Thursday, March 17, 2011 myBiz Blog
MarketWatch 3.20.11 by Katie Coon

Stay current with what's happening in the business world.  Headlines from this week include Google's Person Finder, emerging markets at the SXSW festival, and the impact capitol protests have had on downtown businesses.

Google gives '20%' to Japan crisis

Google famously gives its engineers "20% time," allowing them one day a week to work on side projects that interest them. That arrangement launched one of the most critical online tools in the Japanese relief effort: Google's Person Finder, which allows people to search for and post information about missing loved ones.  Japan's Person Finder tool was available one hour after the quake, the team's fastest response to date. It now has nearly 250,000 records -- more records than all of the previous Person Finder sites combined.  Google's Crisis Response team launched a new Picasa-based tool for the Japanese crisis. It allows people in emergency shelters to share photos, taken with their mobile phones, of the list of names of those housed at that shelter. The team is in the process of manually adding the names from those photos to Person Finder.

Source: CNN Money

Group Texting May Be a Hit at SXSW

The annual South by Southwest music, film and interactive festival showcases new ideas and propels some new products into the national consciousness.  This year's hit, if there is one, is likely to be one of the buzzed-about "group messaging" startups—GroupMe, Beluga, or textPlus, among others. Group chats are easy to arrange online through instant messaging services or social networking features such as Facebook Groups. But they don't work well on mobile devices, or if they do, they require a smartphone app and a decent cellular signal, which excludes lots of potential users.  New to the market is GroupMe, designed to work for anyone, on any phone. In general, users set up groups either online or through a smartphone app and then invite members—family, colleagues, jam-band fans—to join. The service assigns each group a unique phone number; when a member sends a text to that number, everyone receives the message.  There are nearly a dozen startups, most less than a year old, that hew to this basic framework, then add their own twist. GroupMe, which made its debut in August and says its users are now sending over a million text messages a day, emphasizes its ease of use.

Source:  Businessweek

Month of protests has mixed impact on Downtown businesses

The budget protests jammed streets and sidewalks, filled the Capitol and drew news media from afar, but the masses had a mixed impact on Downtown businesses.  Even though many of the protest events were over by early evening, the hype around the events kept many from venturing to some Downtown businesses even after the crowds thinned.  "For a segment of the businesses, this is really good," said Mary Carbine, executive director of the Central Business Improvement District. She hopes the exposure the protests provided will, in the long run, be positive for all Downtown businesses. "Many visitors from out of town were here and it does help them discover Downtown businesses. We hope they'll come back."

Source:  Wisconsin State Journal