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Ms. Barlyn's WSJ WebWatch article provides a great overview of online resources for entrepereneurs. Her curated review includes a summary of content providers in four business start-up topics: franchising, managing technology, legal, and finding financing. Let me know if this list helps you find the information that you are looking for to launch and grow your business.
This online seminar from the Small Business Administration offers an overview of franchising basics for entrepreneurs who are thinking about franchise ownership. Prospective franchisees can find out about the legal responsibilities of franchise ownership, financing and more.
International Franchise Association
The website of the International Franchise Association offers a wealth of information. Among the free features: a search engine for finding details about more than 1,100 franchise opportunities and a course on franchising basics. There's also a forum where prospective franchisees can talk to each other, as well as an industry expert. For a fee, the site's Franchise University section offers online courses and a certification program for franchise executives. Costs run from about $50 to $450.
FranchiseHelp aims to provide an independent source of information to prospective franchise owners. Most features are free, including a search engine where users can find companies based on industry, location and their available capital. Articles and webcasts address topics from conducting due diligence to closing the deal. The site, run by FranchiseHelp Holdings LLC in New York, also includes a library of franchise disclosure documents, at $220 per file.
2. Managing Technology
indinero.com InDinero Inc.'s site helps entrepreneurs manage company finances in real time. Users enter company bank and credit-card account information when they sign up, and inDinero updates data from those accounts regularly. The information gets aggregated on a "dashboard" that users can check to monitor balances and expenses, as well as see financial trends over time. The site can also generate more detailed information, such as how much the business is spending on certain products. The Mountain View, Calif., company says it uses multiple technologies and practices to protect information. The free version of inDinero tracks up to 50 transactions per month; more robust plans cost $29.99 and $99 per month.
Postling lets users publish on multiple networking sites through one centralized location. A dashboard shows your recent posts and comments. You can also write posts in advance and schedule times for their publication. A daily digest summarizes account activity from multiple sites. The site, from Waffl.com Inc. in New York, offers a basic account free. A premium account, which also helps you monitor your business's online reputation, costs $49 monthly.
ContactMe, from Webs.com in Silver Spring, Md., centralizes contact information for customers and prospects. Along with keeping a record of people's email addresses and phone numbers, business owners can note details such as when they send out estimates to people in their contact file. Owners can also create a "ContactMe" button to use on their websites; when visitors click on the button, they can send a note but can also enter all of their contact information in a form. The data are then automatically swept into the site owner's contact file as a new entry. There's no charge for a basic account, but expect to pay up to $120 per year for service with more flexibility.
3. Legal Advice
Nolo, a Berkeley, Calif., publisher, opened 40 years ago to make the law more accessible. It continues that mission through its website, which includes a section for small businesses. Entrepreneurs can use the free library to learn terms that appear in business contracts, as well as other important concepts. Updates and a blog, also free, cover new developments in the world of law. Do-it-yourself services—where the site walks you through the questions on legal forms—are available for a fee. You can also buy books and software.
Small businesses can use TechAgreements for a low-priced glimpse at high-priced lawyering. The website, from Socratek LLC in Lexington, Mass., includes actual agreements used in over 500,000 transactions. Users can read the existing agreements to get ideas about how other companies dealt with similar situations, such as an intellectual-property agreement on behalf of Procter & Gamble Co. Free previews are available for all agreements. Downloading a complete document costs $35.
This free site, from Internet Brands Inc. in El Segundo, Calif., offers easy-to-read yet comprehensive guidance on a range of issues. The site makes information simple to find through hundreds of links that lead to more specifics, including details about tax forms, illegal business practices and protecting consumer information from identity theft.
4. Finding Financing
Want to find a potential investor with a minimum of legwork? ChubbyBrain promises to help. Answer some questions about your business, and the site's search engine will examine the funding history of private investors that have backed U.S.-based businesses and suggest those that are best suited to your company. The free service will generate up to 20 candidates. (Note, however, that the investors aren't connected to the site in any way.) ChubbyBrain, from CB Information Services Inc., New York, also offers free guides about venture capital and conducting due diligence on investors, among other topics.
AngelList is a free networking site for start-up companies and angel investors. Start-ups in search of funding can pitch their companies to some of the hundreds of investors who also use AngelList by selecting criteria such as market and location. Investors can then vote on the companies' popularity, ask questions and accept introductions. AngelList culls the most popular start-ups every week and emails them to a broader range of investors involved with the site. The site is run by Babak Nivi and Naval Ravikant, who are themselves angel investors.
Securities and Exchange Commission
This Q&A by the Securities and Exchange Commission includes an overview of laws that can apply to raising capital. The site includes information about registration requirements for public offerings, possible exemptions from those laws and an overview of certain state regulations.
Ms. Barlyn is a staff reporter for Dow Jones Newswires in New York. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page R2