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  • Steven Woda

links for 2010-03-16

One clue to why Don Rainey is a friend to entrepreneurs comes from the way he talks about the executives running the companies in which he invests. There is pride in his words, a paternalism that reveals the Grotech Ventures general partner has more than just money in the game. “LivingSocial is a deal we added to in 2009. It is a company full of young energetic entrepreneurs,” he says. “It is really and exciting time for that company and I am certainly very proud of them.” It sounds like he is talking about one of his children, or one of his students. LivingSocial, which runs social networking Web sites, raised $5 million in venture capital from Vienna-based Grotech and from Steve and Jean Case. Rainey says the co-founders of LivingSocial — Tim O’Shaughnessy, Eddie Frederick, Aaron Batalion and Val Aleksenko — “are going from being an early success to being one of the leaders in social networking. They are helping define social commerce.”

One job of presidents is to educate Americans about crucial national problems. On health care, Barack Obama has failed. Almost everything you think you know about health care is probably wrong or, at least, half wrong. Great simplicities and distortions have been peddled in the name of achieving “universal health coverage.” The miseducation has worsened as the debate approaches its climax. There’s a parallel here: housing. Most Americans favor homeownership, but uncritical pro-homeownership policies (lax lending standards, puny down payments, hefty housing subsidies) helped cause the financial crisis. The same thing is happening with health care. The appeal of universal insurance — who, by the way, wants to be uninsured? — justifies half-truths and dubious policies. That the process is repeating itself suggests that our political leaders don’t learn even from proximate calamities.

U.S. citizens reported losing more than $550 million in 2009 in Internet fraud, falling prey to a variety of increasingly sophisticated scams, according to a report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The loss was more than twice that reported in 2008, according to the agency, a partnership of the FBI and the privately funded National White Collar Crime Center. The center, based in West Virginia, tracks Internet crime around the world. “Criminals are continuing to take full advantage of the anonymity afforded them by the Internet. They are also developing increasingly sophisticated means of defrauding unsuspecting consumers,” said Donald Brackman, the center’s director.

South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive has a reputation as being the place for social Web startups to hit the headlines. Twitter found one of its first big audiences at the event in 2007, and attendees are among the most eager adoptees of new social Web tools. To harness this cutting-edge mood, last year the event’s organizers launched the Microsoft BizSpark Accelerator, a competition showcasing 32 Web-focused startups. This year’s competition starts today. Chris Valentine, the event’s producer, says that social Web businesses are still king–200 companies applied to compete, and there were twice as many in the social media category as in any other. But he’s starting to see a shift in the technology behind the companies involved in the event. “We knew we were going in the direction of artificial intelligence,” Valentine says, and this year there are a number of startups harnessing technology from the field–especially natural language processing and computer vision.

Today Apple began accepting pre-orders for its iPad tablet device. Based on analyst estimates, approximately 50,000 were pre-ordered during the first two hours of availability. At that rate, Apple will sell one million by tomorrow. Also, plenty of new details about the device have surfaced.

Seventeen tech-industry executives made the new Forbes list of billionaires, led by Bill Gates in the #2 spot and Larry Ellison in the #6 spot. Can it be true that Facebook parvenu Mark Zuckerberg outranks Apple icon Steve Jobs? Here’s a list of those 17 along with their ranks and estimated net worths. The Forbes feature includes lots of details and is cut in multiple ways. I combed through the first 400 and came up with this sublist from the tech business (and no, Facebook’s Zuckerberg doesn’t outrank Jobs—but he’s getting there):

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