Gas station without pumps

2019 July 23

Alibaba now open to US companies

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:28
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I saw a BBC article today that announced “Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has opened its doors to US sellers on its oldest platform,”

I wonder whether this is just for wholesale sales, or includes the bidding on contract manufacturing.  For small start-up companies, finding a US manufacturer is often nearly impossible—most manufacturers make it very difficult for new customers to contact them, with unfriendly websites and opaque pricing.  It has been much easier to find Chinese manufacturers, but putting out a request for bids on Alibaba, then having the manufacturers who are interested in such small orders contact you.

My son’s company, Futuristic Lights, did contract manufacturing that way after their first production run, which they had done with the prototyping firm they had been using.  They did have to “qualify” the manufacturers by ordering a small prototyping run, to make sure that the manufacturers had adequate quality control, but even with that extra step the process was much easier than finding a US manufacturer willing to talk to a company that wanted only a few thousand tiny boards.

Since seeing that (about 4 years ago), I’ve had a strong belief that much of the problem with US manufacturing is not with the factories or the labor costs, but with the almost Victorian business infrastructure that relies heavily on word-of-mouth to connect customers and manufacturers.  The Alibaba business-to-business infrastructure seems much more useful for small businesses (including small manufacturers as well as businesses needed small runs of custom fabrication).

I hope that US manufacturers join the Alibaba platform—or a similarly useful platform is developed for US manufacturers.

2011 November 21

USA not the home of startups

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 00:37
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It has long been a staple of American beliefs that the USA is the home of the entrepreneur—that we create more new businesses than anyone else, thanks to our tradition of rugged individualism.

I recently saw a short table in the post  Start-ups and Safety Nets of Sociological Images that thoroughly debunks this notion.

Note that in 2007 (before the banks had crashed the world economy), the United States was 23rd in startups per capita. Sure we had a lot, but only because we’re a big country.

The explanation by Jay Livingston (which he attributes to James Wimberly) is appealing in its simplicity, though not necessarily correct.  Basically, they point out that Americans are locked into corporate jobs by things like health insurance (either unavailable in US start-ups or crushingly expensive), college debt (other nations subsidize education much more effectively), childcare costs, and other expenses that are routinely covered by governments in developed countries. In the USA, it is no longer feasible for many people to take the high risks associated with starting a business.  The personal risks are much lower in other countries, so people are more willing to try out ideas they have.

There are other possible explanations (like differences in the availability of credit), but the suggestion that businesses are fostered not by minimizing taxes, but by using taxes to create safety nets that encourage people to take the risk of starting their own businesses is an intriguing one.

Of course, this idea will never fly with the 1% of the population that controls the wealth (and the politicians) in the USA, since they don’t want ordinary people starting new businesses that will compete with their huge corporations.  Their goal is for everyone else to be enslaved to their corporations by debt and fear, so they will do everything in their power to dismantle any safety nets or public education that would allow independence.


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