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Monday, October 10th, 2011

99Designs: One Of The Best Web Apps I’ve Ever Used

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I’m on the Web all the time — I estimate I’ve looked at more than 50,000 Web sites in my lifetime

When one of them stands out, I like to spread the word.

99Designs is one such Web site.

99Designs solves a common problem in an unusual way: it allows you to submit your design requirements to their audience of designers who compete to win your project (or “contest” as they call it).

I tested them out for a logo I needed for a personality type site I do in my spare time. It hasn’t launched yet but it’s going to be called “TopTypes.”

Since real-life examples are more useful, I took screen shots of the experience I had running a design contest on 99Designs for the TopTypes logo I needed.

Step 1: Pick What You Want Designed

You can choose from such categories as:

  • Logos (that’s what I chose)
  • Web Design
  • Stationary
  • T-Shirt Design
  • Other
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Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Specialty’s Warm Cookie Radar: Now That’s A “Sticky’ Use Of Techonology!

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Specialty’s Cafe (a small chain of eateries) will alert you when their cookies come fresh out the oven at your favorite Specialty’s location.

Talking about “customer stickyness” — that’s customer “gewyness!”

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Monday, April 18th, 2011

Wanted: “Swiss-Army Knife”-Like Founding Engineer Who Wants To Help Cut Out The Middleman ($80,000 to $200,000)


This job was filled on July 1, 2011 — thank you!

Location: San Francisco, California; Pay Range: $80,000 to $200,000; Deadline For Applying: June 30, 2011

Your hiring manager is Rob Kelly (writer of this blog) pictured in 2010 on an ABC TV show

I asked all-star recruiter Jason Webster to do a Question & Answer session with me on the details of the Web Applications Engineer position I’m filling; so you can get a better feel for what I’m looking for.

The Q&A

Why is this position open?

This position opened up because we are forming a new business and now have the seed capital in place to hire the first developer.

Why the wide range ($80K to $200K) for salary?

Our first technical hire can be someone with just a few years experience on up to someone with 20 years experience.

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Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Etsy: The “eBay of Handmade Goods” Worth $258 Million?

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I was on an interesting conference call by Arcstone Equity Research & SharesPost in which they walked through the Web business Etsy.

New York-based Etsy is clearly a company on the move.

What Is Etsy?

The gist of Etsy’s business is that they’re a marketplace of hand-made goods (sort of eBay but primarily hand-made)…here’s a screen shot showing you some of the types of things they sell.

Disclaimers: The #s I mention are not from Etsy (they are all estimates based on Arcstone Equity Research & SharesPost)

Special thanks to Arcstone & SharesPost for all the graphs below:

Etsy’s Growing As Fast As Alibaba (But Not As Fast As eBay)

Etsy Business Model

  • Taking 3.5% of every sale and $.20 per item for a listing fee
  • Selling advertising (where they make about half their money)

Etsy Revenues, Profits, etc.

  • Estimated Valuation: $258 Million
  • Estimated Revenue
    • $16M in 2009 ($180 million in gross transaction values)
    • $30M in 2010 (on $335 million in gross transaction values)
    • Around $54M is projected in 2011
  • Profitable
  • 120 employees

Etsy’s Team

Top Officers

  • Robert Kalin
  • Chad Dickson (Yahoo)
  • Alan Freed (Google)

Outside Board Members

  • Jim Breyer
  • Fred Wilson
  • Caterina Fake

Etsy Competition

Some sites like Etsy are:

  • eBay (both through its own service and through acquisition of World of Good)
  • ArtFire
  • DaWanda (in England, France & Germany)
  • 1000 Markets
  • Bonanzle

Etsy Financing To Date

Other Etsy Highlights

  • 4.4 Million members
  • Hired a new COO (Alan Freed) from Google last year who has an emphasis on International
  • 2 million of 5 million products are Jewelry

Etsy’s Valuation

  • $258 Million (10X Annual Revenues (discounted 15% for lack of marketability))

My Take On Etsy

Fascinating Internet business on the move…a real niche dominator.

My best guess as to what will happen with Etsy: They will go public or be acquired by Amazon (Amazon loves to take out companies when they’re in the $100 million to $500 million per year revenue and if they own a niche).

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Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Watch Out For Startup SeatGeek: They Could Get Very Big


Secondary ticket vendor SeatGeek got more financing ($550,000 from its New York-focused investors) and I see them getting super-popular.

This New York-based startup does a fantastic job of aggregating concert and sports tickets from such after-market Web sites as:

  • StubHub
  • TicketsNow
  • eBay
  • TicketNetwork
  • RazorGator

You Can Easily See Which Tickets In Which Areas Are Cheapest

The reason I think they’ll do so well is that if customers are like me they have this feeling that they’re getting ripped off when they check out just StubHub for tickets — SeatGeek gives you a few other options so users should take comfort that they’re getting a much better price.

And some of you ask me for tips on new companies to work for; I notice that SeatGeek has 6 openings right now:

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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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Saturday, March 20th, 2010

How To Process Credit Cards In-Person With No Merchant Account (It’s Called “Square”)

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I believe the new payment application SquareUp (some call it just “Square”), which allows anyone to accept credit cards in person, is a game-changer in business.

I just bought a book using it from author Dom Songalla (pictured below) at a conference we both attended — it was simple yet powerful.

Rob Kelly & Dom Sogalla at The Twitter |140 Conference

Author Dom Sogalla Shows Rob Kelly the SquareUp-Enabled iPhone

Dom simply popped his credit reader reader  into the phone jack of his iPhone; and then swiped my credit card for $20.

A Square-Up Enabled iPhone

A Square-Up Enabled iPhone

Here’s the receipt I received via email (note that it shows me the location of my purpose):

Receipt from SquareUp Transaction

The whole thing really took just three steps:

  1. The author swiped my credit card on his iPhone
  2. I signed my signature with my finger on his iPhone screen
  3. He typed in my email and emailed me my receipt

And the beauty is that Square does not require you (the seller) to have a merchant account to accept credit cards — and there appears to be just one fee (2.9% of the transaction amount).

Others, including PayPal’s new Bump iPhone App, are also getting in the market of exchanging money between phones.

I like Square chances as much as anyone’s as it has smart folks like its co-founder Jack Dorsey (creator of Twitter) and Board member Gideon Yu (previous executive at Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo) behind it.

Click here for tweets from some Square advisors.

And since SquareUp is still in beta, you’ll have to go to the bottom of Square’s home page and give your email address to get in line to receive the card reader.

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Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Discover How To Network Like This Top Web Site CEO

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I chatted with DocStoc Founder & CEO Jason Nazar the other day.

You should know abut Jason and DocStoc because Jason is an amazing networker (among other things) and DocStoc has been one of the fastest growing Web sites in the last few years (ranked 407th by Quantcast with 15 million unique visitors per month, according to DocStoc).

Jason and I had a little chat in which I asked him a few questions. He agreed to let me share it with you.

Q: Hi Jason, you really value business networking — tell me your philosophies.

I personally enjoy networking. I like meeting smart, interesting successful people.

From a professional standpoint, I believe the principal of it’s “who you know not what you know” is very true.

One thing about the Internet is that we spend a lot of time behind our computers…you’ve got to get out there and meet people.

Typically the larger the network you have, the more opportunities you have.

We spend a lot of time behind our computers…but business still gets done in person.

People want to work with other people they like, trust and respect.

And you don’t do that by just sending emails and sending IMs…you have to get out and meet people.

And if you want to have opportunities such as getting hired, raising money, building your company, and hiring the right people…you need to have a large network.

Typically, the larger your network is the more opportunities you have.

The business we’re building is a consumer-facing Internet company – we’re trying to get pretty much everyone in the world to use DocStoc.

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