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From: Ron2/27/2012 8:56:12 AM
2 Recommendations   of 6503
How to guard your web privacy on Google:

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (5978)3/4/2012 5:47:56 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 6503
As inevitable as the closing of the Wild Wild West:

Disruptions: No More Innovation for the Fun of It

New York Times
March 4, 2012, 11:00 am 4

SAN FRANCISCO –I wouldn’t describe the car industry as fun. The airline industry isn’t fun either. Phone companies are far from fun. Yet these industries all started out fun. They began with tinkerers and innovators, just like, say, the Internet today.

The fun was sucked out when companies grew large and started squashing smaller competitors. In the process, these companies also stopped making products that were in the best interest of their customers. Either customers moved on, or the regulators were forced to move in. And we all know that regulators are far from fun.

The Internet, with companies sniping at one another and blithely ignoring major privacy violations, is on the verge of the same fate as the true-blue American industries before it: losing its sense of fun.

Take Apple. When Steven P. Jobs and Steve Wozniak started the company, they were just a couple of guys tinkering with technology. Now Apple is a machine that seems unwilling to stop at anything to win.

Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, is a prime example. The company has always contended that it puts a lovely manicured walled garden around iOS to protect customers from nefarious individuals out to take their most personal and private information. Apple has refused to list thousands of applications in the App Store — often ones that competed with Apple’s products — based on this premise.

Yet over the last few weeks it has become apparent that Apple hasn’t necessarily been keeping its customers as safe as it has claimed. Last month it came to light that the company was approving apps that were freely taking people’s address books from their phones without permission. An Apple loophole also allows developers to take someone’s entire photo library. To me, that sounds more like a circus tent than a walled garden.

Last week Apple also refused to allow “Stop Selling Dreams,” a new book by the writer Seth Godin, into the iBookstore. Apple’s reasoning: Mr. Godin’s book contains links in the bibliography, he said, which make it easy for readers to buy books from Amazon. (Imagine if a physical bookstore refused to sell a print book because it referred to Barnes & Noble?)

What does Apple say about all of this? The company declines to comment, of course. When your valuation is nearly half a trillion dollars, why would you need to explain yourself?

Google doesn’t seem to be much fun anymore either. Apps running on its Android software can also snag photos off a phone. The company is so focused on winning that it is force-feeding customers Google Plus, a product that seems slightly unoriginal for a company as original as Google. And of course Google’s privacy policies are about as much fun as leaning back in a dentist’s chair.

“There was a time when people building things on the Internet didn’t have a dream to be one of the biggest companies out there; their goal was not to be the next General Motors,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. “But that is all changing. Now you have a battle of cultures on the Web where fun is being chiseled away.”

It’s not just the big companies either. I’m increasingly wary of downloading an app, or signing up for a new service or Web site, for fear that the creator had an ulterior motive. Does Angry Birds really need to take my address book when I install it on my phone? Will I really want to see constant warnings popping up to tell me an app is taking this or that bit of once-private data?

For many other people, the privacy debate is eroding trust on the Internet.

For example, a message I sent out on Twitter last week telling people how to clear their Google search history before the company’s new privacy policy went into effect was reposted more than 2,000 times. That’s more than four times the number of shares than any Apple announcement, Steve Jobs quote or video of funny cats I’ve ever shared on Twitter has generated. (For the record, videos of cats are still fun.)

This isn’t to say that the Internet is a bad place and that every technology company is out to get us. Silicon Valley and the rewards of technology are the new American dream.

“On one side of the Web, we have fun and transformative technologies,” Mr. Wu said, “and on the flip side we have this corporate American culture that says if you don’t make it big you’re a failure: if you don’t double your revenue every year, then you’re a loser.”

Silicon Valley still has a beautiful audacity to believe it can change anything, that everything is just a little bit broken and can be fixed and improved with software and technology.

Entrepreneurs routinely begin talking about the mission of their company by explaining that something is broken: banking, travel, chores, education — even fun can be made more fun. More often than not, these entrepreneurs are right and have solutions to make the world a better place.

But for the technology companies that started out with this same goal to innovate and make things better for people, it seems as if the fate that befell the auto, airline and phone industries is destined to happen here, too. And that’s not much fun.

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From: Ron3/8/2012 8:34:15 AM
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Leveraging social media. KONY2012 video goes viral

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (5912)3/16/2012 8:43:47 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
2 Recommendations   of 6503
The New Law That Will Turn the Start-Up World Upside Down: Crowdfunding

Tim Rowe, Founder and CEO, Cambridge Innovation Center
March 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm PT

Remember that special moment when we all realized that the Web was going to remake yard sales and auctions, but we didn’t know yet who was going to win? (And then eBay left the rest in the dust?)

Such a moment has come again, and with a choice prize: Investing in start-ups. The House has already passed crowdfunding legislation, by a whopping majority. The president supports it. Senators on both sides of the aisle (Merkley, Bennet, and Brown) have agreed on a version. Entrepreneurs are signing petitions to support it. And there is speculation that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may push for passage of the House bill as-is. This could be law overnight.

What would this mean? It would mean start-ups can “go public” from the get-go. Fasten your seatbelts. This is Kickstarter on jet fuel. Under the House rules, any start-up can publicly announce that it’s raising capital (on Facebook, or even in the local paper), and can raise up to $1M each year. That’s enough for lean start-ups to go many times around the track. Individual investors can invest up to 10 percent of their income. And there is very little paperwork required.

Everybody likes the innovation and jobs that this could propel. Detractors are understandably concerned about fraud.

Here’s how this is going to play out: Intermediaries (the future eBays of this space) will spring forward to handle the paperwork, do background checks on issuers (required), ensure that offerings are well described and enforce balanced investment terms. The House version allows start-ups to do this without an intermediary, but that’s not going to happen in practice (it would be like trying to sell your item on the Web without eBay). And fraud? Crowdfunding is already legal in the U.K. The leader there, Crowdcube, is reporting zero fraud. U.S. crowd-lending site and accredited-investor-only U.S. crowdfunding site AngelList also report zero fraud. Lots of data here for the curious.

