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Sunday, July 24th, 2011

These $1Billion+ Brands Began As Something Different


Some of the most successful products of all time began as something else — I love coaching entrepreneurs on this fact!

The morale of the story is: get started on building your products because the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll know what amazing product you can build!

Here are 10 of my favorites products that began as something else:

Bubble Wrap

Two engineers, Marc Chavannes and Aldred Fielding, sealed two shower curtains together to create a new type of wallpaper (with bubbles in it). It was later marketed as greenhouse insulation.

It wasn’t until years later that Bubble Wrap would be used to help protect IBM computers during shipping.

BubbleWrap is also ranked #22 in my list of The Top 100 Brands Synonomous With Their Product Category.


It was at first a patent medicine invented in the late 19th century by John Pemberton.

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Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Tips On How Local Businesses Use Social Media

  • When I attended the Social Currency CrunchUp, there was a panel of businesses (all local except one (Levi’s)) whose members mentioned some tid-bits on how social media was working for them.

Here are my notes from the panel:

Curtis Kimball, The Creme Brulee Man

  • Sells Creme Brulle, primarily in San Francisco and changes his location (a cart) regularly
  • His customer Acquisition focuses on Twitter
    • Has 14,100 followers) because it’s so easy…a majority of my customers come from Twitter or from friends who are on Twitter.
    • Doesn’t have a fixed address because he doesn’t have a permit (“Permitting situation in San Francisco is a nightmare.”)

    the creme brulee man

Dr. Robert Vaksman, Dentist

  • “Nineteen percent of our traffic comes from Facebook Page (>100 fans)…and some of them are coming in to the office.”
  • Uses Twitter and YouTube too

Dan Yoo, Stone Korean Kitchen (Restaurant owner with 50+ seats)

  • Groupon has filled his restaurant more than 50 times ($35 worth of food for $15)
  • Had to pay Groupon 50% ($7.50) of what customer paid
  • One thing he’d like to know is how many of his Groupon customers came from the 94110 zip code (so that he can remarket them).

Oren Jacob, Ready, Set, Bag! (Movie maker)

  • Used Groupon to sell tickets to his documentary…for free he has the market reach that a large movie maker has — “It levels the playing field.”
  • Groupon helped him do 2 things:
  1. Drum up publicity (because people saw the film promoted on Groupon)
  2. Sold tickets to the actual movie

Note: He’d like to see more demographic information on these customers that Groupon generated for hm

Megan O’Connor, Levi’s

  • Focuses on Facebook — 520,000 Fans who can “like” Levis and particular promotions
  • Tracking: “We can track some sales (from offers) (on Facebook).”

Note: The panel was moderated by Erick Schonfeld and David Hornik.

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Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason Shares A Few Thoughts


I was at the recent CrunchUp and Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason shared a few interesting factoids about his business with Michael Arrington.

I chatted with Andrew during a coffee break — seems like a nice guy. We both have close friends who graudated New Trier High School in Winetka, Ill.

The first thing that struck me is how casual he appeared — t-shirt, jeans sandals and a low-key personality.

I thought it was cool how this mellow guy is revolutionizing commerce and putting Chicago on the map for Internet business (I imagine you’ll see numerous new Chicago Internet startups as early Groupon employees cash out (some already have) of this multi-billion dollar business to start new businesses.)

Below are my notes from some stuff that he and Arrington shared onstage:

Some Groupon Numbers:

  • $1 million in revenue per day (this is what Arrington heard and Mason didn’t confirm nor deny it)
  • 1,000 employees
  • 12 million people receiving an email every day (with 2 million new ones added each month)
  • Gross Margin is 50%
  • Repeat Rate: “97% of businesses we feature want to be featured again.”
  • Breakage Rate is around 10% (e.g. 10% of Groupon users do NOT redeem their coupons).

Groupon Customer Acquisition

The top sources of [free] customers for Groupon:

  1. Facebook is the top
  2. Twitter is a close second

The bulk of paid customer acquisition for Groupon is Facebook and Google.

Other interesting Groupon Factoids:

  • Regarding Groupon clones, he says “the basic idea of Groupon is not something we can have a patent on”
  • We have 6-month waiting lists on Groupon for many cities.
  • “A lot [of the $135M raised in the last round] was taken off the table…by early founders.”
  • An example of one Groupon deal that didn’t work: Slippers with flashlights didn’t work
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