By Allan Maurer
CARY, NC – When Michael Bender and his InfusedCommerce co-founders created a technology that will embed a buy option directly into an online ad, it didn’t take long to figure out where to start offering it to customers. “We realized you could embed this technology anywhere, but the people we talked to wanted it on Facebook,” he says.
Bender, president, Brian Cary, lead developer, and Arthur Tew, business development manager, started InfusedCommerce in March 2010 and it is now one of the first companies in the Cary TechStarts+ accelerator.
“We started getting value from TechStarts Plus immediately,” Bender tells us. “There is a big advantage to being surrounded by tech people and startup people who have been there before. Even the water cooler talk is more interesting and applicable.”
In addition, the company gets advice from TechStarts+ head honcho, Bob Butler, himself a successful serial entrepreneur currently running BestThinking.com and ReallyWho.com in addition to TechStarts. Butler has a passion not only for helping other entrepreneurs but for boosting the Research Triangle area’s startup ecosystem to another level.
The entrepreneurial bug bit early
Bender says his own entrepreneurial instinct goes back to his childhood. “I was selling charm bracelets while everyone else was selling lemonade,” he says. “My mother was the bracelet manufacturer.”
He started a company to develop a wireless sensor network for construction site security when he graduated from college (with a BS in electrical and computer engineering from NC State) and got it in front of several local angels. But, says the 29-year-old Bender, “Most didn’t think I had the gray hair or experience to take it to market.”
He then spent four years at a software company which serves Fortune 1000 companies. He was responsible for a $500K business unit. He left his position in 2009 to help start Infused Industries.
Start a Facebook store in minutes
InfusedCommerce can quickly (within 10 minutes) create a branded Facebook store with payment and shipping options. That let’s the seller run exclusive product offerings, limited time promotions, on-going Facebook only deals, and promotion events that help grow the company’s fan base.
The Facebook stores integrate with a company’s standard processes. “We take a link from their products, a product feed, and enter than in our system,” Bender explains. “That sources the store with product information.”
Just putting products you can buy directly on a Facebook page does marginally better than a standard web site store, Bender notes. “A Facebook user education process has to occur so people know merchants are employing stores and Facebook is a place to shop.”
While that educational process will occur over the next few years, Bender says in the meantime, merchants can connect their products to Facebook promotions such as running a sweepstakes with a purchase component in the sweeps promo itself. “It reduces the friction on how you get there to make a purchase,” Bender says.
“That’s where a social media agency play comes in,” explains Bender.
InfusedCommerce also offers services to help make a firm’s “Facebook Commerce or F-Commerce” successful. “The business is pretty service heavy right now,” Bender says. “We help them identify what sorts of promotions work best.”
News feed product set for Q3
But the Facebook stores are just the tip of the InfusedCommerce ice berg. The company will also offer a technology that permits transactions from a Facebook news feed itself. It plans to start offering that service to help non-profits – and with the election year near – politicians, raise money.
The idea of targeting the political ecosystem will be “an interesting experiment,” says Bender. Facebook certainly attacts politically inspired comments, because as Bender notes, “Most people have strong views.”
The company plans to launch the news feed product in Q3.
For an article describing Go Smile’s experience using InfusedCommerce for Facebook Commerce, see:Solving Customer Experience Problems with Social Commerce: Infused Facebook eCommerce.
TJS article about TechStarts+ (it was orginally called TechSuites+)