All posts in “e-commerce”

Two global investors will talk token sales at Disrupt Berlin

Token sales, also called ICOs, are the new normal when it comes to early stage cash. Originally envisioned as a way to create new and unique rails for payments, customer interaction, and peer-to-peer networking the token is now both an integral part of most companies and a great way to fund a great (or awful) idea.

This year at Disrupt Berlin we’ll be joined by Zoe Adamovicz of Neufund and Kavita Gupta of Consensys. Both of these folks are seasoned blockchain investors with millions at their disposal and they’ll be talking about how investors should sail the rocky shoals of regulation, how token sales are changing the way VCs interact with companies, and how these tools will change in the future.

Token sales are here to stay but they will morph. In this Disrupt panel we’ll discuss what that means to startups, investors, and most important, the world.

Get your Disrupt tickets right now to save 30 percent off of your tickets and meet luminaries in the token space. You’ll also see the Startup Battlefield competition, in which a handful of startups pitch our judges with the hopes of winning the coveted Disrupt Cup and a cash prize.

You’ll get to chat with plenty of promising startups in Startup Alley, see amazing talks on the main stage, and unwind after a long day at the show with a cocktail and some new friends at the Disrupt after party.

Do you run a startup? The Startup Alley Exhibitor Package is your best bet to get the greatest exposure by exhibiting your company or product directly on the Disrupt Berlin show floor.

Traaqr connects your online identity with your real one

Traaqr, a St. Louis-based company, has just announced the launch of their interesting and clever new service. Essentially the system connects online interactions with real world customer service representatives, ensuring accurate attribution when someone goes from your website to your phone bank.

Created by entrepreneurs Brian Handrigan, Jeff Linihan, and RJ Jones, the company has raised $250,000 to build the product. They’ve connected over 90,000 calls already. The company launched at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.

The system works by connecting the data a website knows about you with the person answering calls made to a call center. For example, you could submit your name and request on a website and then the website can ask if you want to talk to a representative. Instead of flying blind the rep can know who you are and what you want.

“Currently, call tracking considers a call (as conversion) to be sufficient for attribution – sometimes as a lead alone, other times as an Average Conversion Value per call. Traaqr provides a level of granularity to offline conversion attribution that rivals the precision of e-commerce,” said Handrigan.

The founders created the project because they knew how hard it was to manage website-to-phone conversions. They originally had a company that generated leads online but made its money with follow-up phone calls. When the buyers got a phone call the caller wouldn’t know anything about them.

“After conducting customer development interviews with digital agency owners, we confirmed there was a huge market of advertisers that had accepted the inferior options available to them. We then decided to build out a commercially saleable product and take it to market,” he said.

While getting a phone call from a salesperson is no one’s idea of a good time, it’s clear that there could be plenty to be fixed in the adtech space. A tool like Traaqr makes the process of checking out a website and asking for more information far simpler and far more useful and, hopefully, it leads to less cold sales calls at dinner time.

Amazon just launched 6 new gadgets and none was over $150

In the year of the $1000 iPhone Amazon just announced a scattering of new gadgets and none cost more than $150. Essentially, Amazon said “screws the margins” and are selling everything as cheap as possible. This race to the bottom is Amazon’s standard operating procedure. The company did it with Kindles e-readers and again with Kindle Fire tablets. The company releases a proof of concept and lets the market respond. If the response is favorable, Amazon releases the Kraken on the market.

Amazon announced today the quirky Echo Buttons that cost $20 a pair, the $35 Echo Connect landline thing and a $70 Fire TV capable of 4K. And then there’s the swanky $99 cloth-covered Echo, adorable $130 Echo Spot alarm clock and the $150 Echo Plus, which sports all the goods from the original Echo plus a smarthome hub and comes with a Philips Hue bulb.

There’s even a talking Big Mouth Billy Bass. No word on its price, though.

If that’s not cheap enough, many of the products are available through bundles that pair an Echo with a Fire TV model so owners can experience smart home commands right out of the box.

So far the strategy worked with the Kindle and Kindle Fire tablets. In both cases, after the market liked the original model, Amazon slashed the hardware margins and flooded the market with quality hardware with MSRPs dramatically under the competition. In this most recent example, the Echo had a commanding hold on its market much like the Kindle did years ago. Amazon, following its known strategy, just sucked much of the air out of the in-home assistant market. The breadth of Amazon’s inexpensive offering is impressive.

Amazon now sells Echo products for as low as $20 and bundled a Fire TV Stick with an Echo Dot for $60. Said another way, a person could get three Fire TV Sticks and 3 Echo Dots for the price of one Apple TV 4K. If 4K is needed on the Fire TV, Amazon has a bundle for that, too, and a person could purchase two bundles of Fire TV 4K and Echo Dots for $20 less than an Apple TV 4K.

At the top of the line is the $199 Echo Look and $229 Echo Show. Both were announced earlier this year but round out a huge product line. There are now 8 different types of Amazon Echos available for purchase.

This bevy of Amazon products were announced at a pivotal time. Rumor has it Google is about to announce updates to its Google Home line including an Echo Dot-like smaller Google Home. Google was already playing catch-up and now it’s nearly inconceivable Google or Apple will be able to catch Amazon.

ipsy launches its beauty product e-commerce business Shopper as it hits 3M subscribers

ipsy, a subscription service that delivers a collection of products to its users every month, has spent the last six years building up a community with millions of people obsessed with beauty products. And now that the company has more than 3 million subscribers — with a $10 per month subscription cost — it’s ready to get a little bit more aggressive by getting directly into e-commerce.

CEO Marcelo Camberos said the company is launching Shopper, a way for ipsy’s customers to buy products directly from the site rather than wait for them to show up in their monthly Glam Bag. Now, instead of just waiting for the five beauty products in the mail every month, its users will be able to buy products from a myriad of brands on the site directly — opening up a much wider swath of the beauty industry to ipsy, which last raised $100 million about two years ago.

“We’ve never envisioned ourselves as a subscription service, we envisioned ourselves as a disruptive beauty community,” Camberos said. “Our mission is to inspire individuals around the world to express their unique beauty. Everything we do is about self-expression. The Glam Bag and everything else has all been super personalized from the beginning. When I came up with the name for the company, the legal name, it was Personalized Beauty Discovery Inc., it was always meant to be about personalized beauty.”

And this kind of move is not only inspired by the opportunity to get into e-commerce but the company’s ability to build a very robust understanding of who actually uses ipsy and how to grow. Each month, the company produces more than 10,000 variations of its Glam Bags based on the recommendations it generates from the hundreds of data points from its users. That’s meant ipsy has had to build out a big team focused on machine learning as it looks to chase the demands of its users before they even realize they want certain products.

“There’s a lot of lip service around data, and I think even for us in the first two years, we talked a lot about data,” Camberos said. “We’ve made huge investments in it. From the very beginning we’ve had a quiz. Most people who take the quiz connect their Facebook accounts. We have hundrteds of specific data points, people want to give us that data because they want us to give them better products. We get over 5 million product reviews every month. We have a team of over 40 people who do that. If we do a good job, [customers] stay with us a lot longer, and they’re likely to tell their friends how great ipsy is.”

ipsy also said it will be divesting EM Cosmetics, a brand led by co-founder Michelle Phan, as it looks to be more of a neutral party where brands can come and get their products into the hands of users. Rather than building direct-to-consumer brands, Camberos said it wants to utilize its massive community of 8,000 influencers to help brands more effectively reach customers — whether they’re well-known or emerging brands that are looking to get their start. All this is an effort to tap a growing audience of beauty enthusiasts that aren’t just going to malls and retailers to pick up their products.

As ipsy looks to grow, it’s going to lean heavily on that word of mouth and keep its cost of customer acquisition low. With millions of users paying $10 a month, it has the leeway to heavily invest in this new emerging business. But it also has to be careful not to fall into the trap of emerging consumer brands that end up aggressively spending to expand into new markets — especially ones that are outside of their sweet spot, which is often urban markets. ipsy, however, has always had a big following in middle America and is able to grow in multiple markets outside of just the urban bubble, Camberos said.

“We’ve never been an urban company,” he said. “We do over-index in beauty enthusiasts and people who really see beauty as a way to express themselves. They’re maybe less the beauty traditionalists, and maybe that’s why we’re a little less popular in the coasts. It’s not even about targeting, it’s about who’s really gravitated to our service. It’s people who are really into self-expression, but it’s not really been a coastal thing. Our base state is pretty stable, very representative of the whole country.”

One of the biggest challenges now, Camberos said, will actually be holding on to the machine learning team that it’s assembled. ipsy has the luxury of getting a lot of data around a specific set of products, meaning it’s a playground where engineers have an opportunity to experiment and rapidly adapt to the demands of their users. It may be in beauty, but it’s a problem that’s very attractive to the team it’s built by virtue of the data and the complexity of the operation.

Phan played a big part in building momentum for ipsy, but Camberos said that it’s build up a large enough influencer network that the company will help do a good job of ramping up its new e-commerce side on its own. While there’s certainly demand for products like this — Stitch Fix, for example, has built a business strong enough that it has confidentially filed to go public — there are also a lot of businesses that are still trying to figure out their footing. But with a robust customer base, Camberos is hoping that ipsy will be able to target a market it’s always expected to go after at some point — and that now is the right time.

Ethereum will match Visa in scale in a ‘couple of years’ says founder

The mind behind Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, is matter-of-fact about the crypto. In short, he believes what interviewer Naval Ravikant called “brain virus” is the true future of security and economics and, with the right incentives, Ethereum can replace things like credit card networks and even gaming servers.

Buterin separates the world into two kinds of people.

“There’s the average person who’s already heard of bitcoin and the average person who hasn’t,” he said. His project itself builds upon that notion by adding more utility to the blockchain, thereby creating something everyone will want to hear about.

“Where Ethereum comes from is basically you take the idea of crypto economics and the kinds of economic incentives that keeps things like bitcoin going to create decentralized networks with memory for a whole bunch of applications,” he said. “A good blockchain application is something that needs decentralization and some kind of shared memory.”

That’s what he’s building and hopes others will build on the Ethereum network.

Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum Foundation) and Naval Ravikant at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017

Right now the network is a bit too slow for most mainstream applications.

“Bitcoin is processing a bit less than 3 transactions per second,” he said. “Ethereum is doing five a second. Uber gives 12 rides a second. It will take a couple of years for the blockchain to replace Visa.”

Buterin doesn’t think everything should run on the blockchain but many things can. As the technology expands it can grow to replace many services that require parallelization — that is programs that should run at the same time.

“You could run StarCraft on the blockchain. Those kinds of things are possible. High level of security and scalability allows all these various other things to be built on top. Ethereum is a secure base layer that doesn’t have too many features.”

“Crypto is all about incentives on various levels,” he said. “You cannot reason about the security of blockchain consensus protocols without incentives.”

UPDATE – Buterin clarified his point: