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Atlanta’s Kanga takes on the $86B local delivery industry

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

By Allan Maurer

Everett Steele

Everett Steele

Can a crowd-sourced start-up in Atlanta outfox the $86 billion courier and local delivery service industry? Kanga, which launched in March (2014) and has $1 million in seed funding, is using mobile crowdsourcing technology to match consumers with local drivers who bid to provide the delivery service requested.

After the consumer selects the preferred driver, an order dispatches the delivery location and timeframe. Kanga says it also benefits local or independent retailers seeking a competitive edge over Internet retail giants by offering affordable professional delivery services.

This “last mile” delivery service is so important it has firms such as Amazon considering using drones to speed it up locally. But Kanga has a different concept, innovative in its own way.

“It feels good to interact with local shops you enjoy but with the convenience of eBay or Amazon,” says Everett Steele, Kanga president and co-founder.

An appetite for innovation

Kanga, one of the intriguing startups you can meet at the upcoming Eighth Annual Southeast Venture Conference in Atlanta, May 6-4 in Atlanta,  already has 35 drivers in the Atlanta Metro area and expects to kick that up to 100 over the next quarter or so, according to Steele.

“Atlanta has a strong appetite for innovation and a passion for all things local, which makes it the perfect test market for our launch,” says Everett Steele, Kanga president and co-founder, said at the time of the seed funding in March.

Steele tells us he comes from an entrepreneurial family. “My grandfather went from rags to riches,” he says. “He grew up in a dirt floor house in Columbus, Georgia, then at one point owned the baseball team and hotel in Columbus. My father built a huge transport company (Sunbelt Transportation). So I’m following in their footsteps.

He started his own entrepreneurial career early going door-to-door on his bicycle selling candy as a kid and says, “I’ve been in just about every genre of business since. Sales, marketing, technology, lots of different things.” Most recently that included Baby Robot Industries in Atlanta – which is a marketing agency.

A Hip-Hop cookbook?

Steele tells us the idea for Kanga came from an incident when he left his cell phone at a barber shop and had to pay someone to bring it back.

The service is looking at expanding into other markets, including Charlotte, Austin, Texas, and Tuscon. “We’ll be expanding aggressively over the next year to 18 months,” says Steele.

Steele himself – who once wrote a Hip-Hop Cookbook (“Bon Rappetite: The Hip Hop Cookbook,”) as a lark, says he is a diehard Braves fan and a mediocre guitar player.  But he clearly loves Atlanta. “I love the history, the food, the innovation…and it’s bottom line friendly,” he says.



Businesses making a play: 10 great gamified sites and apps

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

9781118466933 cover.inddJust a few short years ago, business gamification was practically unheard of. Before 2010, barely anyone searched for the term on Google, and it’s still not in the dictionary. But that doesn’t mean you should say, “gamifi-what?” and move on with your life. The fact is, business gamification—or the use of gaming elements to drive, measure, and reward high-value behaviors by customers or employees—is becoming a go-to strategy for a rapidly growing number of companies. It’s here to stay, and it can help your organization reach new heights.

“Games have been played for millennia because they’re fun and people enjoy them,” says Kris Duggan, coauthor along with Kate Shoup of Business Gamification For Dummies® (Wiley, February 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1184-6693-3, $26.99). “Today, that love of games is being leveraged by smart businesses to boost customer loyalty, employee performance, sales, growth, and more.”

Specifically, explains Duggan, business gamification uses elements like points, achievements, levels, leaderboards, missions, and contests to drive desired behaviors. All of a sudden, promoting a brand becomes fun for customers, and sharing troubleshooting solutions with fellow consumers is an engaging challenge. Likewise, employees actually enjoy training instead of seeing it as a chore, and they’re motivated to work harder on a day-to-day basis.

Feed the craving

“Like anyone else, your customers and employees crave attention, recognition, approval, and rewards,” comments Duggan. “With gamification, you feed this craving, and in the process convert customers into loyal fans and employees into highly effective collaborators and advocates.”

Here, Duggan shares ten examples of websites and apps that feature smart—and successful—gamification:

eBayeBay ( eBay has long used a points system that enables users to show their status on the site. The success of this system, which goes so far as to issue badges to the “best” sellers, has effectively demonstrated the importance of reputation as a reward to both buyers and sellers.

“As you probably know if you’re an eBay user yourself, these are key game mechanics,” says Duggan. “In the future, look to eBay to gamify more aspects of its site to make it even more engaging.”

Foursquare ( Foursquare is a free mobile app that enables you to “check in” at various places and share your experiences there. As you do, Foursquare rewards you with points and badges. You might even get special deals, such as a discount off your bill at a restaurant or a freebie for bringing your friends.

“You can use Foursquare to get recommendations for what to do next,” shares Duggan. “And if you check in at a given place enough times, you may become its ‘mayor’—which can bring with it its own set of privileges, such as a special parking place.”

GetGlue ( GetGlue is a little like Foursquare…except that instead of checking in at their favorite restaurants, shops, and such, GetGlue users check in while watching shows, listening to music, reading books, or engaging in other entertainment-related activities.

“In return, users get relevant recommendations, exclusive stickers (like badges), discounts, and other rewards, such as goodies from their favorite shows or movies,” explains Duggan.

Mint ( wants to help members get a handle on their finances, and it uses subtle gamification—primarily in the form of progress bars and fun feedback—to make it happen. Members can also post details about their financial goals online to increase their chances that those goals will be met.

“This site is a great example of a less-overt form of gamification,” points out Duggan. “There are no badges or prizes, but the game mechanics in place are effective nonetheless.” ( MuchMusic, Canada’s MTV equivalent, gamified its site with its MuchCloser program. Members of MuchCloser get points for doing all the stuff they normally do on the site—watching videos, reading blogs, leaving comments, sharing content, and so forth.

“As the points pile up, users unlock rewards and trophies and become eligible for prizes and giveaways,” says Duggan. “The most active users are flagged as key members of the MuchMusic community.”

Nike sneakers

Nike Olympic inspired sneakers.

Nike+ ( Nike+ is a fitness-oriented service that enables you to log your physical activity using a mobile app or other Nike gear. When you do, you earn NikeFuel, which is a super-cool alterna-word for points.

“As you earn more NikeFuel, you unlock awards, trophies, and surprises—not to mention a banging physique,” Duggan points out. “And if you’re in the mood to brag, you can share your accomplishments with your friends and with other Nike+ members.”

Recyclebank ( Recyclebank gives members points for engaging in “everyday green actions” such as using less water, recycling, making greener purchases, using energy more efficiently, or even walking to work instead of driving. For even more points, members can take online quizzes about ecology and share information from the site with friends on Facebook, Twitter, and mobile applications.

“Users can redeem points for goodies such as gifts and flowers, books and magazines, health and beauty items, and music with participating local and national partners,” adds Duggan.

Samsung phone

A Samsung Android phone

Samsung ( Samsung’s social loyalty program, Samsung Nation, makes excellent use of gamification to recognize and empower the company’s most passionate fans. When you join Samsung Nation, you can earn points, level up, unlock badges, and gain entry into various contests and promotions by performing such behaviors as watching videos, commenting on articles, reviewing products, participating in user-generated Q&As, and more.

“Top users appear on the Samsung Nation leaderboard, and an activity stream keeps users up to date on the site’s goings-on,” says Duggan.

sneakpeeq ( A retail site, sneakpeeq offers discounted goodies including gourmet foods, home products, accessories, apparel (from big labels like Kate Spade and Puma to smaller brands), and more. The twist? The site is gamified to make shopping more fun.

“The more you buy, share, love (similar to liking an item), and peeq (viewing an item’s price), the more badges and rewards you unlock, and the more incentives and surprises you receive,” explains Duggan. “Leaderboards make the experience more social and competitive, kind of like throwing an elbow at a sample sale.”

Xbox Live ( First came Shakespeare with his “play within a play.” Now there’s Xbox, with its “game within a game.” That is, Xbox, itself a game platform, uses elements of gamification…within its games. (Is your mind blown yet?)

