Entrepreneurs

100 articles
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How pop-up tax preparers make billions off the poor.

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Why is an anti-virus software giant in the Belizean jungle surrounded by  gang members?

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg, profiled.

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The rise of the “wildly lucrative” herbal incense business, and the downfall of one company.

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Libertarian, futurist, billionaire: a profile of Peter Thiel.

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How did the gambling magnate and prolific super PAC donor amass his billions?

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A profile of Doc Johnson, “the Procter & Gamble of sex toys.”

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How a Mexican drug cartel makes its billions.

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A profile of Fleshlight inventor Steve Shubin.

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The autopsy of a once-dominant site.

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How one company is rethinking the business of sex toys.

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How one man made millions with a fancy hamburger.

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From failure to Pixar, Steve Jobs’ “wilderness years.”

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On the empire built by “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade.

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A profile of Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz, who wants to make his drink a lifestyle. Mateschitz’s co-founder, Chaleo Yoovidhya, died March 17.

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A report from Austin, Texas as it turns into a dot-com hotspot.

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On a press junket in Ecuador, the author investigates the ethics of shopping.

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The unlikely story of Spanx.

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When computer science legend Jim Gray disappeared, his friends and colleagues – including Bill Gates and Larry Ellison – used every technological tool at their disposal to try to find him.

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The story of Southwest Airlines.

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Few men have acquired so scandalous a reputation as did Basil Zaharoff, alias Count Zacharoff, alias Prince Zacharias Basileus Zacharoff, known to his intimates as “Zedzed.” Born in Anatolia, then part of the Ottoman Empire, perhaps in 1849, Zaharoff was a brothel tout, bigamist and arsonist, a benefactor of great universities and an intimate of royalty who reached his peak of infamy as an international arms dealer -- a “merchant of death,” as his many enemies preferred it.
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Can Netflix bounce back?

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Dotcom didn’t look like a criminal genius. With his ginger hair, chubby cheeks, and odd fashion sense—he often wore black suits and white-on-black wingtip shoes—he looked like he should be setting up a magic table.

How Kim Schmitz, the proprietor of Megaupload, made his fortune and landed in a New Zealand prison.

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An industry responds to the recession by rebranding the carrot as anything but vegetable.

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Inside the attempt to turn a World War II-era antiaircraft deck (that its owner claims is an independent nation) into “the world’s first truly offshore, almost-anything-goes electronic data haven.”

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On Manoj Bhargava, who says he’s “probably the wealthiest Indian in America,” and his ubiquitous product.

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TheFacebook, as it was then called, had just reached 1.5 million users:
In the end, Zuckerberg says, quarrels over money rarely come up because money is not their priority. “We’re in a really interesting place because if you look at the assets we have, we’re fucking rich,” Zuckerberg adds. “But if you look at like the cash and the amount of money we have to live with, we’re dirt poor. All the stuff we own is tied up in random assets” like servers and the company itself. “Living like we do now, it’s, like, not that big of a deal for us. We’re not like, Aw man, I wish I had a million dollars now. Because, like, we kind of like living like college students and being dirty. It’s fun."
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On the TechCrunch founder’s venture capital fund, and a new breed of startup investor.

As Twitter-loving VC investors have become brand names themselves (Fred Wilson, Marc Andreessen, Chris Sacca), what one might call the auteur theory of venture capitalism has emerged—the idea that startup companies bear the unique creative signature of those who invested in them. To study a venture capitalist’s portfolio is to study his oeuvre.

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Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook vs. Amazon.

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Mr. Jobs's pursuit for aesthetic beauty sometimes bordered on the extreme. George Crow, an Apple engineer in the 1980s and again from 1998 to 2005, recalls how Mr. Jobs wanted to make even the inside of computers beautiful. On the original Macintosh PC, Mr. Crow says Mr. Jobs wanted the internal wiring to be in the colors of Apple's early rainbow logo. Mr. Crow says he eventually convinced Mr. Jobs it was an unnecessary expense.
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On Jeff Bezos, Amazon, and the genesis of the Kindle.

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How an Italian thug looted MGM, brought Credit Lyonnais to its knees, and made the Pope cry.
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A profile of Ken Robinson, who earned minor fame and more than a few enemies for the controversial way he “bought” his house:

The week after Robinson moved into the tan-sided home with a faux stone entrance and maroon shutters, he was soaring, an Internet hero a few levels shy of Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who last summer cracked a beer and left work on a plane's emergency slide. For $16, Robinson had filed paperwork with Denton County staking his claim to the abandoned home through an obscure Texas law called adverse possession. Ever since, curious visitors, beginner real estate investors and people who want an ultra-cheap home to fulfill their version of the American Dream have been knocking on his door for advice and a handshake.

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On the restauranteur behind New York’s Gramercy Tavern and Shake Shack.

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How Tim Durham funded a libertine lifestyle—dozens of luxury cars, Playboy-themed parties, a plethora of failed businesses—on the backs of unwitting Ohioans, many of them Amish.

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Is the streaming Swedish music service, now making its U.S. debut, the best shot the industry has at staying profitable and relevant?

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How Frank and Jamie McCourt bought the Dodgers for “for less than the price of an oceanfront home in Southampton” and eventually became entangled in one of the most expensive divorces in California history, which laid bare their finances and confirmed what many already knew: they had bankrupted one of the most storied franchises in baseball.

In all, the McCourts reportedly took $108 million out of the team in personal distributions over five years—a sum that Molly Knight, a reporter with ESPN who has extensively covered the story, notes is eerily similar to the cash payment that she says Frank McCourt has claimed he made for the team.

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How what was once one of the most popular websites on Earth—with ambitions to redefine music, dating, and pop culture—became a graveyard of terrible design and failed corporate initiatives:

In retrospect, DeWolfe says, the imperative to monetize the site stunted its evolution: "When we did the Google deal, we basically doubled the ads on our site," making it more cluttered. The size, quality, and placement of ads became another source of tension with News Corp., according to DeWolfe and another executive. "Remember the rotten teeth ad?" DeWolfe says. "And the weight-loss ads that would show a stomach bulging over a pair of pants?"

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On animal cremation and burial in New York:

Riding around Manhattan on a delivery run with a car full of pet cremains, it's hard not to look at the world differently. The omnipresence of pets becomes glaringly obvious, and their inevitable fate is never far from the mind. It's easy to imagine the whippet being jaywalked across Eighth Avenue getting hit by a car. The cocker spaniel on 23rd Street? A bucket of cocker bones in the making.

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On Kimora Lee Simmons, then the head of the Baby Phat clothing company and wife of Russell Simmons.

“Let me take off my glasses,” she says, removing her large frames. “I want you to see my eyes. I will beat a bitch’s ass!”

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What it means to be an entrepreneur in Argentina, where economic crashes are a way of life.

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On the investors betting big on the Iraqi economy, which they believe has nowhere to go but up.

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On the ground in Nigeria with the nation’s notorious scam artists, who share a remarkable number of qualities with America’s top entrepreneurs.

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On the economics of the booming Somali pirate business, which is up 177 percent over last year.

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On 21st-century prospectors:

Shawn Ryan is the king of a new Yukon gold rush, the biggest since the legendary Klondike stampede a century ago. Behind this stampede is the rising price of gold, and behind this price is fear.

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How slot machines snuck into the mall, along with money laundering, bribery, shootouts, and billions in profits.

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On the “world’s largest social network that you probably haven’t yet heard of” and its enigmatic founder.

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Donald Trump’s loan-reliant financial history.

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An oral history of the Playboy Clubs.

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How Craigslist dealers do business in New York City.

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On Ray Dalio, who built the world’s biggest hedge fund by running it like a cult.

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On billionaire financier Lynn Tilton and her quest to become a public figure.

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At times, Mr. Hsieh comes across as an alien who has studied human beings in order to live among them.

A profile of the Zappos CEO.

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How and why Zappos works.

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A site for handcrafts flirts with an IPO.

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How Lalit Modi built a billion-dollar cricket empire—only to be exiled from his sport and homeland.

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How Minnesota became a hotbed of toy invention.

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A profile of 21-year-old Dan Cates, who made $5.5 million playing 145,215 hands in 2010.

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A story written about Twitter and one its founders, Evan Williams, when the company’s chief source of revenue was subletting desks in their partially filled office.

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An artifact from the era when MySpace was king.

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An entrepreneurial primer from the founder of 37Signals. “So here’s a great way to practice making money: Buy and sell the same thing over and over on Craigslist or eBay. Seriously.”