This could be big. “Locavesting” author Amy Cortese points out that if Americans diverted one percent of their long-term savings to this kind of investment, that sum would be 10 times the total annual VC investment in the U.S.

Up next? The race to be the eBay of this space.

Tim Rowe is the founder and CEO of Cambridge Innovation Center, which houses approximately 450 start-up companies in a large office tower in Kendall Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. More than $1.5B dollars have been invested in these companies to date, and CIC has been a launch pad for several well-known companies, including Google Android and Great Point Energy.

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (6002)3/18/2012 1:32:30 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 6503
Fund It in the Crowd: Congress Moves Toward New Tools for Startups and Investors

Alex Goldmark

Gopod Business
March 17, 2012 • 6:00 am PDT

After a fit, a start and a dose of whiplash, legislation permitting startups to raise money through online crowdfunding is moving through Congress. The House has now passed two bills, including the Jobs Act this week, that would overturn a 70-year-old ban on small companies asking the general public for seed money.

A few days ago, the Senate began to catch up, releasing its own plan. The result is a bipartisan bill called the Crowdfund Act. If it passes, it could transform how companies get off the ground. One of these versions is likely to pass, but don't expect selling stock online to be as easy as registering your indie film project on Kickstarter.

Current anti-fraud rules forbid people who earn less than $200,000 a year, or who aren't millionaires, to invest in startups. But with the rise of crowdfunding platforms—Kickstarter just funneled more than $3 million to a video game project—lawmakers want to harness the power and money of the little guy to generate jobs and spark new businesses.

"In America, you can gamble all of your money at a casino and you can donate to countless charities around the world, but it's nearly impossible for most people to invest $1 of seed money into someone else's new business," Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) said in a statement. "This makes no sense, especially in the Internet era where everyday we see new ideas, programs and social networks take off."

The Senate has been stuck debating how to open up crowdfunding while keeping investors safe from fraud. There are also concerns about ensuring that state regulators don’t revolt at the idea of millions of people making many small investments in tiny businesses, which creates a lot of transactions to oversee.

Sen. Merkley says this latest compromise bill "protects those investors and sets fair rules for the road." Leaders at the federal Securities and Exchange Commission have raised concerns that the changes in the law will leave investors vulnerable to scams, just as there is little recourse for Kickstarter users if a project they’ve backed fails to come through.

"The momentum has definitely been toward more investor protections," says Freeman White, founder of the crowdfunding platform Launcht. "The most important thing is we’re not going to get any viable [crowdfunding] industry if investors are scared.”

Those investor protections may seem like are red tape to some, but they are vital architecture for a new industry:

  • Individuals earning $100,000 or less a year can invest up to $2,000 or 5 percent of their annual income—whichever is greater.
  • Individuals earning more than $100,000 a year can invest up to 10 percent of their income or $100,000—whichever is less.
  • Companies are capped at $1,000,000 in crowdfunded investment raised annually. Crowdfunding must take place through an intermediary like IndieGoGo, Launcht, or Kickstarter.
  • It's all or nothing. If a company doesn't achieve their goal, they won't get any of the money, just like on Kickstarter now.
White is eagerly awaiting a change in the law so he can start accepting equity investments through his website. He's also been advising legislators on how to craft a law that protects investors and enables entrepreneurs at the same time.

Under the Senate bill, Crowdfunding sites will have to perform background checks, collect business plans, and verify what companies plan to do with the crowd-raised money. Funding websites will have to file each offering with their state regulator and the SEC. They become something like a broker-lite, with most of the responsibility and most of the liability of conventional stockbroker.

"From our standpoint that’s a burden, but we’ll just pass that [vetting information] through as a value-added [element] to customers however we price our product," White says.

The SEC gets some new responsibilities, too. Under the law, the agency would be required to keep a close eye on the sector for a year and report its findings to the Senate Banking Committee. A previous worry was that the SEC wouldn’t have time to devote to regulating this and a free-for-all would result—so this law locks them into paying attention, which is at least part of the reason why the SEC is calling for calm and caution before any final vote.

There's still more haggling to be done, but whichever version becomes law is sure to put a lot more hoops in front of a company selling stock online than musicians financing an album currently face on Kickstarter—which makes sense when you’re talking about actually buying a part of a company. Kickstarter is almost certainly going to sit out the equity fundraising game because they're doing so well just funding projects.

But sites like IndieGoGo, Launcht, RocketHub or dozens of others will jump in. They will be required to run potential businesses through a vetting process that is still far lighter and cheaper than any other public offering or capital raising, even if it is still somewhat burdensome. It should be. This is business—and people's investments—after all.

So expect these websites to become the gatekeepers of crowdfunding, and the shepherds of fresh startups toward new pastures of capital. Expect the sites to make big bucks—and maybe suffer big legal costs.

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (6016)3/20/2012 5:20:14 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 6503
Job seekers getting asked for Facebook passwords

Associated Press
Updated March 20, 2012, 3:15 a.m. ET

SEATTLE — When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn't see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.

Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn't want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person's social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.

"It's akin to requiring someone's house keys," said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it "an egregious privacy violation."

Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.

Since the rise of social networking, it has become common for managers to review publically available Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts and other sites to learn more about job candidates. But many users, especially on Facebook, have their profiles set to private, making them available only to selected people or certain networks.

Companies that don't ask for passwords have taken other steps — such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview. Once employed, some workers have been required to sign nondisparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.

Asking for a candidate's password is more prevalent among public agencies, especially those seeking to fill law enforcement positions such as police officers or 911 dispatchers.

Back in 2010, Robert Collins was returning to his job as a security guard at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after taking a leave following his mother's death. During a reinstatement interview, he was asked for his login and password, purportedly so the agency could check for any gang affiliations. He was stunned by the request but complied.

"I needed my job to feed my family. I had to," he recalled,

After the ACLU complained about the practice, the agency amended its policy, asking instead for job applicants to log in during interviews.

"To me, that's still invasive. I can appreciate the desire to learn more about the applicant, but it's still a violation of people's personal privacy," said Collins, whose case inspired Maryland's legislation.

Until last year, the city of Bozeman, Mont., had a long-standing policy of asking job applicants for passwords to their email addresses, social-networking websites and other online accounts.