“Specifically, users can earn achievement points, referred to as gamerscore, by performing specific tasks or actions in a game,” Duggan shares. “This gamerscore is separate from the player’s score in the game itself and is a way of conveying the player’s reputation across the platform, including its social spaces.”

“Smart use of gamification is a big win for everyone,” concludes Duggan.

“Once it’s put into action, it helps customers enjoy interacting with companies. The more they’re recognized and rewarded, the more loyal they’ll be…and the more your organization will grow.

Gartner“According to Gartner, Inc., by 2014, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application,” Duggan adds. “Some experts even project that the gamification market will grow to $2.8 billion by 2016! So don’t wait—get in on the gamification action now.”

About the Authors:
Kris Duggan is the coauthor of Business Gamification For Dummies®. He is a thought leader of innovative ways to incorporate game mechanics and real-time loyalty programs into web and mobile experiences.

Kate Shoup is the coauthor of Business Gamification For Dummies®. She has written more than 25 books, has cowritten a feature-length screenplay, and worked as the sports editor for NUVO newsweekly.


ChannelAdvisor files for $86.2M IPO

Friday, April 12th, 2013

ChannelAdvisorResearch Triangle, NC-based ChannelAdvisor, which sells software as a service to help retailers manage sales and inventory, has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public.

It is the latest in a surge of IPO prospects hoping to benefit from a bull market.

The company’s planned initial public offering would raise $86.2 million – an amount that could change when ChannelAdvisor prices its offering – on the New York Stock Exchange. It will trade under the symbol ECOM.

ChannelAdvisor has raised $75 million in four rounds of venture funding since 2004 from investors who include eBay,  New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Advanced Technology Ventures, Kodiak Venture Partners, eBay and Southern Capitol Ventures.

Billions in annual transactions

Led by serial entrepreneur Scot Wingo, ChannelAdvisor customers include Dell, Lenovo, Jockey International, Under Armour, and many others. The company manages billions in ecommerce transactions annually.

The company employs 405 people, up considerably from a slimmed down number coming out of the recession.

Wingo and his partner Aris Buinevicius co- founded an earlier company with much the same mission, in 1999. It was their second startup. In 1995 they had founded Stingray Software, which was acquired by Rogue Wave Software (NASDAQ:RWAV), for $21 million in 1999.

Scot Wingo

Scot Wingo, CEO, ChannelAdvisor

A serial entrepreneur

Wingo, who collects “Star Wars” memorabilia and original comic book art, got the idea for the a company to help retailers with ecommerce while bidding on eBay items. When we first interviewed Wingo in 2000, his border collie Mac greeted us at the door and it was already his pet’s third startup.

A large Star Wars spaceship model hovered over the reception desk and Star Wars robots stood sentry duty.

In nine months, the company launched, raised money, signed an agreement with eBay and sold to GoTo, renamed Overture and now part of Yahoo. The deal created GoTo Auctions.

In July 2001, Overture spun off ChannelAdvisor, investing in the new company. Wingo owns just over 10 percent of the company.

Consumers increasingly satisfied with e-commerce

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Shopping cartConsumers are increasingly satisfied with their e-commerce transactions.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) annual E-Commerce Report, produced in partnership with customer experience analytics firm ForeSee, customer satisfaction with e-commerce websites continues to rise, gaining 1.2% to 81.1 on the ACSI’s 100-point scale.

The improvement in the e-commerce sector, which comprises the online retail, brokerage, and travel categories, is driven in part by the strong performance of the aggregate of smaller e-retailers and e-brokerages.

Disruption always a part of e-commerce

“Just as we have seen in the public sector, consumers enjoy the convenience and power of e-commerce and online transactions. E-commerce is maturing, and even the smaller companies are improving, keeping up with or sometimes surpassing larger, more established companies,” said Claes Fornell , ACSI founder and professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“The e-commerce landscape changes faster than more traditional industries, and the rules can be rewritten by new players or new technologies, like mobile. Disruption will always be a part of e-commerce, but innovation will likely keep the sector near the top in customer satisfaction.”

Online Retail
Online retail increases 1.2% to an ACSI score of 82, outperforming the brick-and-mortar retail trade sector (76.6) by a wide margin.

AmazonAmazon continues to the lead the industry (and tops all measured e-commerce companies in this month’s Index) despite a 1% drop to 85. The “all others” category, which is an aggregate of e-retailers and other companies not individually measured, jumps 3% to 82. The “all others” category contains many e-retail websites that also have a brick-and-mortar presence.

Customer Satisfaction
2011 2012
Online Retail Aggregate          81 82
Amazon 86 85
Newegg 85 84
eBay 81 83
All Others 80 82
Overstock 83 81
Netflix 74 75

“Brick-and-mortar retailers are not conceding the Internet to online natives such as Amazon,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee. “They are investing heavily resources in providing a better experience for their customers, providing more evidence that competition is good for the consumer.”

Netflix improves, but still lowest scoring

NetflixAfter last year’s 14% drop, Netflix gains 1% to 75 but remains the lowest scoring company in e-commerce. “Netflix’s recovery comes amid increased competition and tough negotiations with content providers.

Netflix knows that access to content is key, and creating exclusive content and a franchise that will help it secure a loyal following is a unique approach. But it remains to be seen if this tactic can return the company to the top of the online retail category,” said Freed.

Online Brokerage
Customer satisfaction with online brokerage increases 2.6% to 86, led by a surge in the “all others” category (+4% to 78), which includes a range of online brokerages from large financial institutions like Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch to smaller brokerages like Scottrade and Sharebuilder.

Fidelity (-2% to 78) shares the top spot in the category. Charles Schwab (-3% to 77) and TD Ameritrade (-1% to 77) are close behind, while E*TRADE suffers the largest drop of any e-commerce company (-8% to 73) a year after setting a personal best.

Customer Satisfaction
2011 2012
Online Brokerage Aggregate 76 78
Fidelity 79 78
All Others 75 78
Charles Schwab 79 77
TD Ameritrade 78 77
E*TRADE 79 73

“All the household names in online brokerage are down, yet the category is up on the strength of the ‘all others’ category, which is made up of both traditional financial institutions and smaller e-brokerages,” added Freed.

“It just goes to show you that industry leaders cannot and should not rest on their laurels just because they are well established. Traditional firms have the resources to invest in improving the customer experience and probably should. At the same time, newer and smaller players are demonstrating that they are nimble enough to keep pace with constantly changing customer expectations.”

Online Travel
Airline JetThe online travel industry continues to be anyone’s game, as only two points separate all measured companies. Customer satisfaction with online travel falls 2.6% to 76, the largest decline of all measured categories.

Expedia (-1%), Orbitz (no change), and the “all others” category (-4%) lead e-travel with a score of 76. Travelocity falls 5% to 75 after leading the Index last year. Although the gap between Priceline and industry leaders is the narrowest since 2002, when the travel category was first included in ACSI, the company remains at the bottom of the group (-3% to 74).

Customer Satisfaction
2011 2012
Online Travel Aggregate        78 76
Expedia 77 76
Orbitz 76 76
All Others 79 76
Travelocity 79 75
Priceline 76 74

“Mobile is going to reshape e-commerce, but it has the most potential to improve the experience for the traveling consumer. That may be a tall order, though. Hotels and airlines are attempting to assert more control over their relationships with their customers, fragmenting the online experience and doing more harm than good in the short term,” said Freed.

A free report with historical scores for all of the e-commerce companies measured by the ACSI is available

Technology companies dominate most trusted for privacy list

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

PonemonTechnology companies claimed half the slots on Ponemon Institute’s annual top 10 list of the most trusted companies for privacy. Hewlett Packard ranked second, Amazon, third, IBM, fourth, eBay ninth and Intuit tenth.

American Express (AMEX) continued to reign as the most trusted company among the 217 orgazations rated.

New tech entries on Ponmon’s top 20 most trusted list included Microsoft at 17, and Mozilla at 20.

