?

Reader Comments

Charles Groscup

January 1, 2010 11:22 PM

Local, Community Banks have long been the staple for small business to obtain financing needs. Unfortunately, in many communities, the Community Bank has become more and more a relic; having been purchased by larger Regional or National Banks. The larger banks do not have the ability to have flexible enough underwriting standards to adequately serve the prior clientele. As such, financing needs can quickly become difficult, if not unobtainable to small businsses that do not fit the typical scoring "mold(s)" being utilized in todays "I need it yesterday" environment. And this is exactly where the Community Bank's niche exists.
Without government support to small commercial banks serving local communities, they cannot exist. The environment in which they exist, is one reminiscent of the merchant bankers of old, without the ability to float offerings. The banker needs to take time to understand a client's business completely in order to make an informed investment decision refelctive of a partnership. Investment in local banks is largely, local. Private offerings by a local broker acting as a market maker. Most of the population is not even aware of potential start ups, new offerings, current buy/sell availability, etc... . I think a local exchange for such activity is an excellent first step. These can also act as exchanges for local commercial banks to underwrite offerings for new industry, business offerings, projects, etc., akin to merchant bankers of old.
These steps would certainly increase local investment in local business and industry. Additionally, they would take a tremendous amount of gov't support to get started. Understanding, of course, "support" does not equal "control", that has to remain on the local level.


January 2, 2010 08:51 PM

The big idea I see gathering momentum in the small business community is everything to do with managing business finances more efficiently.

Most small and micro businesses (5-50 employees) use either an accounting system (like Intuit's QuickBooks or SAGE or Peachtree) or rely on a Controller or CFO to go digging through financial reports to see 'where the numbers are'. In some cases businesses spend $1,000s every month on an accountant or part-time CFO as the financial adviser for the business to tell them what the numbers actually mean.

Small businesses need to spend less to keep cost structures low enough to show profits. What is missing is the entire discussion around small business finances and for those same businesses to have the ability to (less expensively) see trends, trajectories and forecasts and clearly see where the business is headed and if it is on track to hit major milestones or on a collision course with a melt-down in a particular area.

Instead of spending $1,000s to figure this out, companies like CoreConnex ( are providing powerful web-based tools and resources that cost $100s and give business owners an MBA in a box.

I look for web-based tools (especially in the area of finances) to offer more prescriptive content to business owners based on patterns in the numbers for the particular industry -- my son is 2 now and when he is 25 he will expect the Internet to do more than just move information around or find it for him faster -- he will expect the Internet to tell him what all the information means for him and his business.

My .04

Paul S. Greene

January 4, 2010 08:10 PM

I see drastically lower costs for startups. Some examples:

Backpack/Highrise: Powerful contact and project management for businesses large and small. Basic accounts are free, more features still very low priced. (

Incaroo: Online incorporation service that's free for basic service. Very inexpensive add-ons make it way cheaper than attorneys or established players like LegalZoom. (

Zoho: A wide range of sophisticated CRM and other business applications that rival big players like Microsoft and Google. Many services free or low cost. (

Curdbee: Online invoicing for small business, compatible with credit cards and Paypal. Prices range from free to $5 per month. (

This is only scratching the surface, but I think you get the picture. Business services keep getting cheaper and better.

Aaron Hoos

January 7, 2010 02:42 PM

As a result of recent economic turmoil, I think people are going trend towards serial entrepreneurship -- perhaps while holding a regular job -- because they can no longer keep all of their retirement nest eggs in one 401(k) basket!

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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