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Jeff Bezos, chairman and CEO of Amazon.com, introduces the Kindle Fire at a news conference, Sept. 28, 2011 in New York. (Mark Lennihan)
Jeff Bezos, chairman and CEO of Amazon.com, introduces the Kindle Fire at a news conference, Sept. 28, 2011 in New York. (Mark Lennihan)

Small Business Briefing

Fortune lists the 12 greatest entrepreneurs Add to ...

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Some obvious choices, and a few surprises

After years of studying Jeff Bezos and others like him, John A. Byrne - an author, senior writer and editor at BusinessWeek and Fast Company magazines - says the Amazon.com founder is one of those "rare birds who have made a meaningful mark on our economy and our world."

Mr. Byrne, of course, had no qualms about putting Mr. Bezos on his list for Fortune magazine of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time. Who else should make the cut?

He pondered that question as part of the basis for a new book, World Changers: 25 Entrepreneurs Who Changed Business as We Knew It (Portfolio Penguin), and he also tackled what other owners can learn from them.

Many, Mr. Byrne says, are obvious: the late Steve Jobs, who helped make Apple the hottest and most valuable company on the planet, to Mark Zuckerberg, who will take Facebook public in what is anticipated to be the biggest IPO of all time.

But there are some surprises, including N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys, who has built one India's largest companies, helping transform its economy.

Not a single woman makes the list. Oprah Winfrey, Mr. Byrne argues, has leveraged her celebrity into a formidable media empire, and late Body Shop founder Anita Roddick proved you can market products by being socially and environmentally responsible.

"They clearly warrant honorable mention but have not, in my view, transformed the face of business or society in as profound a way as those singled out here."

Hiring tax credit reminder

As Canadians get ready for the federal budget Thursday, and gear up for tax season, small-business owners are being reminded they will find a bonus on their tax refund if they hired new employees last year, InsideToronto.com writes. Companies will receive up to $1,000 for every employee they hired in 2011, whether full-time, part-time or seasonal. To qualify, a small business must have paid less than $10,000 on its total EI premiums in 2010. Eligible owners need to simply file their 2011 T4 information before 2015, and the Canada Revenue Agency will automatically calculate the credit. "Simply put, our government believes that small business contributes greatly to our economy," MP Chungsen Leung said at a press conference March 22, at the Shawarma Max restaurant on Toronto's Yonge Street. "When you hire people, it's not only your business that grows, it's the community and the economy as a whole. We want to make that easier for small businesses throughout communities such as this one."

Massive student entrepreneur fair in Dubai

More than 2,000 students with 700 kiosks are participating in the Young Entrepreneur Competition 2012 at Wafi in Dubai, the Khaleej Times reports. The event for high schools and universities began Wednesday, and by the time it's over on March 31, 10 winning teams will be selected and announced at a special ceremony April 7. Abdulaziz Al Mazam, YEC 2012's supervisor of operations, said he hoped the experience would encourage the students to consider further developing their business ideas after the event ends. “After studying, if the students want to continue their business, then we will support them. We take care of the students and give them the opportunity to expand their businesses.” A team of judges is touring the event to pick the 10 winners, which will be selected based on criteria including customer service, marketing and originality.


Venture capital pitch off

The Canadian Digital Media Network and The Banff Venture Forum are hosting the second annual Road to Banff Venture Forum Pitch Off on April 24 and 25 in Stratford, Ont. The competition is open to early stage ICT, life sciences and clean tech companies with annual revenues of less than $5 million and outside funding of less than $2.5 million. One hundred startups from across Canada will be selected to compete but there will only be three winners, one for each category, who will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Banff Venture Forum. The trip and conference fees will be paid for by the Canadian Digital Media Network and Communitech. At the Banff Venture Forum, the finalists will attend a one-day workshop where they will be introduced to potential investors and paired up with a VC mentor for the conference.

Students get cash to create companies

Do you have ideas for creating your own company this summer? If you’re a student between the ages of 15 and 29 in Ontario, you can turn those ideas into a real business. The Summer Company program provides up to $3,000, hands-on coaching and mentoring to help you start up and operate. If your application is accepted, you’ll be eligible to receive up to $1,500 and 12 hours of business training and mentoring to get you started. Upon successful completion of the program, you’ll receive up to $1,500 to return to school.


A better way to build online forums

Vanilla's success with its open-source software product for forums was both a plus and a minus for the company. How do you build a business around something you’ve been giving away? Part of the answer was to offer hosting services. Customers who want to download the Vanilla software can still do so free of charge and run it on their own servers. But many discussion forum operators don’t want the bother, so Vanilla Forums will run it for them, for a fee. The second part of the answer – and the part that makes Vanilla interesting – was to look for answers to what may be the biggest problem plaguing online discussions: their quality. Visitors to most of them must put up with a good many posts that are pointless, ignorant or downright abusive to find the good stuff.


BlueCat's nurturing environment

Michael Hyatt, co-founder and chief executive officer of BlueCat Networks, breakfasts like a king every day. In fact, the 110 employees at BlueCat’s Toronto headquarters can enjoy the same egg white omelettes as their CEO – although the chef doesn’t necessarily carve their initials in fruit the way he does for Mr. Hyatt. Running a non-profit kitchen for staff to buy discounted meals is just part of how the 37-year-old Mr. Hyatt – a recipient of one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 awards – likes to run his technology company as a nurturing environment for employees. And that’s one of the factors that has helped the company score success.

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