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Are Unicorns Real? SEC Investigates Tech Startup Valuations

Technology company startups are drawing regulatory scrutiny after Fidelity Investments reportedly downgraded some of its investments in so-called "unicorns." With companies like Uber collecting billions of dollars before going public -- and investors all hoping to bet on the next big thing -- the Securities and Exchange Commission is getting curious about how the financiers decide what the companies are worth and why the disparity in values.

The reason for this interest? Supposedly, the tech boom is on the wane. According to the Wall Street Journal, the SEC wants to figure out whether the process for valuing large startups is accurate and whether there are procedures in place to ensure fair valuations across companies.

It used to be that a business was flying into an IPO blind: you couldn't talk to potential investors until after you filed all of your public offering documents with the SEC. So hundreds of thousands of dollars could be wasted before a company could gauge if there was sufficient interest in their stock on the public market.

Companies were forced to circumvent these requirements through "educational meetings" between investment bankers and large investors, but it appears that those days are done. Companies can now legally "test the waters" before they pursue a mini-IPO. Here's what you need to know about new legislation that regulates the pre-IPO process:

As any small business owner knows, getting easy access to credit can be a challenge. You've already hit up friends and family for a business loan and the time and paperwork involved in applying for a bank loan are just too daunting. But like most challenges these days, the Internet is here to help.

More and more businesses are foregoing traditional bank loans and instead turning to online lenders to meet their cash needs, mostly because access to capital can be quicker and more convenient. But is there a price to pay? Here are three things you should know about online lenders:

Square Capital Offers New Small Biz Funding: Is It Time to Square Up?

Square, the mobile payment company used by many small businesses to process credit card transactions, is looking to help out small businesses in an entirely new way.

The San Francisco company has launched Square Capital, which will advance cash to small businesses who need it.

There's a catch, however.

Colorado unveiled the world's first legal pot banking system on Wednesday, allowing marijuana businesses to move away from a cash-only model.

The pot bank bill, HB 1398, approved by Colorado legislators would allow pot businesses to join "cannabis credit co-ops" as a way to handle their money. The Associated Press reports that Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the bill and is expected to sign it.

Here are five key legal facts about Colorado's pot banking bill:

Kickstarter can be a great way to get your small business on its feet, but it isn't a cure-all for your financial problems.

Avoid legal pitfalls with Kickstarter by following these five legal tips for your small business:

Businesses Add 'Obamacare Fee' to Customer Bills

Some businesses -- mainly restaurants -- "are asking customers to help foot the bill for Obamacare" by adding an Affordable Care Act surcharge on their tabs, CNNMoney reports.

Case in point: At least eight Gator's Dockside restaurants in central Florida are now charging a so-called "Obamacare fee" that amounts to 1 percent of a customer's check.

Should your business include an Obamacare fee or surcharge on customer bills?

Small business owners can now look up their FICO credit scores just like personal consumers, but it won't be free.

With many entrepreneurs relying on small business loans to make their business plans a reality, a FICO score may be the x-factor in landing that crucial funding. So what's your FICO small business score?

Good news for veterans-turned-entrepreneurs looking for small business financing. The federal government has launched a new program to get former service members SBA loans at little cost.

In a press release, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced that beginning in 2014, there will be no borrower upfront fee for loans to veterans under the SBA Express Loan program.

How does this fee waiver work, and what other programs are available for veterans looking to start their small business dreams?

SEC Proposes New Crowdfunding Rules

After more than a year of delay, the Securities and Exchange Commission has unanimously approved a proposal of crowdfunding rules to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. The 538-page proposal marks a significant step toward regulating businesses that fund their ventures online.

The public has 90 days to comment on the proposed rules. It could be at least another six months before the agency issues final rules.

Here's a summary of the most significant proposed rules: