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Monitors show the value of the Facebook, Inc. stock during morning trading at the NASDAQ Marketsite in New York in this file photo taken June 4, 2012.ERIC THAYER/Reuters

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Site claims it found just 20 per cent of clicks on its Facebook ads were from users, rest from bots

A Long Island, N.Y.-based startup says it plans to delete its page on Facebook because its own research found that 80 per cent of clicks on its ads for which it was being charged were coming from "bots" rather than human beings, according to several reports, including this one in The New York Times, this one in The Los Angeles Times and this one on Mashable.

Limited Run, which hosts a musicians store online, said in a blog post that it "started to experiment with Facebook ads. Unfortunately, while testing their ad system, we noticed some very strange things."

Using other services and creating its own analytics, it found that just 20 per cent of clicks on its ads were from human Facebook users; the rest were from Web robots, or bots, which are bits of automated software, it said.

On top of that, the company, which has relaunched and changed its name from Limited Pressing, said the social media site would not let it change its name on Facebook without committing to buy $2,000 of monthly advertising. "That's correct. Facebook was holding our name hostage," it wrote in the post, in which it also explained its finding of the high percentage of bots clicking on its ads.

"Are we accusing Facebook of using bots to drive up advertising revenue. No. Is it strange? Yes," it wrote. It invited supporters to continue to follow it on Twitter.

The company, whose posting spread, said it had not heard from Facebook beyond the issue about its name. But site TPM said it had received a response from a Facebook spokesperson that it was "currently investigating the claims," and that there had been "some sort of miscommunication" about the name change, for which it was "reaching out" to Limited Run.

The accusation comes at a bad time for Facebook, the New York Times noted, as the newly public company tries to increase advertising revenues as it answers to shareholders.

SparkLabs aims to ignite South Korean startups

A new tech startup accelerator has launched in South Korea in hopes of helping to develop its next wave of entrepreneurs, many with mindsets to take companies beyond the nation.

SparkLabs is targeting companies in the Internet, online gaming, mobile and digital media areas. The accelerator has been patterned on such high-profile models as Y Combinator and Tech Stars. Like them, during its three-month program, it will offer participants free office space, mentors, and other perks, including English language instruction, according to this piece in Venture Beat.

SparkLabs was founded by Korean and Korean-American serial entrepreneurs James Kim, Bernard Moon and Hanjoo Lee. They have brought aboard high-profile advisers and mentors including Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban and Vint Cerf, recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet, according to reports in TechCrunch and elsewhere.

"We are excited about the launch of SparkLabs because of the developing startup ecosystem in Korea and the opportunity to add to it our network and resources. We believe the timing is ideal to contribute to an incredibly strong innovation culture that has produced the first online gaming company in the world, created the first online virtual economies and online collective intelligence & search as examples," Mr. Moon told Virtual-Strategy magazine.

"Koreans are traditionally focused on educational achievement, security, and working for big name companies. Now there is a growing awareness of the world outside Korea," Mr. Moon told VentureBeat. We want to provide connectivity for young entrepreneurs and support globally minded companies."

SparkLabs has joined the Global Accelerator Network, which is comprised of top startup accelerators around the world.

Applications for the first class of four to eight companies for SparkLabs will open on Aug. 30; the program expects to launch in November, according to TechCrunch.

Canadians support local small businesses: survey

Almost two-thirds – 61 per cent– of Canadians would pay more for a product or service to support a local business, a new survey has found.

How important do Canadians think small businesses are? A huge majority – 94 per cent – believe small businesses play a critical role in the growth of the economy, and 88 per cent see them as vital job creators, the RBC/Ipsos Reid survey found.

Among other findings, 83 per cent said they support small businesses in their community by doing business with or promoting them.

For 72 per cent, the reason is that they like to support local owners, the online survey of 1,1010 Canadians found.

And how do they decide which small businesses to support? For 73 per cent, it's all about word-of-mouth referrals; for 68 per cent, it's a business's location; and for 51 per cent, it's the company's visibility in the community, the survey found.

"This type of consumer insight can help small businesses find the success they're seeking," said Mike Michell, national director of small business for RBC in a release about the survey.

"For example, small businesses should capitalize on local support by becoming more active in their community, highlighting their local roots and asking their best customers to promote them," he suggested.


Start smart

The centre for entrepreneurship education and development is offering a two-hour "start smart" information seminar to walk wanna-be entrepreneurs through the basics of opening a business. Among topics the workshop will cover are an introduction to templates for business planning and financial forcasting; sources of small business financing; and information about local resources and services for entrepreneurs. The workshop takes place in Halifax on Aug. 1. For more information, click here.

Applications open for eBay 'entrepreneur of the year'

EBay Canada has put out the call for applications for its eighth annual entrepreneur of the year awards, recognizing the country's most successful and innovative sellers on the site. As well, it has introduced two new categories: 'fashion-preneur' and 'international-preneur' of the year. The entrepeneur of the year will win $3,000; winners of the other two categories will take away $2,000 each. The entry deadline is Aug. 19. For more information, click here.


Build loyalty, and business, with a reward program for customers

Columnist Chris Griffiths says he's a reward points junkie. But while he and others admit to enjoying loyalty programs as consumers, when it comes to businesses, too few offer such programs to their customers, he argues. It doesn't need to be an expensive endeavour, but, he writes, businesses can quickly build a simple program and start to reap the benefits immediately.


An Olympic launching pad for small businesses

With the Summer Olympics in London in full swing, here's a look back at how small businesses scored gold on the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was in this August, 2010, piece.

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