Google rails against paid links and from personal experience I know that they used to penalize sites that actively sell paid links. But looking at the bottom left column of Business Week I see links served by Industry Brains.
Has anyone experienced such a penalty with the paid contextual links from Industry Brains?
No. Google is against paid links that influence the search engines. Industry Brain links do not pass PageRank. Industry Brains is a boutique PPC service that shows ads on high quality websites. They're more expensive but generally you're getting your product in front of extremely niche audiences.
It's sometimes difficult for makers of niche b2b products to obtain traffic from keyword related queries. There simply isn't the volume to support it. Another way is to find your audienceand target them there. Industry Brains is a place where you can place ads on sites where these niche audiences congregate. Knowledgestorm and Capterra are other companies with a similar focus.