3 Things You Should Know About Small Business: Dec. 21

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. Immigrants founded half of top U.S. start-up companies. Nearly half of the 50 top venture-backed companies were founded or co-founded by immigrants, according to a study, which only intensifies "some of the high stakes in potential immigration reform," according to Reuters.

Of the 50 top venture-backed companies, 23 had at least one immigrant founder and three-quarters of those companies employed at least one immigrant in a "key management position," the study found. Some of Silicon Valley's hottest start-ups are on the list, such as textbook-rental service Chegg, online craft marketplace Etsy and Web publisher Glam Media.

But start-ups call U.S. immigrations rules "too cumbersome" and lead non-U.S. citizens to launch businesses elsewhere, the article says.

2. LuminAid is a successful crowdfunding venture. Two Columbia college graduates are behind the successful venture LuminAid, which got its start providing relief to Haiti's earthquake disaster victims last year. The students became concerned for the safety of women and children in the makeshift tent cities and came up with a solar-powered inflatable light that, charged for a few hours in the sun, can provide up to six hours of light.

"Solar made a lot of sense because the technology was pretty inexpensive and we could ship it cheaply," says Anna Stork, one of the co-founders, in an American Express ( AXP) OPEN blog.

It was soon clear that the product had more potential than a class project and the two set about entering competitions to get exposure and funding.

The partners also decided to go to crowdfunding Web site IndieGogo seeking a modest $10,000 in start-up money. In two months, good publicity garnered them more than $51,000.

LuminAid will ship roughly 4,000 lights next month to the company's not-for-profit partners and individual customers. The Red Cross, U.S. Navy and private disaster-relief companies are asking LuminAid for samples. The company hopes they will turn into paying customers. "It's really incredible how many people the IndieGogo campaign reached," Stork says.

3. Playing payroll tax roulette. With less than two weeks remaining to the year, Congress is really waiting until the last minute to agree on a compromise in the payroll tax debate, leaving 160 million Americans wondering about the size of their paychecks come 2012 and companies and payroll services in limbo over how much to withhold from employee paychecks.

Congress can do one of three things: approve a stop-gap measure such as keeping the current 4.2% withholding rate in place for two months; preserve the status quo for another year; or fail to reach an agreement altogether, which means the rate would revert to 6.2% on Jan. 1. When they do finally come to agreement, they could make it retroactive, according to CNN Money.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

To contact Laurie Kulikowski, send an email to: Laurie.Kulikowski@thestreet.com.

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