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Crash Courses Transform Social Learning Experience for Small BusinessesInteractive Platform Encourages Learning While Entrepreneurs Go Head-to-Head in Virtual Battle of Wits
NEW YORK,  September 29, 2011 -- 

OPEN Forum, American Express OPEN's leading resource and networking site for entrepreneurs, and New York TechStars startup Veri, a social learning platform that takes free online content and turns it into a fun way to learn, today announced the launch of Crash Courses for small businesses (www.openforum.com/crashcourses). The partnership represents American Express OPEN's latest collaboration with the growing New York startup community.

For time-strapped entrepreneurs, sitting in a classroom to learn how to better their business is nearly impossible. OPEN Forum Crash Courses will help business owners grasp fundamental business functions such as online marketing and social media in an interactive, fun and easy way.

Unlike traditional lecturing methods, the series of online educational courses challenge users to hone in on subject matter that gives them the option to learn more as they go through each of the topics. Users collect IQ points to see where they stack up against other business owners as they pursue their personalized learning journey.

"Crash Courses will help redefine how entrepreneurs learn, providing custom learning experiences that are actionable, inspiring, valuable and fun," said Stacey Gutman, director, OPEN Forum, American Express OPEN. "OPEN Forum and Veri are the perfect catalysts for entrepreneurial education -- OPEN Forum brings industry-leading content and insights for small businesses and Veri is an innovative startup transforming the social learning space."

"It's not every day that early stage tech startups and Fortune 100 companies like American Express are able to collaborate," said Lee Hoffman, CEO and co-founder of Veri.

Crash Course Line-up

Starting today, entrepreneurs will have the ability to take eight courses, each focusing on a different skill set that can be implemented into their businesses.

Five of the eight courses are specifically designed to educate business owners on online and social marketing, including Facebook for Your Business, Website Conversion, Location-Based Marketing, Search Engine Marketing and YouTube Marketing.

According to American Express OPEN's 2011 Spring Small Business Monitor, 44 percent of business owners are tapping digital marketing tools and services to reach customers and prospects. This number has risen from 38 percent in the fall 2010.

"Above all else, business owners need to generate new demand for their products and services," said Gutman. "Our launch courses are geared towards helping entrepreneurs maximize online marketing and reach consumers where they are spending most of their time -- online."

Additional courses will teach business owners how to be better leaders (Leadership Skills for Success), how to find and hire the right employees (The Art of Hiring) and how to pitch your business to investors, partners, or customers (Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch).

Content for current and future courses is created by many of OPEN Forum's more than 200 industry experts. Launched in 2007, OPEN Forum is designed to forge meaningful business connections within the small business community and provide insights and advice from some of the best minds in business. These include Guy Kawasaki of Alltop, Henry Blodget of The Business Insider, Adam Ostrow of Mashable, Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends and John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.

Supporting the New York Community

The introduction of Crash Courses is the latest example of American Express OPEN's commitment to working with the New York startup community.

"The startup community in our backyard continues to be a booming ecosystem that is bringing new innovations and technologies to the forefront," said Gutman. "American Express OPEN's resources and small business community make us an ideal partner in helping entrepreneurs get to the next level of their operations."

Beginning in 2010, American Express OPEN collaborated with New York-based startup Clickable, an award-winning developer of online advertising solutions, to launch two software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions: SearchManager and YourBuzz.

Earlier this year, OPEN Forum announced a strategic alliance with Kohort, where OPEN Forum sponsors the Tech Entrepreneurship Channel. The Kohort platform offers organizations and groups, such as those with an entrepreneurial focus, a platform to connect communities through membership directories, communications, events, ticketing, dues, and the ability to manage organizational structure through multiple tiers of subgroups.

American Express OPEN is also a sponsor of TechStars' New York Chapter. TechStars is a mentorship-driven seed stage investment program which runs three month long curriculums for startups. The most recent class, which includes Veri, was followed by BloombergTV during the mentorship period. The experience is currently being broadcasted across the country and can be found at bloomberg.com/tv/shows/techstars.

About American Express OPEN
American Express OPEN is the leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States and supports business owners with products and services to help them run and grow their businesses. This includes business charge and credit cards that deliver purchasing power, flexibility, rewards, savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners and online tools and services designed to help improve profitability. Learn more at OPEN.com and connect with us at openforum.com, facebook.com/open and twitter.com/openforum.

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, twitter.com/americanexpress and youtube.com/americanexpress.

About Veri
Veri turns online content -- including articles, blog posts, and videos -- into a fun and free way to learn. Users can take courses by answering community-generated questions and consuming content within any topic. Veri was part of the inaugural TechStars NYC class in 2011. Learn more at www.veri.com and connect with us at www.twitter.com/veri.


Contacts

Rosa Alfonso212.640.1712rosa.m.alfonso@aexp.com

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