Conventional wisdom says that video and webconferencing is killing the travel business. (There’s also the little matter of a heinous economic downturn.) So why are some of the biggest hotel operators in the world, including Marriott International and Starwood Hotels, embracing virtual meetings? Isn’t their business model to get people to rent rooms in their hotel instead of, you know, stay at home? Or maybe they know something that we don’t. Both Marriott and Starwood are creating telepresence suites that feature state-of-the-art virtual meeting technologies, reports The New York Times. The gee-whiz technology, which makes it seems like participants located around the world are actually meeting face-to-face, retails for about $200,000. That’s clearly out of the price range of all but the largest companies. The idea is that local businesspeople will flock to the hotel to use the technology. The suites themselves rent for $500 an hour, which could more than make up for a few empty rooms.
Lending alternative: Where’s a business owner supposed to get a loan these days? If you’ve got less than perfect credit, don’t expect the bank to be much help. But some interesting alternatives are starting to fill the void. One restaurant owner got a $100,000 cash advance from his credit card processing provider, which enabled him to build an addition to his diner. Credit card processors, for their part, say they’re handing out hundreds of cash advances to small business each month, up from just a handful when the economy was more stable. Typically cash advances are about $50,000, with some as high as $250,000. Of course, there is a catch. Processors charge a 20 percent interest rate and pay themselves back by garnishing a piece of the borrower’s daily receipts.
Rising from the ashes: It’s a pretty well-known fact these days, but it bears repeating. Of the 500 U.S.-based companies on the Fortune list, more than half were founded during a recession or bear market. That includes the likes of Microsoft, FedEx, and Starbucks. The lesson here, of course, is that entrepreneurs are even crazier than we give them credit for. Really, who in the world would start a business when everyone else is running for the exits? The best entrepreneurs, that’s who. The ones who aren’t afraid of impossible challenges and who like nothing better than defying all odds. A BusinessWeek article argues that the United States should be doing all it can to spur the creation of these entrepreneurial companies. Why? Because an American resurgence needs new ideas to power it. The first step? Do away with costly and complex regulations that hamstring growing companies, says the article. But, hey, if a massive global meltdown can’t stop these entrepreneurs, we’re guessing a few extra regulations won’t be the end of Western civilization as we know it.