Small Business-People vs. $260 Billion Company

This is an interesting article about Alibaba, one of the world’s largest e-commerce websites, with a primary focus on exporting goods from China. The article is written from the perspective of a small business owner in the United States, one who makes antique tables. His tables, which cost approximately $5,000, were knocked off on Alibaba for $24. (See article). The article outlines Alibaba’s claims that it proactively fights counterfeit goods, along with the small business owner’s fight against the company, armed with only “his iMac, $74-a-month image-searching software, his phone and a lot of time — sometimes, he says, 12 hours a day.” Id. 

This article is relevant to the class for a few reasons. It shows what kind of competition a small business owner and/or entrepreneur could be faced with in our increasingly connected world. It also allows for some insight into the importance of IP, especially with how much easier it is to manufacture something quickly than it was in the past. Overall, I found this to be an informative read.

How important is a business’s public image?

I’m wondering if bad press for a CEO, entrepreneur, or entire company really has any substantial affect on the business. My working theory is no, PR disasters matter very little compared to the quality of a company’s product. Of course, it depends on how you define “PR disaster,” but bear with me.

A few weeks ago Uber found itself in the news for some questionable activity. First, a #deleteuber campaign was sparked after the company attempted to service people at airports amid protests to President Trumps “travel ban.” This was subsequently followed by a lawsuit from Google, sexual harassment claims from female employees, and the release of an unflattering video of CEO Travis Kalanick. In the video, Kalanick can be seen arguing with an Uber driver who is disgruntled at the decrease in price and demand for uberBlack services. Most recently, one of Uber’s self-driving cars was involved in an accident, which caused them to suspend their testing.

But, despite a rough beginning to 2017, Uber appears relatively unscathed. Of course, that’s mostly conjecture, as Uber isn’t obligated to publish numbers like a publicly traded company is, but there don’t seem to be any observable consequences. Uber self-driving cars are back on the roads and I’m willing to guess any “protestors” who deleted their Uber phone app have redownloaded it by now.

But, in contrast to my general impression that Uber is growing/stronger than ever, there is some data showing that Lyft, an alternative rideshare service, is gaining in market share.

When thinking of PR disasters, or what should have been one, Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind. In 2013 some messages sent by Zuckerberg while he was at Harvard surfaced revealing a disturbing view on privacy. In the relevant conversation, Zuckerberg appeared to be bragging to a friend about all the information students at Harvard had freely offered him, and then he called them “dumb f**ks” for doing so.

I found this conversation deeply troubling at the time, and still do, but I, alongside nearly everyone else in the world, continued to use Facebook. More recently, Facebook successfully brushed aside a “fake news” problem and allegations of left-leaning censorship.

As further support, think of Coca-Cola’s colorful history, Nike’s abuse use of cheap labor, or the fact that Foxconn, a manufacturer of Iphones, put suicide nets up on the sides of its buildings. These all seem like PR nightmares that should have negatively impacted a company, right?


How Entrepreneurs Can Deal With Depression


When we think of entrepreneurship we all probably think of business plans, expansion strategies, disruptive technologies, and marketing. I think this article is important because it deals with something that is less commonly thought of; the mental health of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is risky – and with risk comes stress, and potentially failure. While failure can actually be good for an enterprise (such as the idea that it’s good to fail early on) it can exacerbate, or even cause, feelings of depression.

I think my personal take-away from this is that there isn’t a particular ‘type’ of entrepreneur that is susceptible to depression, and that it isn’t even necessarily correlated to success.