In addition to ranking the most trusted companies, the Ponemon study reported that only 41 percent of consumers feel they have control over their personal information, down from 45 last year and an overall drop from 56 percent in 2006.

Identity theft a top concern

The survey also noted that identity theft is a top area of concern among consumers with fifty-nine percent of the respondents indicating that fear of identity theft was a major factor in brand trust diminishment, while 50 percent said notice of a data breach was a factor.

That could give impetus to the changes in U.S. immigration law proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators this week, although it’s identity card idea is already meeting with opposition from some.

The Ponemon rankings were derived from a survey of more than 100,000 adult-aged consumers who were asked to name up to five companies they believe to be the most trusted for protecting the privacy of their personal information.

Consumer responses were gathered over a 15-week period concluding in December 2012 and resulted in a final sample of 6,704 respondents who, on average, provided 5.4 discernible company ratings that represent 25 different industries.

Want to lose customers? Here’s how

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Temkin GroupWhat do you do if you have a bad experience with a company? Do you stop doing business with it? Do you complain on Twitter or Facebook?

When consumers have a bad experience with some firms, they will completely stop spending their money with them, while some others get a bit more leeway. So says Temkin’s “What Happens After A Good or Bad Experience?

The study, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. consumers, analyzes feedback and purchase behaviors after good and bad experiences.

A number of tech companies and online retailers have racked up a substantial number of bad experiences or negative social media comments, including Best Buy, eBay, Symantec, Tracphone and ISPs.

The report shows that consumers encounter bad experiences most frequently with TV service providers, retailers, and Internet service providers, but report the fewest bad experiences with grocery chains. Consumers respond differently to bad experiences across the 19 industries in the study.

More than one-third of consumers who had a bad experience with a rental car agency, credit card issuer, computer company, or auto dealer completely stopped spending with the company.

Responding to complaints important

Fortunately for retailers and Internet service providers, their customers are the least likely to abandon them after a bad experience.

The research also examines how consumers respond to a company’s service recovery efforts. When consumers feel that a company responded very poorly after a bad experience, almost three-quarters of them stopped or decreased their spending with the company.

That could be bad news for the many companies that fail to respond to Tweets on their account.

On the other hand, when companies had a very good response, less than one out of five decreased their spending and more than one-third increased their spending.

Every company delivers some bad experience, but the good ones build loyalty by quickly responding to these issues and learning from their mistakes,” states Bruce Temkin , Customer Experience Transformist & Managing Partner of Temkin Group.

Here are some additional findings in the report:

  • ebaING DirectHoliday Inn ExpressWhole Foods, and Holiday Inn have the fewest occurrences of bad experience, while Best BuyQVCGap, and eBay have the most.
  • More consumers give feedback directly to the company after a very bad experience than they do after a very good experience.
  • Twitter bird

    Just call me Larry.

    The use of Twitter to communicate about a very bad experience has more than doubled over the last year. Consumers who earn at least $100,000 are more than twice as likely to tweet about a bad experience than those making $50,000 or less.

  • More than one-third of consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 write about their good and bad experiences on Facebook.
  • Cox CommunicationsSymantecING Direct, and TracFone are the most likely to have negatively biased comments on Facebook, while CablevisionAOLKaiser Permanente, and Holiday Inn are the most likely to have positively biased comments.
  • Verizon and GE are the most likely to have negatively biased comments on Twitter, while Avis and Edward Jones are most likely to have positively biased tweets.

The report “What Happens After A Good or Bad Experience?” can be downloaded from the Customer Experience Matters blog, at

Top retailers let 73 percent of customer tweets go unaswered

Monday, December 17th, 2012

social media logosIf you have tweeted a major retail brand on its own Twitter account but never received a response, you’re not alone. Most top retailers have signed up on the major social networks, but many are using them haphazardly or sporadically, Twitter in particular.

While 90 percent of the brands surveyed in Acquity Group’s 2012 Brand eCommerce Audit are on Twitter, less than 27 percent actively participate in Twitter conversations with consumers.

That means 73 percent leave customer tweets unaswered – which may be worse than not being on the network at all.

The Audit, which evaluatedInterbrand’s 2012 Best Retail Brands on customer engagement across major digital channels, including big browser, social, and mobile, found that every brand on the list except one has a Facebook page.

And 45 out of 50 are on Twitter, only 12 brands had a cohesive presence across all five of the major social networks analyzed (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube).

Avoid haphazard use of social media

“Although most brands are signed up for the major social networks, many struggle to understand how they fit into their overarching business strategy. As a result, our audit revealed several critical areas of improvement when it comes to actually connecting with consumers across social channels,” said Jay Dettling , executive vice president at Acquity Group.

“The important take away for brands is to avoid haphazard or sporadic use of social media. When a new social media channel is introduced, brands need to take the time to analyze the potential impact and return, and develop a solid strategy from there.”

Brands were most active on YouTube, with 80 percent of the brands leveraging the channel at an 85 percent engagement rate.

Top scoring brands in social interaction

Even though the majority of companies (56 percent) have yet to utilize Instagram, the brands with a presence on this platform also had a high level of interaction (79 percent).

Pinterest was identified as the most popular up and coming social network, with 60 percent adoption and 70 percent interaction. According to Dettling, these findings demonstrate the growing importance of engaging consumers through videos and visuals.

The 10 brands scoring best overall in social interaction include, in order of ranking: Target, Home Depot, RadioShack, Bath and Body Works, Nordstrom, Gap, eBay, Coach, American Eagle Outfitters and Banana Republic.

To download the full Brand Audit report, visit .


About 14 million consumers used mobile shopping apps on Black Friday

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

As research into the Thanksgiving holiday shopping trends emerges, several things are clear: online shopping is rapidly becoming a preferred way to search for gifts and deals and mobile shopping is on the rise.

One of the latest reports, from Mobidia Technology, a provider of mobile analytics, shows that if the consumers who track their data usage with Mobidia’s My Data Manager, 12 percent used a smartphone shopping application on Black Friday.

When applied to the entire U.S. population, this suggests approximately 14 million consumers used their smartphones on Black Friday to shop. That is 30 percent more than the average of 9.5 percent on previous days in 2012, demonstrating the importance of Black Friday for mobile shoppers.

Mobile shoppers spent 16 percent more time using shopping apps than they did anytime during the year previously, using them for more than 10 minutes. Compare that to the 12 to 22 minutes spent on the other most popular apps that day, web browsers, maps, Facebook and Twitter.

Online retailers got the most traffic from mobile apps, with those from Amazon and eBay garnering five times the use of brick and mortar retailers.

“As expected, our Black Friday analysis showed that many consumers shopped on their smartphones on Black Friday, but shoppers appear to be gravitating toward online retailers for their mobile shopping,” saysChris Hill, vice president of marketing at Mobidia.

“This could be attributed to shoppers’ experience with online shopping on desktop computers, unsatisfying experiences with the shopping apps of traditional retailers, or just a general lack of awareness. Whatever the reason, Mobidia’s data highlights this as a big opportunity for traditional retailers to continue innovating their mobile shopping app development and marketing to capture more of the mobile shopping market.”

For more information about Mobidia’s mobile data, please visit Mobidia’s website, where you will find detailed whitepapers, or Mobidia’s Blog for periodic updates on data and analysis of mobile usage.


Internet, digital media job growth slows in New York & Boston

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

New-York skylineJob growth in Internet and digital media jobs slowed in New York and Boston over the last six months, including sharp declines in the third quarter. But growth does continue in the sector and some top firms such as Google continued to add headcount in both cities, though at a slower rate.

Amazon, Mashable, LinkedIn, and eBay also all continued to add to staff.

Cook Associates Executive Search, a retained executive search firm, reports in its quarterly East Coast Internet and Digital Media Jobs Index, which tracks job creation at more than 470 companies in New York and Boston, that New York showed 3.6 percent growth for the third quarter, following on the heels of 5.6 percent growth in the past quarter.

Boston, on the other hand, showed lower growth of 1.9 percent after a 3.2 percent increase in jobs in the second quarter.

Growth much stronger in New York

Index creator John Barrett said, “It’s now clear that a slowdown in hiring has been occurring in this sector over the past 6 months.  Things began getting soft in Boston by the second quarter.

“There were some signs that it was also getting a little soft in New York, but hiring is now definitely slowing down in New York.  Overall, Internet and digital media jobs growth is still much stronger in New York and I expect that trend to continue.”

Barrett added, “Things are even worse than they appear in Boston.  All of the net new hiring came from just 10 companies out of the approximately 150 companies being tracked in the city.  Without those 10 companies, employment in Boston was flat at best and perhaps declined slightly.”

Overall, New York added about 900 new Internet and digital media jobs while Boston added about 260.  Approximately 55% of New York’s job growth came from publicly-traded companies while about 75% of Boston’s job growth was derived from public companies.

“This illustrates the continued strength of private company hiring in New York that’s resulting from high levels of venture investing occurring there,” according to the report.

New York/Boston jobs chart

Where the jobs are

Top 10 companies showing largest headcount gains in New York include: Google, Rent the Runway, Amazon, AppNexus, eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gilt Groupe, Etsy, Warby Parker.

Up-and-coming companies showing large headcount gains in New York included: Foursquae,, ZocDoc, Magnetic, Tumblr,Thrillist,BuzzFeed,, Mashable, SignPost, Yext, Moda Operandi and Outbrain.

The top ten firms showing the largest headcount increase in Boston include: Hubspot, Wayfair, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Vistaprint, Rue La La, Google, Constant Contact, Karmaloop, and Jumptap.

Up and coming companies showing large headcount gains in Boston include: Visible Measures, DataXu, Naigans,, Gemvara, NetProspex, WordStream, Fiksu, and ClickFuel.



Amazon tops eBay, Shopkick, Wrapp as promising mobile commerce partner

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

AmazonAs marketing and e-commerce leaders continue to look for effective, cost-efficient ways to spread the word about their products and services, affiliate marketing, a performance-based strategy rewarding organizations and individuals for directing users to retailers’ online and physical storefronts, has surfaced as a viable consumer engagement tool.

According to a survey conducted by EPiServer, an which sells multichannel digital marketing and e-commerce software, 47 percent of respondents selected Amazon as the coolest mobile or social affiliate program they have seen to date followed by eBay at 20 percent, and Shopkick and Wrapp each with five percent.

When it comes to leveraging the partner relationships businesses require to thrive in today’s socially-enabled e-commerce landscape, Amazon surpasses eBay, Shopkick and Wrapp in popularity among industry leaders.

Company web site still the principal platform

Despite the buzz surrounding mobile and social as the next frontiers in e-commerce, when asked in what platform they anticipate making the greatest investment in the next three to five years, 59 percent of respondents chose their website, 35 percent selected a mobile application and 22 percent chose social networks.

“While e-commerce leaders appear to be making a greater investment in mobile and social platforms as a means for engaging with consumers and starting them on their way down the conversion funnel, the survey’s results demonstrate that e-commerce leaders continue to look to their website as a principal platform for completing the sale and achieving ROI,” said Bob Egner, vice president of Product Management and Global Marketing at EPiServer.

“Our survey results show Amazon as the clear choice for mobile commerce and Facebook in social.”

Egner continued, “Consumer confidence plays a critical role in strengthening the social and mobile commerce pipeline, but developing a contextual social and mobile commerce strategy to extend the reach of sales and delivery of services to new customers and retain brand loyalty with existing ones is important as well.”

EPiServer conducted a survey of CEOs, Vice Presidents, Directors and e-commerce Managers at more than 94 organizations including retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, catalogers, web-only merchants and local retailers.

EBay names David Marcus president of PayPal

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
David Marcus

David Marcus has been named President of PayPal

EBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) today announced that executive David Marcus has been named President of PayPal, effective April 2.

PayPal is the leading online payments provider.

A member of PayPal’s executive management team, Marcus, has been leading PayPal’s rapidly growing mobile payments business and has driven important mobile product innovations.

Reporting to eBay Inc. President and CEO John Donahoe, Marcus succeeds Scott Thompson, who left the company in January.

“David is the right leader for PayPal,” Donahoe said. “He is a successful technology entrepreneur with a passion for great products that engage and delight customers. David leads with a founder’s perspective. He will bring start-up energy to PayPal’s unmatched global reach and digital payments capabilities.

As vice president of Mobile for PayPal, Marcus has helped lead strong mobile payments volume growth and innovation, including PayPal Here.

The new global service includes a free app and encrypted thumb-sized card reader, which turns any iPhone, and soon Android smartphone, into a comprehensive mobile payments solution. With PayPal Here, small businesses, service providers and casual sellers can accept debit and credit cards, checks and PayPal, or send invoices using one simple integrated product.

“Shopping is fun, but paying is not,” Marcus said. “PayPal has an incredible opportunity to make the way people pay simple, easy, and safe – everywhere, and at scale. We’re off to a great start in 2012 with breakthrough products that will truly change the way everyone shops and pays. I’m honored and excited to be asked to lead this unique business and help make the digital wallet an amazing experience for merchants and consumers worldwide.”

In 2011, PayPal processed $118 billion in payments from over 100 million users in 190 countries, including $4 billion in mobile payment volume.

PayPal is now extending its online and mobile capabilities offline, creating innovative in store payments solutions for retailers and consumers. Home Depot recently rolled out PayPal to all of its nearly 2,000 stores nationwide, and PayPal is implementing its point of sale innovations with other national retailers this year.

Marcus joined PayPal in August 2011 after the company completed the acquisition of Zong, a leading provider of mobile payments, where he was CEO and founder.

The day the Internet stood still (infographic)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
stop SOPA

The tech and Internet communities have mounted a campaign to prevent passage of the SOPA bill.

On Wed., Jan. 18th the Internet stood up against two censorship bills pending in Congress. In the largest social declaration in history, millions of people and tens of thousands of websites boycotted or blacked out as a demonstration of U.S. gov’t sanctioned censorship. Today, both SOPA and PIPA are tabled.

Recounting the day in blackouts and tweets, Frugaldad’s new graphic, “The Day the Internet Stood Still” explains how this protest, the largest in history, signals social media as more than a forum to discuss Bieber’s new tattoo—it’s the last best place to mobilize media users.



For their part, sites like Wikipedia and Tumblr enabled emails and calls by blacking out content pages and replacing them with links to contact representatives. No day in Congressional history saw such an onslaught of contact.

Wikipedia’s black banners were viewed 160 million times. Their protest brought three times more curious visitors than normal. With over 3 million emails sent on Wednesday alone, Congressional rep. contact links were down due to traffic. And with over 400,000 phone calls to Congress, each representative received an average of 919 calls.

If passed, SOPA and PIPA would place full copyright burden on websites. This means major content hosts–sites like Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter–could face infringement charges and government shut down. Internet users owe the unpopularity and tabling of these censorship bills to the very social media platforms they endanger.


Apple and Amazon tops in customer satisfaction with retail mobile sites

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

ForeSeeE-retail giants Apple and Amazon are head and shoulders above the competition in a study of customer satisfaction with top retail mobile sites and apps released today by customer experience analytics firm ForeSee.

ForeSee was able to collect enough data to produce statistically reliable mobile satisfaction scores for 16 of the largest e-retailers inthe United States. Apple and Amazon, which scored 85 and 84, respectively, on the study’s 100-point scale, topped the list by a wide margin.

Website Satisfactionwith MobileExperience Satisfactionwith WebExperience 85 83 84 88 78 80 77 79 77 80 76 78 76 78 75 83 75 81 75 78 75 81 74 75 73 75 72 76 72 79 71 75

Shoppers like traditional web sites better than mobile versions

According to the research, shoppers are generally more satisfied with traditional websites than they are with their mobile counterparts. The average mobile satisfaction score for the 16 retailers measured in the report is 76, compared to 79 for the same companies’ websites.

