January 25, 2005

  • Canada Post Launches Fetch

    Canada Post is about to launch Fetch. The site is now live at www.fetch4.info.

    There was a brief Globetechnology article about the fact that Fetch is being piloted in Calgary (which is somewhat unusual).

    This quote from the article does a good job of explaining the service at a very high level.

    “The Fetch service allows a user to set up an account with Canada Post, and input personal contact information in confidence. When users see an advertisement from a company participating in Fetch, they request that information be sent to that on-line account, either by entering a text message on a cellphone, or through an interactive voice system.

    Advertisers would pay only when a consumer requests one of their offers, and individuals would pay nothing for the service.”

    Congrats to Warren and Tim for getting this off the ground after a huge amount of internal work.

    It will be very interesting to see how this turns out. My guess is it will be a fundamentally new way of protecting consumer privacy while letting marketing through the veil, or it will be a flop. I doubt there is a half-way for this type of model. I’m hoping for the former as I like the idea of bringing greater interactivity to the offline environment.

October 26, 2004

  • Thought

    Another great issue of Good Experience, this time dealing with the rise of the Customer-Centric Worldview. Mark Hurst makes a great case for a long-term strategic (not just tactical) shift that puts the customer at the centre of the universe, not the company. As Mark says: “Phil Terry [Mark’s partner], likens it to the pre-Copernican view of the world. Like the misguided early notion that the universe revolves around the earth, many business executives today still think that business revolves around companies”.

October 22, 2004

  • Thought

    Seth Godin spoke at yesterday’s Digital Marketing conference here in Toronto. I missed the event (deadlines, deadlines), but did want to share this snippet of his speech as reported by Marketing Magazine:

    “Average people are professionals at ignoring you. They don’t want to change what they have… That’s why they’re average. The geeks and the nerds, they’re the ones who are listening… Those are the people who are able to spread your idea.”

    I would note that “geeks and nerds” come in all shapes and sizes. There are karaoke nerds, cheese nerds, theatre geeks, sneaker geeks, supply chain management nerds, and nerd nerds.

    Our goal is to find the “geeks and nerds” who’ll care passionately about our stuff — some, like William Gibson, call them “otaku”.

October 10, 2004

  • Thought

    Jason Fried (Basecamp and 37 signals) makes a great point in his Web 2.0 Review: “Build a product that doesn’t require organizational scaling.” Ramping up staff and infrastructure killed a lot of great little businesses in Web 1.0 (that meme seems to have hit and stuck quickly).

    It’s nice seeing companies intentionally staying small, foregoing venture funding, and keeping resource requirements lean. This approach lets you innovate faster, shift with the market, and earn a profit in markets that might otherwise not be financially attractive.

    My guess is we are on the brink of a massive explosion of “nano-companies” — groups of 1 to 10 people working on filling very specific needs in the market that larger businesses can’t service profitably because they have already scaled too big to fit the size of these “nano-markets”.

October 8, 2004

April 20, 2004

  • Return Of “The Company That Should Be A Feature”

    Great post by John Battelle about one of my current favourite web apps, Furl.

    I love the concept of “nano-businesses” like Furl. That my phrase for incredibly small companies (one or two people plus free agents added to the mix when needed) that meet a VERY particular need, and do so with little or no capital involved.

    These companies can either be continuing sources of decent income for their creators, or (as appears to be the case with Furl), a way to give birth to a feature that is missing from some larger application.

    Assume you find that a big, valuable product is missing some key functionality that you’ve dreamed up. If you can keep development costs incredibly low and launch it almost as a proof of concept online, it becomes very simple for BigCo product owner to do the math and decide to buy the technology off you for a modest (to them) but also huge (to you) amount.

    This makes sense in a way that wacky dotcoms during the bubble didn’t. Back then the same concept was tried, but invariably there was venture money behind the “company that should be a feature”. That fact alone seems to swell payroll and call for huge marketing budgets which end up making the feature too rich to be bought and everyone loses.

    Now you can use open standards and the blog/feed/technorati/google ecosystem to build and promote these things cheap, cheap, cheap. Expect more of these all the time.

    (Other examples? I say Technorati, Feedster, Blogrolling, del.icio.us, and any other company trying to make money off feeds. Oh and LinkedIn, Friendster, and all YASNS.)

December 11, 2003

  • Perquest — Payroll as a Web Service

    Good overview of Perquest by Rafe Needleman at Always-On:

    “First of all, payroll is a difficult accounting function to track. According to David, there are over 3,500 payroll tax authorities in the United States, and if you mess up your compliance with one of the myriad payroll laws you could get fined. Apparently four out of 10 small businesses get nailed each year, for about $840 per infraction. So it’s important to keep a payroll system up to date, and as Marc, David, or any Web services wonk will tell you, that’s a lot easier when there’s only one central system to manage, instead of one at each of your customers’ locations. Small business owners, who are unlikely to have an IT department, are also less likely than large businesses to regularly update their line-of-business software.”

    I really like ASP/Web Services like Salesforce.com and this looks like another winner.

    The “kipple” as Philip K. Dick would call it keeps piling up in our lives blocking out what is important — the things we really get paid for (or enjoy doing for their own sake). We’re expected to manage more tasks ourselves all the time in this self-serve world. And all of those tasks become more complex and regulated over time, so the skill required to manage these tasks well often increases. Web Services and online applications can do a lot of the heavy lifting that allows people to have an “expert on call” when needed. I particularly like Rafe’s article because it points out that one of the key advantages of Perquest is the fact that best practice and legal compliance is baked into the application.

October 17, 2003

  • Thought

    Dan Bricklin Reviews “The Innovator’s Dilemma”:

    “Like many others, I have been recommending Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma for many years. Clayton, along with Michael Raynor, has just come out with a follow-on book, The Innovator’s Solution. I wholeheartedly recommend the new book to anybody dealing with innovation or corporate strategy. It looks like it will become a classic, eclipsing the previous book. Starting a new venture or a potentially disruptive product without understanding the concepts in this book is a much more risky endeavor.”

September 3, 2003

  • Thought

    Up2Speed provided commentary on amazon.com’s latest patent in “Amazon Patents Order Forms”:

    “Amazon.com Tuesday received a patent for using existing customer records to accelerate the purchase of something online by filling in details, like billing information.”

    Maybe I’m not reading this and the original CNET story correctly, but it seems that Amazon has patented pre-filling forms on websites with known user information. Can this be? This is standard operating procedure for websites that follow best practices — must we all start paying royalties to Amazon?

August 24, 2001

  • Thought

    The print version of the newly minted Business 2.0 gets two big thumbs up.

    The magazine has taken the best of eCompany Now (which was getting pretty darn good on its own over the last few issues) and the best of Business 2.0 (always a favourite) and put them together into a really nice package. My understanding is that we’ll see a bit of a redesign happening this fall, but for now it looks pretty much like eCompany with Xplanations inserted.

    One article that really jumped out and made me think a bit was this one called “Why So Many People (Not You, Of Course) Made So Many Brain-Dead Investments (And How Not to Make Them Again)”. While the article is really about the markets, I think it is also important reading for those of us working on strategic partnerships, business development and strategy building. It is very easy for these same flaws in logic to infect our thinking about business decisions as well as stock picking. Consider it a must read for Internet strategists.