Small business weekly: An Obamacare app and a lending gap


Obamacare on your smartphone? DC Health Link will on Monday unveil a mobile app designed to help local business owners shop for plans. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)
August 11, 2014

A review of the biggest small business and start-up stories from the past week, with a special focus on Washington.

No small problem: Securing a bank loan isn’t as difficult for small business owners today as it was during the depths of the recession. However, it’s still not nearly as easy as it was prior to the collapse, according to new research compiled by Karen Mills, the former head of the Small Business Administration — and that, she says, appears to be holding back the country’s broader economic recovery. (OSB)

Middle of the aisle? The National Federation of Independent Business, an advocacy group based in the District, calls itself the voice of small business a nonpartisan, nonprofit association. Critics have long scoffed at both descriptions, though, and some believe they have found fresh evidence of the group’s political bias courtesy of a new link between the NFIB and a decidedly conservative political organization. (OSB)

An Obamcare app: DC Health Link, which built and now operates the city’s new online health insurance exchange, on Monday will launch a new mobile app designed to help small business owners shop for health plans through a licensed broker. Nearby brokers will be shown to users using GPS technology. Officials earlier this year unveiled a similar app designed to help residents looking for individual or family coverage. (DCH)

Crowdfunding push: District officials last week announced a pilot program intended to help more small companies set up and raise money through online crowdfunding campaigns. While SEC officials continue to work on rules allowing firms to offer equity to non-accredited investors through the Web-pased portals, the D.C. program will aim to help them raise money in exchange for gifts or products, not a stake in their companies. (WBJ)

Hold your applause: Government officials recently announced that small businesses were awarded 23.4 percent of all federal contracting dollars last year, eclipsing the annual goal of 23 percent for the first time in nearly a decade. However, a federal database run by the General Services Administration that is updated over time shows that the initial reports each year do not tend to stand the test of time and are consistently inflated. (OSB)

Diversity in entrepreneurship: There’s no single answer for how to make the technology community more inclusive of black entrepreneurs. However, a number of business leaders shared what they believe are the first steps toward that aim during an event last week in Washington — starting with better science and math education for minorities and more effort from companies to hire a diverse workforce. (WP)

Social turning to video: Google’s YouTube last week announed that it has acquired Directr, the technology upstart behind a mobile app that helps small businesses create promotional videos. Meanwhile, Facebook is rolling out its new autoplay video marketing tools, but they aren’t ready for small business advertisers just yet. (MASH/RC)

Still America’s beloved: Sixty-nine percent of Americans look favorably upon large corporations, up nine points from last year, according to a new poll by the Washington-based Public Affairs Council. However, that still doesn’t hold a candle to small businesses’ 91 percent favorability rating. which is up 4 points from 2013. (WBJ)

Bonus: How to shore up your company’s password security (OSB)

What are you keeping an eye on this week? Please let us know below.

Follow J.D. Harrison and On Small Business on Twitter.

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.
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