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WindowGain is the quintessential company for a soft economy: it turns vacant storefronts into high-definition advertisements. Using patent-pending technology, the Newton, MA-based company boasts that it transforms underused or empty windows into a “new and untapped canvas” for advertisers.

There’s a potentially large canvas to cover. The International Council of Shopping Centers says the 28 retail chains it tracks closed 2,122 stores in the first three months of 2008. For WindowGain, those business failures are possible sources of revenue.

Even in a slow economy, some commercial real estate focused firms are staying busy. Industry experts say the key is developing unique or improved solutions for niche markets, with a focus on increasing revenue. New York City-based On Deck Capital, for instance, developed financial products and technology that’s enabling it to offer “performance-based loans to businesses that may not have access to traditional bank financing” in 45 states.

Companies like RealPage Inc. of Carrollton, TX target multi-family property owners with software designed to take the guesswork out of residential rental rates. RealPage boasts the program helps property owners increase profit. It just sold its revenue management software to Essex Property Trust Inc., a Palo Alto-based REIT with 133 communities, mainly on the West Coast.

WindowGain potentially helps commercial property owners create assets from liabilities. It creates daylight-visible video billboards with multiple projectors and proprietary computer software. The software, CEO Adam Dell explains, “warps and blends the images so there are no lines or seams or gaps,” fusing the images into a seamless whole. The displays include photos, videos and computer animations.

Just recently, the company partnered with Developers Diversified Realty, a Beachwood, OH-based shopping center developer, to create about 75 high-definition ad displays at the REIT’s properties nationwide. Developers Diversified owns or manages approximately 740 shopping centers.

One of the keys to viability is access to capital. But thanks to tighter lender standards triggered by the credit crunch, credit has become increasingly hard to get, reports say. Enter On Deck Capital, which describes itself as a first-of-its kind financing solution. The company claims it “fills the void between bank loans and alternative business financing products such as merchant cash advances” with high interest rates for short-term capital.

On Deck says its “revolutionary loan system” focuses on the strength of businesses rather than the owner’s personal credit. “By allowing you to leverage the cash flow of your business to access financing, On Deck keeps the predatory lenders at bay and lets you get back to the business of running your business,” the company explains. On Deck offers business loans up to $100,000.

Mitch Jacobs, founder and chief executive officer of On Deck Capital, says small businesses are essential to the economy. “Unfortunately, even when liquidity was widely available, access to capital and fair financing has been a challenge for most small business owners, leaving many in a vulnerable state. We’re fundamentally changing the lending landscape, enabling millions of enterprises to maintain and grow their business,” he says.

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