And since 2006, the McLean County, Ill., sheriff's office has been one of several Illinois sheriff's departments that ask applicants to sign into social media sites to be screened.

Chief Deputy Rusty Thomas defended the practice, saying applicants have a right to refuse. But no one has ever done so. Thomas said that "speaks well of the people we have apply."

When asked what sort of material would jeopardize job prospects, Thomas said "it depends on the situation" but could include "inappropriate pictures or relationships with people who are underage, illegal behavior."

In Spotsylvania County, Va., the sheriff's department asks applicants to friend background investigators for jobs at the 911 dispatch center and for law enforcement positions.

"In the past, we've talked to friends and neighbors, but a lot of times we found that applicants interact more through social media sites than they do with real friends," said Capt. Mike Harvey. "Their virtual friends will know more about them than a person living 30 yards away from them."

Harvey said investigators look for any "derogatory" behavior that could damage the agency's reputation.

E. Chandlee Bryan, a career coach and co-author of the book "The Twitter Job Search Guide," said job seekers should always be aware of what's on their social media sites and assume someone is going to look at it.

Bryan said she is troubled by companies asking for logins, but she feels it's not violation if an employer asks to see a Facebook profile through a friend request. And she's not troubled by non-disparagement agreements.

"I think that when you work for a company, they are essentially supporting you in exchange for your work. I think if you're dissatisfied, you should go to them and not on a social media site," she said.

More companies are also using third-party applications to scour Facebook profiles, Bryan said. One app called BeKnown can sometimes access personal profiles, short of wall messages, if a job seeker allows it.

Sears is one of the companies using apps. An applicant has the option of logging into the Sears job site through Facebook by allowing a third-party application to draw information from the profile, such as friend lists.

Sears Holdings Inc. spokeswoman Kim Freely said using a Facebook profile to apply allows Sears to be updated on the applicant's work history.

The company assumes "that people keep their social profiles updated to the minute, which allows us to consider them for other jobs in the future or for ones that they may not realize are available currently," she said.

Giving out Facebook login information violates the social network's terms of service. But those terms have no real legal weight, and experts say the legality of asking for such information remains murky.

The Department of Justice regards it as a federal crime to enter a social networking site in violation of the terms of service, but during recent congressional testimony, the agency said such violations would not be prosecuted.

But Lori Andrews, law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law specializing in Internet privacy, is concerned about the pressure placed on applicants, even if they voluntarily provide access to social sites.

"Volunteering is coercion if you need a job," Andrews said.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter responded to repeated requests for comment.

In New York, Bassett considered himself lucky that he was able to turn down the consulting gig at a lobbying firm.

"I think asking for account login credentials is regressive," he said. "If you need to put food on the table for your three kids, you can't afford to stand up for your belief."


McFarland reported from Springfield, Ill.


Manuel Valdes can be reached at .

Shannon McFarland can be reached at .

—Copyright 2012 Associated Press

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (6049)3/20/2012 3:00:20 PM
From: TimF
1 Recommendation   of 6503
Sound the alarm The Economist | Nazis in space: Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are becoming more sophisticated

[...] Where “Iron Sky” has broken ground, says Tero Kaukomaa, one of the film’s producers, is not just in getting fans to pitch in with the work, but in its funding model: most of the money raised via the website was in the form of equity investments, which will pay back if the film makes a profit.

That is allowed in Europe, but not yet in America, where any such investment must be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A bill allowing investments of up to $10,000 per person without all the paperwork was passed by the House of Representatives last November but is currently stuck in the Senate.

Alarm bells go off in my head when there are business and investment possibilities that are legal in Europe but illegal in America. Being more anti-market than the EU is a position to be avoided. If I was in congress I would set up a team of LAs just to monitor for these situations and write legislation to rectify them immediately.

There are people (and I'm looking toward TJIC, for instance) whose business I would love to be able to make equity investments in. Unfortunately the government has decided I'm not "sophisticated" (read: "rich") enough to be able to do that. And yet somehow I can make loans to these same people. So I'm allowed, as an unsophisticated poor investor to take a risk on companies and people, as long as my upside is limited.

Thanks, congress. Way to help out the little guy.

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (6016)3/21/2012 9:23:38 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 6503
A rugs to riches story:

Silicon Valley's Hottest VC Is a Rug Dealer

Victoria Barret
Forbes Staff

March 21, 2012
This story appears in the April 9th, 2012 issue of Forbes Magazine.

It’s a balmy February evening in Palo Alto, and Pejman Nozad is sipping tea on the deck of the Rosewood Hotel, the hot spot of venture capital’s capital, Sand Hill Road. He’s chosen a table situated just central enough so that he can see everyone who walks in. As usual, it’s packed with the startup crowd— ­entrepreneurs in thick-rimmed glasses and jeans mingling with their backers, finance types in pressed slacks and camel-colored Italian leather loafers. Nozad has the peppered-hair look of one of the money guys, but in his soft blue blazer, adorned with a pastel paisley pocket square, he buoyantly bridges both groups.

“There’s Mike Abbott. You know him? One of the smartest guys I know, just brilliant,” says Nozad, waving him over for a warm hello. He asks about the kids. Abbott just left Twitter, where he ran engineering, for a partner spot at venture shop Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. As Abbott leaves, Nozad leaps up. “My gosh, how are you?” he says, motioning over Lorenzo Thione, the Italian-born cofounder of search firm Powerset (which sold to Microsoft for $100 million four years ago). “I knew you wouldn’t last at Microsoft,” says Nozad, an early investor in Powerset. “Starting things is in your DNA.”

Thione beams a wide smile as he describes his latest “passion,” a Netflix-like service for high-end contemporary art. He mentions how much money he’s looking for. Nozad leans in a little: “This is so fascinating. I have people you should talk to. I know the top interior designers in New York. And I want to meet your cofounder. I never invest without that.”

As the patio cools, Nozad, 43, scans the bar. The Rosewood is morphing into the night. The tech set has scuttled their iPads, settling in for cocktails, as a few coiffed call girls work the crowd—perhaps the surest sign yet that money again flows freely in techland. Nozad wants the L-shaped couch just at the corner of the entrance. “I’m afraid my friends might not find me,” he tells a buxom waitress.