However, a few companies had comparable performance on mobile and web: Apple (a standout with a mobile score two points higher than its web score), Toys “R” Us, Best Buy, Staples, Netflix, Dell, and Blockbuster.  Others reveal large gaps between the website and the mobile experience, including Avon (satisfaction 8 points lower on mobile) and Walmart (7 points lower).

Plenty of room for improvement in mobile commerce

“As the adoption of smartphones increases, more consumers are using them to access retailer websites,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee. “More and more, there is expectation that companies will address the mobile environment in ways that are effective and user-friendly. Mobile commerce is still relatively new and there is a lot of room for innovation and improvement.”

In addition, the ForeSee study shows that satisfaction with the mobile experience has a significant cross-channel impact. Mobile shoppers who are highly satisfied with their mobile experience are 54% more likely to consider the company next time they want to make a similar purchase, and twice as likely to buy from the retailer’s mobile channel again.

“Customers use mobile apps to research and make decisions, both in-store and out, and it’s not always in the retailer’s favor,” said Eric Feinberg, mobile industry director at ForeSee. “One proven way for retailers to hold on to customer’s loyalty and increase likelihood to buy is to ensure customers are satisfied across all channels.”

Other findings from the research show the growing role mobile is playing in the retail experience:

  • A third of online shoppers (34%) used their mobile phones to research products while 15% made a purchase directly from their phone, up from 11% last year.
  • One in five online shoppers (19%) used a mobile phone to compare prices or products while shopping in a retail location.
  • 19% of all online shoppers are now using mobile phones to compare prices while shopping inside a store.

“The smartphone is a powerful shopping tool and a double-edged sword. Consumers will use it to research products and check a retailer’s own site while they’re in the store, but they’ll also use it to compare prices and check out the competition,” added Freed.

“The gap between mobile experience and web experience is an opportunity for retailers as much as it is a liability.  We know consumer expectations will only continue to grow, and right now Amazon and Apple are setting a very high bar.”

About the Research

Mobile scores are based on more than 3,000 responses from visitors to the mobile sites and apps of the top 40 e-retail websites according to sales revenue as reported by Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide.

Data for online shoppers is based on more than 8,500 responses from visitors to the traditional websites of these retailers.  Survey responses were collected via FGI Research’s Smart Panel. ForeSee utilizes the methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to calculate the scores. The ACSI is the national standard for customer satisfaction, and this measure has been shown to have a direct link with stock prices and other measures of financial performance.


Generic shopping and discount terms dominated November searches

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

ChompNot surprisingly, mobile device users queried “shopping” and “discounts” significantly after Thanksgiving, marking the beginning of the holiday shopping season, according to app search engine Chomp.

Query traffic for the terms spiked over 1200% and 3000% above normal on Black Friday and stayed consistent over the long weekend before bottoming out after Cyber Monday.

On Android, larger categories such as games, utilities, and music increased their category share by at least one percent, while books, finance and sports saw small decreases in their shares.

For iOS, games decreased their share from 32.6% to 31.7% and social networking decreased from 7.1% to 5.5%. Lifestyle apps saw a small uptick from 5.2% to 6.1%.

Paid app downloads decreased from 7% to 3% on Android. The decreases were concentrated at price points lower than $2.00. Weakness was also seen at the premium price points between $4.01 and $5.00, and $9.01 and $10.00, decreasing from 0.6% to 0.2% and 0.3% to 0.1%, respectively. On iOS, paid downloads increased from 20% to 27%.

The increase was concentrated at the $.99 and $1.99 price points. The former increased from 10.3% to 15.9%. The latter increased from 4.2% to 5.2%. Price points above $10.00 also increased their share from .7% to 1.3%.

“Free” was again the top search term across all countries sampled on Android. Contract Killer debuted on the international top app list along with StumbleUpon. The top five Android apps were Dropbox, eBay, Handcent SMS, Movies and WhatsApp Messenger.

More diversity abroad

App search abroad showed more diversity on iOS. Pandora and Facebook stayed incredibly popular internationally, with the game Fragger debuting on the international top app charts. The top iOS apps for November were TuneIn Radio, Instagram, Zombie Highway, TuneWiki and Doodle Jump.

Over two billion apps are being downloaded each month and the number of available Android and iOS apps has surged to almost one million. As the number of apps increase, so does the need for effective app search.

On the Android platform, 84% of searches were made by app function (e.g. “adventure games,” “books,” etc.) and only 16% by the actual app name. On the iOS platform, 83% of searches were made by app function and only 17% by the app name.

It’s interesting that many shopping searches start with generic terms such as “free” or “games” or “discounts,” and that many app searches are also generic.

How does the download data match up with your own experience? We downloaded StumbleUpon, TuneIn Radio, Pandora, Facebook, among those mentioned, and Angry Birds, Evernote, Night of the Living Dead (game), and Twitter apps for our new Kindle Fire, which is an Amazon customized Android device.

Just as an aside, the only app that presented trouble so far was for Tumblr, which just would not accept our password, although we did access it ok from the Kindle Fire web browser.

Amazon, eBay, Alibaba grab the most global traffic in June

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

comScoreA new study of global retail and auctions sites online from comScore found that Amazon Sites reached the largest global audience with more than 282 million visitors in June, or 20.4 percent of the worldwide Internet population.

Other top brands in the study included eBay, which reached 16.2 percent of global Internet visitors, China’s Corporation (11.3 percent reach), Worldwide Sites (9.7 percent reach) and Japan’s Rakuten Inc. (4.2 percent reach).

“While retail e-commerce has already grown to become a $150+ billion annual industry in the U.S., it still presents enormous upside opportunity across much of the globe,” said Gian Fulgoni, comScore co-founder and chairman.

“Technology has changed the way consumers behave, and increasingly they are opting for the convenience and pricing advantages offered by the online channel. Several global retail brands have already capitalized on this global consumer trend, and many other retailers are sure to pursue their share of the pie.”

Amazon, eBay and Alibaba See Largest Global Audiences 
In June 2011, Amazon Sites had the largest global audience among the retail and auction sites analyzed, with more than 282 million visitors, representing 20.4 percent of the worldwide audience age 15 and older accessing the Internet from a home or work location.

eBay was not far behind with 223.5 million visitors (16.2 percent reach), followed by China’s Corporation, which includes sites such as Taobao, and Alipay, with 156.8 million visitors (11.3 percent reach). Worldwide Sites saw its global audience eclipse 134 million visitors, representing nearly 10 percent of all Internet users, while Japan’s Rakuten Inc. reached nearly 57.8 million visitors in June (4.2 percent reach).

Select Retail and Auction Sites Ranked by Unique Visitors (000)
June 2011
Total Worldwide Audience, Visitors Age 15+ – Home/Work Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix
Total Unique Visitors (000) % Reach
Total Internet : Total Audience 1,383,098 100.0%
Amazon Sites 282,233 20.4%
eBay 223,520 16.2% Corporation 156,780 11.3% Worldwide Sites 134,296 9.7%
Rakuten Inc 57,785 4.2%
Wal-Mart 44,650 3.2%
Hewlett Packard 38,491 2.8%
MercadoLibre 33,481 2.4%
Otto Gruppe 31,779 2.3%
Groupe PPR 31,686 2.3%

*Excludes visitation from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

Geographical Visitation Analysis for Retail and Auction Sites 
Analysis of the geographic composition of visitors to these select retail and auction sites revealed a mix of both globally distributed audiences and more regionally concentrated audiences. Amazon Sites and Worldwide Sites showed more globally distributed audiences compared to most other brands in the study.

Amazon Sites attracted 35.4 percent of its audience from North America, while Europe contributed 31.8 percent of visitors and Asia Pacific accounted for 24.1 percent. Similarly, Worldwide Sites attracted 32.0 percent of its visitors from North America, while Europe contributed 29.6 percent of visitors and Asia Pacific accounted for 24.9 percent.

On the other hand, China’s Corporation (85.7 percent) and Japan’s Rakuten, Inc. (72.7 percent) reach sourced the vast majority of their traffic from the Asia Pacific region. Of the 10 selected sites, MercadoLibre showed the strongest concentration of visitors from a single region with 93.3 percent of its audience from Latin America, where it ranked as the top retail player in the region.