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A profile of Jack Dorsey, co-founder (and displaced CEO) of Twitter. Dorsey’s latest venture, a mobile credit card system called Square that only officially launched in February 2011, already processes more than a million transactions per day.

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How the Weinstein Brothers barked their way into an empire and then lost it.

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Customer feedback on the New York City coke dealing industry.

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On the group of friends who came to rule the bizarre, decreasingly lucrative world of Internet porn.

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On the pair of entrepreneurs behind a Wal-Mart of weed in Oakland. The duo is talking IPO. “Everybody I was meeting was a little bit older, more a part of the hippie generation,” says one. “I was like, ‘I bet there’s so much room for innovation and new ideas.’”

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On the (disputed) origins of the Huffington Post.

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A tech neophyte looks for answers in Silicon Valley, “the last place in America where people are this optimistic.”

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Nick Denton is rebooting his entire Gawker empire—and his vision is drawn more from TV than blogs.

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What happened to the minds behind Napster, Gnutella, WinAmp, and BitTorrent after their creations irrevocably changed business and culture.

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Its editors still live in different cities, still work different careers, and still treat Boing Boing as a (lucrative) hobby.

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DecorMyEyes is a online eyewear store with an unusual business plan; the owner harasses and intimidates customers who complain in order to get negative reviews posted across the web, in turn making his website more visible to Google searchers.

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How Cantor Fitzgerald is bringing the principles of day trading to sports betting in Vegas.

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A history of entrepreneurship in New York City, starting with shipping magnate Jeremiah Thompson’s big gamble in the 1820s: scheduled departures.

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James Frey is starting a publishing company, paying young writers (very poorly) to reverse engineer a Twilight-esque hit.

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A review of several books on Rupert Murdoch first criticizes the authors for not grasping the many sides of their subject, then offers a thesis of its own. He’s “not so much a man, or a cultural force, as a portrait of the modern world.”

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A single-page version of Shalhoup’s reporting on the Black Mafia Family, one of the largest cocaine empires in American history.

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An early attempt to explain the world-changing power of computer software—and the minds of young programmers like Bill Gates—to a mass audience. “Software,” the article begins, “is the magic carpet to the future.”

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When it comes to representing pharmaceutical companies, a doctor’s medical record is far less important than his or her ability to sell.

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Diapers.com has a stripped-down business model, a massive warehouse staffed by robots, and a legitimate chance to outsell Amazon.

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A mid-boom critique of New York City’s high-priced, mostly glass condo buildings.

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Raffaello Follieri was young, handsome. He was Italian. He was dating Anne Hathaway, hobnobbing with Bill Clinton, and using contacts at the Vatican to launch a lucrative business in the States. Then he was in jail.

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A 2006 profile of Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook opened from a college-only site to a public social network.

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It makes as much money as Whole Foods while stocking 90 percent fewer products. The Trader Joe’s business model explained.

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Christian Audigier is the man behind Von Dutch and Ed Hardy. The massive succes of his garish and expensive creations may say more about the power of celebrity than about fashion.

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The number one item confiscated by U.S. customs for four years in a row: fake shoes. As brands continue to crack down, counterfeiters continue to up their game.

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In the early 1960s, Middle Eastern guys in Brooklyn introduced America to Arabic rock-and-roll.

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A new Egyptian TV channel called 4Shbab—“for youth” in Arabic—aims to get young people interested in Islam through music videos and reality shows.

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John Friend, who founded a new school of yoga, says the practice should be about both exercise and spirituality. Oh, and making money.

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Erich Spangenberg is in the business of owning other people’s ideas. He makes a fortune.

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Inside the bleak world of Joe Francis, the man behind the “Girls Gone Wild” franchise.

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The rise and fall of Design Within Reach.

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How a French journalist recruited a posse of Brazilian parking lot attendants and pizza-delivery guys and created Hollywood’s most addictive entertainment product.

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“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t.” –Steve Jobs, 1996

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Foursquare and Gowalla are in a VC-funded race to become the dominant location-based social network. But their founders say both companies have a larger purpose.

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Fred Franzia makes a lot of money selling really cheap wine.

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Profile of the flip-flop wearing 61-year-old ‘dude’ who turned around a dying company by selling all-American sex to teens – and isn’t apologizing.