Ensconced in his new perch, he spots Darian Shirazi, who joined Facebook out of high school as its first intern and early hire. Within minutes Nozad is listing names of key investors and possible board members Shirazi should seek out for his business data startup, Radius. In the same breath Nozad mentions a friend Shirazi should set up his cousin with. “He is the nicest guy, but she has to move from London,” says Nozad emphatically. “She belongs here.” Shirazi chimes in, acting as cultural translator: “Persians are always matchmaking.”

And, yes, that’s exactly what he’s doing, all day of every day. Nozad is one of Silicon Valley’s greatest connectors. Top investors take his calls. Hit-making entrepreneurs consider him an uncle. And somewhere in between he’s piling up small stakes in some of the hottest startups in the world. Yet Nozad doesn’t have the staple calling card of Silicon Valley. No M.B.A. No Ph.D. No “technical background whatsoever” (his words). He’s never even worked at a technology company.

Nozad’s path to Silicon Valley power broker—and VC investor with a net worth in the ballpark of $50 million— was a far simpler one: He sold carpets.

University Avenue reflects Palo Alto’s diversity in full. It starts as an exit off the Dumbarton Bridge, which cuts across the southern edge of San Francisco Bay, runs though rough-and-tumble East Palo Alto, then tree-lined stretches dotted with multimillion-dollar mansions, and eventually hits, as the name implies, the Stanford campus. A few hundred feet before that terminus, across from a Starbucks and a Thai restaurant, sits the Medallion Rug Gallery, a warehouselike store where for 34 years the Amidi family has been selling “exquisite art forms” that just happen to cover your floor.

In 1994 the family patriarch, Amir Amidi, found himself on the phone with Nozad, who despite no tangible experience and poor command in English had answered a television ad for a salesperson. “Have you ever sold anything?” Amidi asked the brash caller in Farsi.

“No, but give me a chance,” Nozad responded. “How can you deny someone you haven’t even met?”

Nozad had already learned that you can’t get something if you don’t ask. He grew up in Tehran, but in the 1980s Nozad’s family fled to Germany. Nozad intended to join them after his compulsory stint in Iran’s military service, which he would satisfy by playing soccer for the country’s premier team. When a military officer questioned his discharge, on account of his sporty tour of duty, Nozad found a high-level cleric and published an interview with him on the benefits of soccer—and then had that cleric expedite his discharge.

Within a month of rejoining his family in Mannheim, Germany with the intent of playing more soccer, his brother persuaded him to show up at the U.S. consulate and ask for a visa. It was a set-up of sorts. His brother was obsessed with American culture and went to the consulate almost daily only to be denied. Nozad showed up one morning, mentioned his soccer interviewing days and promptly scored a journalism visa. Two months after that he was on a plane to San Francisco, where an uncle lived, with $700 and a few words of English.

He worked at a car wash in San Jose owned by Iranians and then a coffee and yogurt shop in Redwood City tucked between a Mexican restaurant and a Social Security office. He studied English at night, living in a small room above the shop cluttered with boxes of napkins, cups and coffee beans. That’s when he stumbled upon the carpet want ad placed, fortuitously, by an older Iranian immigrant who had made a success of himself after fleeing his homeland when the Shah was deposed.

“My father had the experience, Pejman had the enthusiasm,” says Amidi’s son, Saeed (Amidi died in 2000). “The American dream works both ways. A lot of rich people have to share their knowledge and take risks with a young person. That’s how they stay rich. It’s familiar, too. Someone did the same for them years ago.”

Over the next 15 years, as his English and confidence improved, Nozad proved Amidi’s top rug seller, moving $8 million worth of floor coverings in his best year. But far more than that, he was an opportunist in the greatest sense: This American neophyte recognized that fate had bequeathed him access to the most ­important people in the most important region of the most important industry during its most important era.

So he made sure not to blow chance’s gift. Nozad insisted meeting his clients at their homes, toting along 20 or so rugs (“that’s two hours of talking, at least”). And before these visits he researched his hosts on Google, so that he could turn showing carpets into a two-way tutorial, peppering each ever so gently with questions about their careers, their tastes, their views on how the world works. It was awkward at first. But within months of the routine he had names to drop and technology trends to ponder. “The smart ones understood me,” he says. “They got it. They’d invite me to their office.”

Nozad started playing host. He gathered some top VCs regularly at the rug store for meet-and-greet cocktails with entrepreneurs. “People used to tease me for going there,” says Sequoia Capital’s veteran partner Doug Leone. “At five ­o’clock the rugs would go up and flat screens would come down. We were all immigrants … Italians like me, Iranian, Indians. I was very comfortable.”

Nozad still didn’t have any significant assets to speak of. But his boss, who had come to call Nozad his “third son,” had taken notice of his matchmaking skills. Amidi had also caught the VC bug. The family had purchased a small office building down the road from the rug store and took note as a tenant, Google, which had a few employees, exploded. Another tenant, PayPal, also grew out of its space—this time Amidi invested. “We noticed everyone around us was making more money than we were,” says Saeed Amidi. “We wanted to be part of the big game.”

In 1999 the Amidis formally launched an investment fund, cutting in Nozad as the de facto deal scout. It started with $2 million. Nozad kicked in $200,000, almost everything he had, for a one-third stake. The firm’s name, Amidzad, even blended the two family names. While their investments were relatively small stakes—$25,000 or $250,000, the kind of numbers that most VCs wouldn’t bother with— Nozad’s hustle invariably earned him what Accel Partners’ Sameer Gandhi terms “the Pejman exception.”

“He has a good sniffer, and I trust the guy,” says Sequoia’s Leone, who has let Nozad coinvest with him in four different companies. “He’s like me, from the earth.”

Nozad’s first big bet was on a startup called Danger, which aimed to make handheld devices for exchanging data. Nozad had sold Danger’s cofounder Andy Rubin a $5,000 rug. The deal took hours of negotiation, and Nozad was impressed. He inquired about Danger. He couldn’t quite make sense of the technology, but after the first business meeting with Rubin (who now runs Google’s Android division), Nozad turned to his mentor Amidi and said: “I would invest in that guy if he was selling red balloons. He will make things happen.” And so Amidzad wrote a check for $400,000.

Danger became a mobile phone software firm and was acquired by Microsoft for $500 million, but by then Amidzad’s stake had been diluted to a pittance. Nozad made just two times his investment over an eight-year stretch. Sam Ferdows was brought in as Amidzad’s lawyer soon after the Danger deal. His memory: “Once a week Pejman was telling me about some new ‘best deal ever.’ He was doing business with handshakes. And no one ever read the fine print. I don’t think they even realized there was fine print. Once, he told me a guy was going to give us a piece of his carried interest. What the heck does that mean?”

Nozad recognized his weakness and began doing deals only if someone more experienced, and whom he liked, was willing to put up funds, too. One of his first such helpers was Babak “Bobby” Yazdani, an early investor in Google and He advised Marc Benioff on his first key recruits and also founded Saba, a human resources software company. Nozad sold Yazdani a few rugs and then asked him to meet a chip designer with a startup idea. Why didn’t Yazdani just blow him off politely? Yazdani explains, “There’s a lot of humility in our culture. I’m talking about immigrants and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. We all had just our families and our educations when we came here. So when someone who you have a relationship with asks you to do something, you do it. It’s a courtesy but also a discipline.”

Yazdani has since invested in eight startups with Nozad. He’s one hook that makes Nozad’s money attractive. Joe Lonsdale already had one hit under his belt when he attended a dinner hosted by Nozad at a Persian restaurant. He had cofounded data-mining outfit Palantir and had many suitors knocking when he left to launch his second venture, a private wealth management technology service called Addepar. Nozad insisted Lonsdale meet with him and Yazdani. He delicately pushed the idea of meeting at Lonsdale’s Los Altos house. “You learn a lot about someone in their home,” says Nozad, in a nod to his carpet-peddling days. Then he watched how Lonsdale and Yazdani interacted. As for Lonsdale: “I like Pejman. I needed Bobby. He knows how to evolve a startup. I didn’t know how to build a management structure over time.”

Nozad sought out technology advisors, too. Lou Montulli, a founding engineer at Netscape, was one of his first Silicon Valley friends. In 1997 Montulli wandered into the rug store owning three rugs from “an ex-wife and an expensive decorator.” He wanted to have them cleaned or, better yet, get rid of them. Nozad quickly had him buying two more rugs. He now has 20 in various homes. Nozad showed him antique looms and videos of weavers and walked him through the history of Iran’s rug industry. “He made me appreciate the craft,” says Montulli, who then brought in other Netscape millionaires in need of rugs. Over time they talked technology, and Nozad started introducing Montulli to entrepreneurs. “It seems like such a leap from rugs to startups. But he was seeing amazing deal flow. He built a great network, and that’s one of the keys to doing this successfully,” says Montulli.

Nozad’s instincts weren’t perfect— most notably, he walked away from a stake in Facebook and instead invested in Stanford’s ill-fated version of a social network, Affinity Circles. (“Here is the e-mail from Sean Parker!” crows Nozad as he pulls up a piece of would-be history on his iPhone.) But his track record overall was proving formidable, as many of his early investments were gobbled by the tech giants at prices five times what he put in, including Vudu, Vivu, Bix and Milo. While far from wealthy, he was living a proper American dream.

And then he spotted two young entrepreneurs, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, at a Y Combinator conference in 2007 toting the demo of a cloud storage system they called Dropbox. He cornered Ferdowsi, chatting him up in Farsi, and within days had the pair visiting him at the rug shop.

Escorted to the back room for mu­sic and Persian tea, Houston was sure that it was all a joke. “I was waiting for the candid cameras to show up,” he remembers.

But within a day Nozad had Dropbox pitching Sequoia for funds. He’d called his buddy Leone, who immediately e-mailed Houston for a meeting. “He was our biggest booster, and we’d met the guy that week,” Houston adds. Two days later Sequoia partner Mike Moritz (who says he “always takes Pejman’s calls”) dropped in early on Houston and Ferdowsi at their apartment to make the final decision. And two days after that Nozad delicately inserted himself into a wine-soaked dinner at Pane e Vino in San Francisco, where Sequoia partner Sameer Gandhi (now at Accel), Houston, and Ferdowsi hammered out a $1.2 million seed round.

Nozad barely said a word but made sure to leave that night with a piece in Dropbox for Amidzad. “He’d done the introduction, and we wanted to do right by him,” says Gandhi. Based on Dropbox’s recent $250 million raise, at a $4 billion valuation, that stake is currently worth $80 million.

It’s a Wednesday evening in January, and Nozad is on a typical adventure. He’s wandering through a wood-paneled library at Stonebrook Court, a 30,000-square-foot Tudor mansion and estate owned by his buddy Kelly Porter in Los Altos Hills just north of San Jose. Dreary 19th-century paintings cover the walls. A warm flame crackles in a carved marble fireplace. “Can you believe this exists here?” Nozad says. He peeks into the ballroom to admire the 16th-century painted Venetian ceiling. “I’m talking to Lady Gaga’s people. I want to host a party here for all of my entrepreneurs. Wouldn’t that be amazing?” he says. This isn’t totally absurd. Nozad is an investor in the musician’s startup, Backplane.

Porter works for a small mergers and acquisitions advisory firm. He’s doing a favor of sorts for Nozad. Earlier in the day two dozen investment bankers and deal lawyers gathered in the ballroom of Stonebrook Court as the heads of corporate development from Google, Facebook, Twitter and other top firms divulged where they’re looking to do acquisitions. These are the kinds of cozy conversations that make Silicon Valley run. Nozad was invited, then asked to bring a few of his entrepreneurs, including a fresh-faced 21-year-old who had just dropped out of Stanford to do something in social payments. The kid barely has a company.

During cocktails Nozad’s scruffy-looking crew sticks together like a high school clique even though most barely know one another. Everyone else is wearing dark suits. “I still have to pinch myself every now and then,” says Shane Hegde, the Stanford dropout. “That I’m here, living this life. Pejman is a great guide.”

Nozad believes Hegde is “brilliant,” and he’s invested in Swap, his six-month-old startup. He didn’t push introductions at the Stonebrook soiree, though. When an M&A lawyer asks Nozad what he does, he merely says he “invests in amazing people.”

That business is getting more complicated. It used to be a rich man’s hobby. But now a raft of so-called super angel funds, including Paul Graham’s Y Combinator, Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures and Ron Conway’s SV Angel, are raising hundreds of millions to dabble in newly launched startups, promising connections and expertise along with checks. “There are too many of them investing in too many deals,” snickers one prominent venture capitalist. “This ­doesn’t end well for a lot of white-haired guys who should know better.” Meanwhile, the big-money venture capital firms are doing smaller deals to get early access into promising companies.

Nozad isn’t worried. He’s offering ­entrepreneurs something others won’t. Once, he gave an entrepreneur his wife’s Mitsubishi Mirage. The guy was 21 years old, had just moved from Israel and was broke. A year later he had a stake in that same guy’s startup, alongside Sequoia. Last year he invested in a guy’s company to give him enough cash to move from Texas to Palo Alto. “I don’t like his business idea, but he is brilliant,” says Nozad. He regularly hosts events for Stanford’s Persian student organization. The last one was a tour of Facebook’s new headquarters. “They should hire all of these kids. They are so smart!” And one day some of them will start companies and give Nozad a call.

Late on a Wednesday night Nozad has gathered seven of his entrepreneurs in a private room at a New Orleans-style restaurant in Palo Alto. Three are Iranian. After a few glasses of wine the conversation drifts away from business models to stories of family back home. There are tales of nighttime caravans smuggling family members into the Afghan desert and talk about the years spent in limbo awaiting life in a better place. Nozad’s eyes moisten as he describes a trip he took to Iran a few years ago, bringing along his wife of 19 years (his childhood sweetheart from Tehran) and his son and daughter.

He’s come a long way from charming clerics into a military discharge. Two years ago Nozad decided to invest independently of Amidzad. He still does deals with the family but more are solo, where he is betting his own money. “I realized I’m actually kind of good at this,” he says. “I wanted focus.” He’s ­already sitting on several windfalls besides Dropbox, including Addepar, the social networking site Path, social charity startup Causes and a gaming outfit, Badgeville. And he still sells carpets—he’s founded his own upscale rug gallery, bringing in his brother to run it. In America, where anything is still ­possible, such is how great fortunes ­apparently begin.

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To: stockman_scott who wrote (6022)3/24/2012 8:16:54 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 6503
The Factual website:

Just the Facts. Yes, All of Them.

New York Times
March 24, 2012


AT 7 years old, Gilad Elbaz wrote, “I want to be a rich mathematician and very smart.” That, he figured, would help him “discover things like time machines, robots and machines that can answer any question.”

In the 34 years since, Mr. Elbaz has accomplished big chunks of these goals. He has built Web-traversing software robots and answered some very big questions for Google, along the way becoming a millionaire several hundred times over.

His time-machine plans, however, have been ditched for something he finds more important: trying to identify every fact in the world, and to hold them all in a company he calls Factual.

“The world is one big data problem,” Mr. Elbaz says from his headquarters, a quiet office 14 floors above the Los Angeles Country Club. He is a slim, soft-spoken man who weaves in his chair when an idea excites him. “What if you could spot any error, as soon as you wrote it? Factual is definitely a new thing that will change business, and a valuable new tool for computing.”

In the booming world of Big Data, where once-unimaginably huge amounts of information are scoured for world-changing discoveries, Mr. Elbaz may be the most influential inventor and investor. Besides Factual, he has interests in 30 start-ups, including an incubator in San Francisco dedicated to Big Data. Factual’s headquarters, in a high-rise on the Avenue of the Stars, hosts seminars for a data community he hopes to foster in the Los Angeles area.

Mr. Elbaz also serves on the boards of the California Institute of Technology, his alma mater, and the X Prize Foundation, which offers cash prizes to teams that meet challenges in space flight, medicine and genomics. The company he sold to Google, Applied Semantics, is the basis of Google’s AdSense business, which brings Google close to $10 billion in revenue annually.

While valued for his investments and guidance, Mr. Elbaz remains relatively little-known. He is so self-effacing that he recently walked through a conference of 3,000 data scientists, recognized only by the staff members of one of his investments. He lives quietly with his wife, a former federal prosecutor, and his three children in a modest ranch house in West Hollywood. For fun, he plays basketball at a local sports club.

His mental and financial assets, he says, are like gifts he needs to deploy so the world works better.

“If all data was clear, a lot fewer people would subtract value from the world,” he says. “A lot more people would add value.”

Creating clear, reliable data could also make Factual a very big company.

“Gil is pretty far ahead of the rest of us, the one entrepreneur where it takes a few meetings before I really understand everything he is talking about,” says Ben Horowitz, a venture capitalist who backed Factual through his firm, Andreessen Horowitz. “Three years ago, he thought Factual was his biggest chance to change the world. Over time, the world has moved his way.”

Since its start in 2008, Factual has absorbed what Mr. Elbaz terms “many billions of individual facts we’ve collated.”

Geared to both big companies and smaller software developers, it includes available government data, terabytes of corporate data and information on 60 million places in 50 countries, each described by 17 to 40 attributes. Factual knows more than 800,000 restaurants in 30 different ways, including location, ownership and ratings by diners and health boards. It also contains information on half a billion Web pages, a list of America’s high schools and data on the offices, specialties and insurance preferences of 1.8 million United States health care professionals. There are also listings of 14,000 wine grape varietals, of military aircraft accidents from 1950 to 1974, and of body masses of major celebrities. Odd facts matter too, Mr. Elbaz notes.

He keeps 500 terabytes of storage near Factual’s headquarters. That’s about twice the amount needed to hold the entire Library of Congress. He has more data stored inside Amazon’s giant cloud of computers. His statisticians have cleaned and corrected data to account for things like how different health departments score sanitation, whether the term “middle school” means two years or three in a particular town, and whether there were revisions between an original piece of data and its duplicate.

Factual’s plan, outlined in a big orange room with a few tables and walled with whiteboards, is to build the world’s chief reference point for thousands of interconnected supercomputing clouds. The digital world is expected to hold a collective 2.7 zettabytes of data by year-end, an amount roughly equivalent to 700 billion DVDs. Factual, which now has 50 employees, could prove immensely valuable as this world grows and these databases begin to interact.

FACTUAL sells data to corporations and independent software developers on a sliding scale, based on how much the information is used. Small data feeds for things like prototypes are free; contracts with its biggest customers run into the millions. Sometimes, Factual trades data with other companies, building its resources.

Some current uses are for adding information like restaurant locations to cellphone maps, or for planning sales campaigns. But more broadly, Factual is meant for the heart of a great business of our age: using all the cloud-based data and algorithms to find patterns in nature and society, for scientists to observe and businesses to exploit.

“Data has always been seen as just a side effect in computing, something you look up while you are doing work,” Mr. Elbaz says. “We see it as a whole separate layer that everyone is going to have to tap into, data you want to solve a problem, but that you might not have yourself, and completely reliable.”

A restaurant chain, for example, might use Factual to figure out whether a new location is near the competition, and how the locals have talked about the place on Yelp, the social ratings site. Checking for gas stations near the restaurant can indicate how many cars come off the highway. The chain can also employ Factual to see where it is mentioned on the Web, or to correct what other people are saying about it.

Financed with $27 million by a constellation of Silicon Valley luminaries, Factual remains closely held. But it already has thousands of customers. Facebook, CitySearch, AT&T and others use it for information about places. Newsweek used the database to help rank America’s greenest companies.
Others use Factual data for tasks like product planning and customer care. There are no profits yet, as Mr. Elbaz puts money into more data sets and talent, which already includes advanced mathematicians, data scientists from LinkedIn and Google, and at least one specialist in late Roman archaeology.

Competitors in the new industry include Microsoft, which says its Windows Azure Marketplace has “trillions of data points,” as well as a language translator. People can sell data sets to Azure, too. Infochimps offers geographic and social data, among other kinds, while companies like Gnip and Datasift offer insights from Twitter and other social sites. Wolfram Alpha, founded by another mathematician, has both data and computations that are used by Apple’s Siri, among others.

And a young company called ClearStory, also financed by Andreessen Horowitz, is trying to tie together all of these companies, often called data marts, in a way ordinary people can use. There are also several open-source data repositories, with public and private information that developers plug into their algorithms.

Several other data specialists, mostly from Google, have left their jobs to wrangle lots of information in new ways. David Friedberg, a former product manager at Google, has started the Climate Corporation, which uses government data on weather, soil porosity and the root structures of wheat and soybeans to write crop insurance.

Mr. Elbaz is also an investor in Kaggle, which awards cash for finding data patterns. It was used by NASA, for example, to find a better way to measure the shape of galaxies; in the first week of competition, a Ph.D. student in glacier mapping had outperformed NASA’s algorithms. He has also put money into ZestCash, which makes payday loans that are cheaper than the industry’s average, judging risk via criteria like cellphone bills and how its applicants read the ZestCash Web site.

The ZestCash C.E.O., Douglas Merrill, once ran Google’s internal information systems.

“We feel like all data is credit data, we just don’t know how to use it yet,” he says. “This is the math we all learned at Google. A page was important for what was on it, but also for how good the grammar was, what the type font was, when it was created or edited. Everything. What Gil is doing at Factual is the same. Data matters. More data is always better.”

MR. ELBAZ was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Ohio, Texas and Florida. His father, who was born in Morocco and grew up in Israel, was a school principal and professor of Hebrew literature. His mother, a journalist, died when Mr. Elbaz was 18. At age 3, he began writing a repeating series of numbers at preschool. He read almanacs and enjoyed watching the crawl of stock prices on TV, seeking patterns.

“He would go to a lot of math competitions, and come out with three or four prizes,” says Nissim Elbaz, Mr. Elbaz’s father. “In between the math contests he’d take tests in physics for fun. When I would tell him what a genius he was, he’d give me a dirty look, so I learned to keep it in my heart.”

The elder Mr. Elbaz recalls that when he tried to explain the Isreali- Palestinian conflict to him, the son replied that the hatred would end if the two sides could just agree on the facts.

From an early age, Mr. Elbaz would also figure out math-related businesses — like buying the entire supply of a single brand of baseball cards in El Paso, Tex., then reselling them at three times the money at a memorabilia convention.

“We’d do lotteries based on guessing the number of marbles in a jar,” says Eytan Elbaz, his younger brother, who has worked with Gil and now has two start-ups of his own. “When he was 16, he held a contest based on rolling a Yahtzee dice. He stayed up the night before making a spreadsheet to figure out all the payouts against what we’d take in.” Mr. Elbaz’s other brother, Noam, has spent the last decade studying at a yeshiva in Israel.

At Caltech, Mr. Elbaz majored in applied science and economics. Interested in the subject of monopolies, he won an award for a paper that determined that companies would take financial losses to corner their markets.

He worked for I.B.M. for two years, looking at the use of computers in problems of manufacturing, then went to Sybase, a database company. This was in the early 1990s, when I.B.M. was stumbling in the transition from mainframe computers to servers and PCs.

His younger brother says he thinks that the experience changed him. Many employees were “just trying to hold on to their jobs, not working together for the company,” Eytan says. He recalls how Gil, concerned about how employees were hoarding their data, “started talking about how much better it would be if people shared data.”

Mr. Elbaz then joined a semiconductor start-up called Microunity and became a consultant, saving money and playing the stock market to help finance his own first business. His father gave him $10,000 to invest for him, which Mr. Elbaz tripled in 18 months. When Mr. Elbaz and a Caltech friend decided to form a company in 1998 — it became Applied Semantics — his father told him to put the stock winnings into it.

Applied Semantics software quickly scanned thousands of Web pages for their meaning. By parsing content, it could tell businesses what kind of ads would work well on a particular page. It had 45 employees and was profitable when Google acquired it in 2003 for $102 million in cash and pre-I.P.O. stock.

While Mr. Elbaz would not say how much he made from the deal, his father’s $30,000 from the stock investments was eventually worth $18 million. “He certainly changed my retirement,” Nissim Elbaz says.

Mr. Elbaz became the head of Google’s engineering office in Santa Monica, Calif., near where he lives with his wife, Elyssa, and three sons. He has donated several million dollars to a handful of causes, including science education, environmental efforts and an organization that helps Los Angeles nonprofit groups. He has also donated to Common Crawl, a Google-type Web examination tool that researchers can access through Amazon’s computers.

“Having money is overrated when you are brought up not to believe you are entitled to it,” he says. “You can make enough money to not need things, or you can just not need things.”

In 2007, Mr. Elbaz left Google to start Factual. When Mr. Horowitz, who along with Mark Andreessen runs Andreessen Horowitz, was asked to invest in Factual in 2009, he struggled with the idea that Mr. Elbaz would want to work hard on another start-up when he was already rich. But when Mr. Elbaz described his palace of facts, Mr. Horowitz said he recognized a true believer.

“I asked him, ‘Aren’t you too rich to build this company?’ ” Mr. Horowitz recalls. “He gave me one of the longest and most thought-out answers I’d ever heard. He thinks this is a chance to change the world — that matters to him more than money.” Mr. Horowitz says Mr. Elbaz told him he needed the money as an incentive for the engineers, and that he needed to reach his goal while his mind was still strong enough.

“I eventually realized this was not a ‘too rich to work hard’ problem.” Mr. Horowitz said.

Other investors in Factual include Ron Conway, Esther Dyson, Index Ventures and the Founder Collective.

FACTUAL also has offices in Shanghai and in Palo Alto, Calif., where Mr. Elbaz wants to add more talent from Silicon Valley. His first two employees in Palo Alto were Tim Chklovski, with a doctorate from M.I.T. in artificial intelligence, and Tyler Bell, who worked at Yahoo on maps after a decade at Oxford piecing together how ancient Rome became early Europe.

“Roman amphorae get dug up around Europe, and get described in all sorts of different ways, in different languages,” Mr. Bell says. “What we do here is the same kind of restoration. We started to learn it well when we had one million data sets uploaded. The early stuff was things like senators and how they voted, or ZIP codes, types of cigars, lists of video games. Merging ZIP codes is easy. Merging different ways people feel about toys is hard.”

Part of the difficulty, even among employees, is deciding how much data is enough. “For sure, we want the correct name and location of every gas station on the globe,” Mr. Bell says. “Not the price changes at every station.”

“Wait a minute, I’d like to know every gallon of gasoline that flows around the world,” Mr. Chklovski cuts in. “That might take us 20 years, but it would be interesting.”

At most start-ups, talk about doing the same kind of thing, only bigger and better, 20 years from now might seem like a marriage of the delusional and the dull. Mr. Elbaz and his team, however, say they feel that it makes sense. Telling everyone the true facts of the world is at least the work of a lifetime.

”Lately, I’ve been thinking that we need to get more personal data,” Mr. Elbaz says. He doesn’t mean names and addresses, but their genetic information, what they ate, when and where they exercised — ideally, for everyone on the planet, now and forever. “I want to figure out a way,” he says, “to get people to leave their data to science.”

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To: TimF who wrote (6051)3/25/2012 12:17:26 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 6503
JOBS Act lives, but Senate changes crowdfunding

by Kent Hoover
The Business Journals Washington Bureau Chief
on Thursday, March 22, 2012, 1:48pm PDT

The Senate passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act today by a 73-26 vote, but not before amending the bill.

This means the House, which already passed the JOBS Act, will have to accept the Senate’s changes before the bill can be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

No problem, said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

“I intend to schedule a vote on the Senate-amended bill early next week so we can get this bipartisan jobs bill to the president’s desk for his signature without delay,” Cantor said.

The legislation will make it easier for small businesses to use the Internet to raise small investments from lots of people, a technique known as crowdfunding. It also will encourage more companies to go public by exempting them from some Securities and Exchange Commission regulations in the first five years after an initial public offering. Plus, companies will be able to offer up to $50 million in stock to the public without registering with the SEC, up from the previous threshold of $5 million.

The only difference between the House bill and the Senate bill is the crowdfunding provision. By a 64-35 vote, the Senate required companies that use crowdfunding to provide financial statements to investors. Companies seeking between $100,000 and $500,000 in capital would have to get independent accountants to review these statements. Audited financial statements would be required for companies seeking more than $500,000 in capital.

The amendment also limits the total amount that a company can raise through crowdfunding to $1 million. The House bill would allow companies to raise up to $2 million, if they provide audited financial statements.

In addition, the amendment requires Internet intermediaries -- the web sites that will offer crowdfunding investment opportunities to the public -- to register with the SEC.

Some business groups that supported the bill opposed this amendment. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council complained the amendment “unnecessarily restricts the potential of crowdfund investing” by imposing excessive costs on businesses and giving the SEC too much authority to regulate crowdfunding.

But after the vote, the council said the legislation remains “a powerful package with significant benefits for the small business community.”

“A strong entrepreneurial ecosystem depends on access to capital,” said Karen Kerrigan, the council’s president and CEO. “Freeing up new sources of capital -- as the JOBS Act will do -- will strengthen our nation's small business sector, and add to their job-creating capacity."

Another crowdfunding champion, America Online co-founder Steve Case, said the House should accept the Senate bill because that’s “the quickest and simplest path to getting this legislation to the president’s desk.”

Case chairs the Startup America Partnership and advises Obama on issues related to entrepreneurship. The president has endorsed the legislation.

The American Sustainable Business Council said the crowdfunding amendment was necessary in order to protect investors from fraud.

“A successful crowdfunding model doesn’t have to be a choice between too little access to money and too much fraud,” said David Brodwin, co-founder of ASBC. “The Senate bill strikes the right balance between proper oversight and free markets. At a time when banks are balking at lending to small businesses, [crowdfunding] provides a 21st century way to meet capital needs and help them grow.”

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