German retail site Otto Gruppe also had a heavy single region concentration with Europe accounting for 92.3 percent of its audience. Wal-Mart had the highest concentration of North American visitors at 83.4 percent, while 45.1 percent of Hewlett Packard’s audience was North American.

Regional Audience Composition Analysis of Select Retail and Auction Sites
June 2011
Total Worldwide Audience, Visitors Age 15+ – Home/Work Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix
Percent Composition of Unique Visitors
North America Europe Asia Pacific Middle East – Africa Latin America
Total Internet 14.9% 26.7% 41.1% 8.7% 8.6%
Amazon Sites 35.4% 31.8% 24.1% 4.5% 4.2%
eBay 34.6% 46.9% 11.7% 4.0% 2.8% Corporation 4.5% 5.3% 85.7% 2.5% 1.9% Worldwide Sites 32.0% 29.6% 24.9% 8.0% 5.6%
Rakuten Inc 5.3% 19.8% 72.7% 1.5% 0.7%
Wal-Mart 83.4% 8.9% 0.7% 0.5% 6.4%
Hewlett Packard 45.1% 26.4% 14.3% 6.7% 7.5%
MercadoLibre 1.7% 4.5% 0.4% 0.2% 93.3%
Otto Gruppe 4.3% 92.3% 1.0% 2.1% 0.2%
Groupe PPR 16.1% 74.4% 2.2% 4.7% 2.6%

*Excludes visitation from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

Kabbage plants $17M B round for advances to online retailers

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

KabbageATLANTA– Kabbage, Inc., a provider of working capital for online merchants, today announced it has secured $17 million in Series B funding, led by Mohr Davidow Ventures. Existing investors participating in the round include BlueRun Ventures, David Bonderman, founder of TPG Capital, Warren Stephens, CEO of Stephens Inc., and the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund.

Several individuals also participated in the round including Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square. Kabbage will use this funding to pursue additional marketplaces, distribution relationships, new financial products and international expansion.

“All businesses, but especially those online have an unquenchable thirst for capital to grow,” Kabbage Chairman Marc Gorlin told the TechJournal in an interview. “That thirst is not being quenched by the banks. They don’t understand the data for online businesses, and even if they did, they’re not in a position to provide advances or loans under $100,000 profitably.”

He adds, “Kabbage is doing what banks don’t.”

Thousands of online merchants advanced working capital

“Thousands of online merchants have obtained working capital and grown their businesses since our push into the market in April 2011,” said Rob Frohwein, Kabbage Founder and CEO. “Although small business fuels the majority of growth in the U.S., it is extremely difficult and time consuming for these businesses to apply for and actually receive financing from a traditional bank. Kabbage fills this need by providing money to these businesses in a quick, easy and painless way, helping them to further grow their businesses and boost the economy.”

Kabbage currently supports merchants operating on eBay, Amazon and Yahoo! platforms and over the next six months will add support for merchants operating on or through a variety of other channels including Facebook, Etsy, Shopify and Marketplace at

Gorlin points out that the company has advanced funds to online retailers such as a woman selling refurbished boots and an Atlanta seller of toy trains who does business on eBay and Amazon. “He had a truck coming back from Boston to Atlanta that $15,000 from Kabbage helped him fill for the return trip. “He since doubled his money,” Gorlin says. “Payback to Kabbage has been unbelievably good.”

Kabbage uses automated data sources to analyze the health of an online merchant’s business including transaction history, customer traffic and reviews, and products to deliver working capital within seconds of the merchant’s completed application. With Kabbage’s release of profile building in May, merchants can now proactively add information to their Kabbage account to immediately increase their access to capital.

“Small and medium businesses are the growth engine of the economy and more and more of these businesses are operating online,” said Bryan Stolle, General Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures. “By using rich, multi-source data and advanced analytics to more fairly and accurately assess business performance, we believe Kabbage’s financial products will enable more businesses to expand inventory, hire new employees, and grow, thereby helping the economy get back on track.”

“There is a rapidly growing delta between small-to-medium businesses’ need for working capital and its availability from traditional sources. The knowledge gained from working with companies like Kabbage helps UPS refine its strategy of enabling global commerce,” said Joe Guerrisi, VP of Corporate Marketing at UPS.

Gorlin said Kabbage wasn’t looking to raise new money, but a number of funds approached the company after seeing what it was doing and the customers and data it was pulling in. “We thought it wise to go ahead and secure the capital now,” he said, “to get into more marketplaces faster.”

He continued, “Not a day goes by when some international company doesn’t contact us.” While Kabbage has yet to fund an international online retailer, the company plans its first several trips abroad in the next six weeks.

In addition to the funding news, the United States Patent & Trademark Office recently granted U.S. Patent No. 7,983,951 to Kabbage, entitled “Apparatus to provide liquid funds in the online auction and marketplace environment.”  [Please see today’s announcement “Kabbage Issued U.S. Patent”.]


Why Google+ will fail: social networks grow like trees, not on them

Friday, July 8th, 2011

By Henry Copeland, CEO,

Henry Copeland

Henry Copeland, founder, CEO, Blogads

Having read many claims that ‘Google+ will kick Facebook’s ass,’ I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Google+ will fail miserably.

Or at least won’t dislodge Facebook anytime soon.

First, let’s stipulate that the Google+’s technology is cool and powerful. Former NYT tech journalist Jennifer 8 Lee says “Face­book should be scared.” Over at PC World, Mark Sullivan offers “9 Reasons to Switch from Facebook to Google+.” (Here’s a video intro to Google+ if you’re interested.)

News maven Jeff Jarvis enumerates the features he thinks will make Google+ an important journalistic tool.

Jason Calacanis, the entrepreneur behind WeblogsInc and Mahalo, argues that Google+ will take “half the market” for social networking from Facebook. “Google+ will compete with Facebook as effectively as Android is competing with the iPhone.”

Google+ features that beat Facebook’s

To prove his point, Jason highlights a number of Google+ features that beat Facebook’s — features like “Forced categorization of contacts” and “Chrome Browser and Chrome Store integration” and “Android integration.”

And with more than 200 million deeply invested Gmail users, Google would seem to have a powerful launch pad.

So if Google+’s technology is brilliant, its userbase is deep, Facebook’s functionality is flawed and all the pundits are convinced Google will romp, why am I confident that Google+ will fail to beat Facebook?

Because in their Google worship and/or their focus on comparing features, the pundits are forgetting tried and true axioms about how humans adopt technology, axioms documented decades ago by tech visionaries like Gordon Moore and Clayton Christensen. Here’s my rundown.

1) Even the best carpenter can’t build a tree. Though Google+ is an elegant piece of engineering, it’s not a social network. Jason and Jeff love Google’s technical innovations. Sure, normal technology thrives because of technical brilliance, design beauty and marketing megatonnage. But social networks are affected only marginally by those factors.

Instead, in social networks, the users are the product. Users’ habits and passions and commitments to each other are the life-force that makes a social network grow. Just as you can’t build a tree from a bunch of boards, you never could have constructed Facebook or Twitter or eBay or LinkedIn or Wikipedia top-down with a bunch of prefab components.

Launching with one hundred million users or a $100 million marketing budget would have more likely killed those sites, not grown them. (One advantage Google WILL have, at least initially, is fewer bimbots than Facebook.)

2) Wrong launch users. Passionate persistent users, not brilliant designers or programmers or professional commentators, build social networks. Google+ is launching with a diffuse cloud of alpha-tester geekerati who view Google+ as a feature set to be explored, tested and rated. Having the attention span and loyalty of fleas, this jittery crowd will migrate onward within weeks to the next hot-smelling technology that swaggers into view.

Beyond sharing a common identity as “early adopters,” members of this crowd don’t (usually) care deeply about each other or share a common passion beyond a burning desire be first in using a technology. They’re users, not community members.

Google’s diffuse-by-invites strategy works fine for a tool like Gmail, which is evaluated purely as a feature set, but it won’t work for Google+. Evidence: my friend Dan Gilmore, who as an innovator and former reporter for San Jose Mercury News should have more Google+ connections than anybody, went onto Facebook to look for friends who might also be using Google+. With no luck.

It doesn’t matter to you if 1 million or even 100 million people are using a social network, if only one of your 20 key colleagues and friends are using it. With social networks, it takes at least three to tango.

3) Diffuse launch path. Social networks can ONLY start small and tight with a set of enmeshed users, then percolate slowly outward. Facebook started in a Harvard dorm, then spread across Harvard, then to Stanford, Columbia and Yale. Then other Ivy League schools. Then colleges across the US. Then high schools. Then Microsoft and Apple. Only then, 30 months after launch, was Facebook opened up to everyone.

Comparison with Twitter

Likewise, Twitter started with messages between Biz Stone, Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey and their friends in San Francisco in March of 2003. It percolated there for a year, before expanding in March of 2007 into the tightly networked SXSW crowd, folks who were hungery for a way to recreate and sustain their SXSW friendships when they left Austin. That crowd, in turn, evangelized to their social network savvy friends at businesses across the US.

For both Facebook and Twitter, initial users were tightly networked. There was a strong sense of clubbiness among community members through a long initial phase. Those members’ loyalty to the club withstood even repeated outages (on the part of Twitter) and privacy concerns (on the part of Facebook) that would have doomed a normal technology product.

4) Noisy feedback loops. One of the key reasons that launching big is fatal to social networks is because the feedback loop from users to designers to users to progammers to management to newbs to old-timers to programmers gets cluttered with noise. When a tool launches big, its designers end up trying to build a feature set that satisfies all communities — or their own peculiar whims. Most users end up with a luke-warm affection for the service. There’s no ‘sponsor’ community to advocate change or evangelize.

MIT professor Eric Von Hippel has amply documented the importance of users in driving innovation in technology domains as diverse as thermoplastics, semi-conductors and scientific instruments. Is there any doubt that user innovation would be even more crucial in shaping social networks, where the user and the product are so closely entwined, functioning as two ends of the same biocyber synapse?

Rather than launching big and broad, far better to build a “small” tool for one passionate community. Once the kinks get worked out, this template of technology and usage patterns later gets adopted/adapted by other adjacent communities. Using this approach, people like to feel they’re in a human-sized space in which their actions matter, in which their feedback into the system gets processed and used. (Gordon Moore’s bookCrossing the Chasm is awesome about this process.)

(It’s worth noting that Robert Scoble thinks Google+ is just for geeks and will survive by serving that market alone. I think geeks don’t just want to socialize with geeks… for long.)

5) Professional managers. Successful social networks evolve over time, often blossoming out of series of random, non-linear, unpredictable connections and chemistry. In retrospect, the winner’s strategy looks obvious (read Duncan Watts’ book!), but at any given moment, it is impossible to determine what feature set or user base will drive the coming decade’s NEXT dominant social network.

Professional managers, particularly of software projects, can’t tolerate this kind of nonlinear growth. In his post about Google+, Jason notes that he wrongly predicted huge success for Wave, Google’s previous attempt at social software launched with great fanfare two years ago, because Google ultimately stopped devoting resources to Wave. Why should things be different this time?

Google is a big public company that needs high-profile successes not meandering muddles that may eventually pay off. This means Google will likely give up on Google+ before it can take root, just like it killed Wave. Clayton Christensen’s brillian bookInnovator’s Dilemma gives the playbook.

6) No culture. Starting big and broad also kills the chance for a social network to develop a distinctive culture. This is crucial because a great social network is known by its culture, its lingo, its behaviors, its taboos, its history. Some examples:

Overwhelmed by the volume of information flowing from Twitter, Tweeters (not Twitter) created hashtags to keep track of ideas.

Back in 2004, the liberal blog DailyKos was playing a key role in narrating and steering the Democratic party’s primaries. The site was getting lots of favorable press, and I asked Markos Moulitsas, the community’s creator and curator, whether this attention was having a big positive impact on the community. On the contrary, Markos replied. Every time there was big press about the site, the community would flood with new users who didn’t get the site’s culture.

Traffic would spike briefly, but interaction quality would plummet. A big gush of new members busted the site’s chemistry. Then DailyKos would shrink back to its previuos size and start growing organically again. Since then, the Kos community’s richness has spawned its own yearly convention.

(Another example of Kossite culture: to this day, a novel ad campaign can’t run on DailyKos without invoking communal cries of “pie fight,” an insider reference to an infamous, bodacious 2005 ad campaign by Turner Broadcast for a Gilligan’s Island reality show.)

For another example of how growth can kill a social network’s culture, look no further than the Q&A community Quora‘s explosion/implosion early this year. Once a steadily growing service, rich with VC and tech insiders, Quora suddenly went viral in January. New users flooded into the service and quality of interactions plummeted. Despite lots of agonizing over how to sustain the growth, the site has fallen back to earth.

In contrast, the Q&A service Stackoverflow, which is tightly focused on serving specific communities and growing organically for the last three years , has overtaken Quora. Notice in the Google trends graph for the two services that Quora has gotten a huge amount of press (bottom trend box), but Stackoverflow is now far bigger.

Am I a Luddite or Google-hater? Judge for yourself. I started tweeting in March of ’07. I was LinkedIn’s 4,154th user. I even own a few Google shares — their ad business is a money-printing machine.

Summing up: Google’s great at carpentry. Gardening, not so much.

Henry Copeland is founder and CEO of Reprinted by permission from:

Henry is @hc //and blogs at

Google unveils Google Wallet, gets sued by PayPal

Friday, May 27th, 2011

GoogleGoogle Inc. has unveiled Google Wallet, a new service that allows users to pay for things via a smartlphone app, and Paypal Inc. promptly sued the company, alleging intellectual property theft.

Google’s Payments Vice President Osama Bedieris a former PayPal employee who was with the eBay owned online payments service for nine years prior to joining Google. PayPal alleges Google hired Bedieris to gain access to PayPal’s IP.

The new Google service lets users tap a credit card on an Android smartphone screen, then tap the phone to a restaurant or store credit card reader to make payments. Google will sell ads and offer coupons along with the service. Google plans to launch the service in San Francisco and New York this summer before going national. Initially, it will only work with certain specific cards.

PayPal says Bedieris put all the latest PayPal information on a computer before leaving the company.

The suit also names former eBay employee Stephanie Tilenius, who went to work for Google in 2009 and worked with Bedieris on Google Wallet.

“Sometimes the behaviors of people and competitors make legal action the only meaningful way for a company to protect one of its most valuable assets — its trade secrets,” PayPal said on a company blog Thursday.

MaxPoint’s CEO Joe Epperson on crises, computing, and creativity

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

By Grace W. Ueng

Special to TechJournal South

Joe Epperson

Joe Epperson, CEO of Max Point, addressing the NCCBA. Both photos on this page by Tingting Liu.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – On March 23rd , The North Carolina Chinese Business Association, which serves as a catalyst in bridging China-North Carolina science and technology business relationships, hosted a standing room only crowd at the RTP Foundation that came to hear Joe Epperson, the visionary co-founder and CEO of MaxPoint.

He held the attention of analytic gurus, MBA faculty and students, and entrepreneurs; many having experience with or an interest in business in China. He shared his contagious passion and inside stories on starting and successfully funding an analytics powerhouse, why he chose to move from the Bay Area – where he was an early eBay employee –  to the Triangle, and how China will someday benefit from Maxpoint’s ingenuity.

MaxPoint is a high growth and industry-leading consumer targeting technology company that serves household name brands, including those of my former Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods employer, and retail powerhouses.

They are backed by blue chip funds Trinity Ventures in the Bay Area and Seattle-based Madrona, whose success stories include Starbucks and Amazon.

MaxPoint leverages proprietary data and targeting techniques for online advertising efficiencies to drive in-store sales for the retail, CPG, and pharmaceutical verticals.

In interviewing the audience following Epperson’s talk, one SAS product manager told me what MaxPoint is doing is “really, really cool…more significant than Groupon for major retailers.”

Many were struck by an interesting fact Joe presented: 75 percent of all US consumer spending occurs at retail within 15 miles of one’s home. While people under 45 get more content online than from any other source, digital ad spending is low and mainly drives online, not offline behavior.  80 percent of online advertising is focused on the 10 percent of total consumer spending that occurs online.

Joe said that the way companies currently try to drive in-store sales is ineffective, based on the zip code concept developed decades ago.

What follows is a synthesis of the NCCBA audience’s lasting impressions from Epperson’s presentation:

1. A technology company that happens to use media.

“We are a technology company that happens to use media, rather than media company that happens to use technology,” declared Epperson.  Joe presented an online “wow” factor, real-time product visualization; demonstrating the enormous scale of the process whereby tens of thousands of impressions were being analyzed each second using MaxPoint. Thereby, he revealed their secret sauce — a unique targeting technology that allows brand owners and retailers to find the right neighborhoods online to drive in-store sales.

Rather than traditional zip code targeting, Joe’s team has developed a more precise “Digital Zip” strategy, which helps them deliver better results.  MaxPoint can do this across the entire country in real time, as he demonstrated. “Hundreds of billions dollars in market value have been generated to bring supply to demand just in time.

But what you see here is a trend that is going to emerge in the next ten years—people have the ability to bring demand to a specific point in just-in time fashion,” Joe stated.  He called this new trend  “real-time demand generation” and stressed his belief in the full potential of online advertising in driving sales. MaxPoint’s customers typically see a 10-20% lift in retail unit sales within hours of deploying their online campaign; their offering has proven to be faster and more effective than traditional promotional methods.

What stuck with many of the attendees I spoke to later is the massive scale of MaxPoint’s cloud: cluster computing that only a few dozen companies in the world have as part of their core business. Right here in the Triangle, MaxPoint is changing the landscape of online advertising, and how demographics are viewed in the digital age.

2. We try anything.

Joe said that if a potential client asked if MaxPoint could do something, he would say “yes”.  He shared a story of how saying yes to a company that everyone in the room had heard of led to catastrophic failure which later became a catalyst for MaxPoint’s success.

Like any start-up story, Maxpoint’s first years did not follow a straight path. “Every great start-up has to have that crucible moment,” Joe said. “When you have those disasters, you can choose to ignore them  or embrace and fix all the way.”

Michael Chen, President of NCCBA and CEO of New Mind Education; Grace Ueng, CEO of Savvy Marketing Group, NCCBA Advisor; Joe Epperson, CEO of MaxPoint.

Michael Chen, President of NCCBA and CEO of New Mind Education; Grace Ueng, CEO of Savvy Marketing Group, NCCBA Advisor; Joe Epperson, CEO of MaxPoint.

In the year after Maxpoint was founded, the team worked non-stop all through Thanksgiving and Christmas to fix a system problem, which resulted  in their “home run” the following year. While embracing crisis, Joe also believes in seeking opportunities.

After saying “sure, yes” to his first client when being asked whether he could do it, the “Digital Zip” concept was born. Under his “try anything” philosophy, Joe grasped potential opportunities, and led his team to make the most out of challenges and crises.

3.  Persistence in pitching and serving clients.

The audience wanted advice on how MaxPoint has become successful in having so many customers line up to work with them.  Joe pointed out two keys: one is “persistence”, and the other is “networking”.

Joe told an interesting anecdote about how his persistence opened the door to attain their first Fortune 500 global client. After flying in to meet the decision maker, Joe was told that he no longer had time to meet.

Joe continued to walk boldly into his office, was given  five minutes, and 45 minutes later they had the agreement to conduct a test with the company. After MaxPoint’s technology proved itself, this individual has turned out to be a huge advocate for MaxPoint, recommending the technology to his entire network.

4.  Relentless focus on hiring and inspiring the smartest people.

After Joe and his family decided to move to the East Coast to build MaxPoint, he thought there were two places where he could source top-notch analytics talent, and Boston was just too cold!

Joe focuses on quality of hiring, on securing the smartest folks and fueling their growth. He thinks the greatest thing about smart people is that “they could become intensely smart when you unleash them, when you let them go.” He believes that “the smart people tend to congregate with other smart people.”

Having seen Joe in action leading meetings at MaxPoint, he brings to the Triangle Silicon Valley wisdom. He describes his office as “a Silicon Valley office stuck in Cary” and is proud that “our team is a great team with great energy.” He inspires this energy and draws frequently from his experiences at eBay where he was an instrumental agent of change and worked closely with former CEO, Meg Whitman.

5.  I have a competitor.  I just haven’t seen him yet.

In spite of being a successful entrepreneur, Joe is well grounded in reality when he says that he is paranoid about staying ahead of potential competitors. With its cluster computing and analytics power, Maxpoint is doing something no one else has the capacity to right now.

Joe always has, however, potential competitors in mind, and he is preparing his team to continue to stay ahead. “I actually have a competitor, but I just haven’t seen him yet,” he continues, “That’s one of the things about technology that you always have to assume there is another person out there.”

This assumption fuels Joe and his team to strive for innovation. “I embrace the world in such a way that  whatever I build today will be copied, so we work very hard to constantly innovate.”

6. Global expansion—China: go early, go hard

In working with their global customers that are also large brand owners, Joe shared that 9 out of 10 mention China and emerging markets as where they’d like to see MaxPoint deliver a solution.

“Our biggest expansion would be global,” said Joe. “And we do believe very strongly in international expansion.”  From his eBay experiences, he learned the lesson to  “go international and go early”.  Joe believes that the emerging market such as China is “where the game is still on”.

To build a new standard in China for online advertising is both a huge opportunity and challenge. DoubleClick struggled in China and eBay is not doing well.  Timing is an issue.  And finding the right local partner to gain know-how and build a cross-cultural relationship is also critical.

Outside counsel on how to work with Chinese law and regulation to gain control over consumer data that is of good quality or restricted data required for their analytics modeling  is critical.    Consumers are quite price driven so trade promotions can work. The overall market is more fragmented than the US so understanding of the differences in Tier 1, 2, 3 cities is important for large brand owners.

Editor’s note:
Advisor to the NC Chinese Business Association, Grace Whi-Tze Ueng is founder and chief executive officer of Savvy Marketing Group which advises high potential businesses on how to maximize their chances for success. They recently announced their China practice, helping U.S. companies and investors achieve rapid, sustained success in China.

Tingting Liu and Bryce Roberts contributed to this story.

ChannelAdvisor event bringing stellar lineup to Durham in April

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

ChannelAdvisorRESEARCH TRIANGLE, NC – ChannelAdvisor, a software and services solution provider that enables online retailers to sell more across e-commerce channels, is bringing a stellar lineup of ecommerce speakers and participants from Google, eBay, Yahoo!,  and PayPal, among others, to its annual Catalyst conference networking event April 4-6.

Accelerate Your E-Commerce is thetheme of the conference, which is being held  at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club in Durham, NC.

We have attended these intimate events and they make it easy for those who attend to connect with top executives from major companies.

“This year’s Catalyst agenda includes our most exciting line-up of keynote speakers and presenters yet,” said Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor.

“We’re thrilled to have Google, eBay, Yahoo!, PayPal, Sears Marketplace and dozens of others on board to anchor this year’s event. Catalyst is an invaluable experience for attendees, bringing together the most contemporary e-commerce visionaries to address the latest technologies and trends. If you’re in online retail today, this event is a must attend.”

Leaders from the following companies are currently slated to participate:

  • Google
  • Forrester Research
  • eBay
  • eBags
  • Sears Marketplace
  • Crocs
  • Lucky Brand Jeans
  • Plow & Hearth
  • PayPal
  • Yahoo!
  • Shipworks
  • Ingram Micro Logistics
  • Cloud Conversion
  • Listrak
  • eAccountable

For more information see: