SmartPrice.com 14 Years Later

SMartPrice T1, VoIP, Data Solutions for Businesses and Consumers.It was fourteen years ago this week that I joined with two very smart gentlemen as we pushed forward to seek funding and launch SmartPrice.com. At the time my first daughter was about to be born, we had just purchased a new home, yet I decided to throw caution to the wind. I left a great role with a major consulting firm – the same firm that had taught me all about the burgeoning world of eCommerce and digital marketing.

Living in Austin, Texas there was a buzz around start-ups and a sense of confidence that any business model could be successful. Companies were raising money left and right. Concepts were derived on scraps of paper and anything was possible. Austin was the epicenter in Texas of venture capital backed ideas leading to the moniker “Silicon Hills“.

The two gentlemen I mentioned previously were Jeff Hoogendam and Jim McKinley. Both were/are wicked smart and determined. Little did I care that we ended up taking five months to get funded (and just as the door was closing on funding for new businesses and the dotcom bubble was expanding to that point of elasticity where stretching makes a squeaking noise). We were having fun and developing a revolutionary business that would help change the way people shop for goods and services.

SmartPrice was simple – visitors go to a website, put in basic information about telephone usage and location and multiple options of varying prices are returned. On average, SmartPrice customers saved 30% or more on long distance telephone service (in 1999/2000 that was important before cell phones proliferated). In exchange for providing the information and a conduit for switching, SmartPrice was paid a commission by the new carrier. SmartPrice is still a working company today; though not active in acquiring new users.

Now, as I look back, I would not have changed anything. While my risk aversion has increased, I still crave the chance to start another company. Perhaps it is time…what will I look back on fourteen years from now?

Great Comfort Food in Richmond, VA

Our parent company for DealTaker.com is in Richmond, VA.  Our team was there the week before last and were treated to dinner at a local restaurant called Comfort on Broad Street.  The restaurant itself was homey and relaxing.  The home-cooked food was amazing.  From the Surrey Sausage for an appetizer to the mouth-watering pulled pork (I had the mashed potatoes and macaroni & cheese for sides) to the chocolate mousse, every bite was awesome.  When in town there, definitely check it out.

Great Concept – NewatNoon

The company which I run – DealTaker.com – released a new product this week to provide a unique way to find deals on individual items in a fun and interesting way.  The concept is called NewatNoon.  The premise – a new product, each and every day, at noon eastern time.  Why eastern time?  Our parent company is based on the east coast and it is easier to start with the “first noon of the day” in the US.

Soon, more categories will be added to continue to make the shopping fun.  We are shooting for a “oh my gosh” factor where people will find the items so interesting that they will forward to more and more friends to share.  Come along and enjoy the ride :)

Kstraw Walks – The LA Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

I have been so busy focused on getting updates to a new blog, posting information on DealTaker, and tweeting that I overlooked MindCradle.  I am participating in the Los Angeles Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.   I started training 17 weeks ago (just walking to get into shape again to start playing indoor soccer) and about 8 weeks ago the opportunity to participate in this walk came up.  I am joining the Affiliate Marketers Give Back team which consists of affiliate marketers from the affiliate side as well as the merchant side.  The walk is 40 miles over two days and will be quite a challenge.  As part of the walk, I am also working to raise awareness and money.  If you are interested in helping out with a donation of any size, please go here –  http://tk2.us/donate4AvonWalk.  To see more of my updates on a blog I have dedicated to this event, please go here – http://kstrawwalks.wordpress.com.

Thank you for your support.

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What is Better – Saving More with Deals or Getting Cash Back/Miles?

Loyalty programs are something that have always intrigued me.  Sometimes it seems like the sheep follow a little too closely instead of actually looking at the price of what is being paid.  For example, is it better to fly RT to a place you want to go for $199 on an airline you never really use, or pay $239 for the airline you always use just to get miles in your loyalty program?  I know people who are so loyal and determined to get the miles that they will (gladly) pay the extra $40.  Let’s say that trip is from DFW to ORD (Chicago).  Having flown that route about 150 times, I am very aware that it is 802 miles each way for the purpose of calculating FF miles.  Even if I am platinum, that is 3,208 miles.  If I am paying $40 for those miles ($.0125 per mile) I am valuing them at even less than the airlines do (they accrue $.02 per mile on their books).  To look at it another way, 3,208 miles is roughly 1/8th of a “free ticket”.  $40 x 8 = $320.  What could you do with $320?  Buy another $199 ticket to Chicago and have a really good dinner at Shula’s…gives new meaning to the phrase “Dollars and SENSE”.

Video Fun and E-commerce

Working in e-commerce for a decade now has been a blast.  So much has happened, and so much is still to come.  It is interesting looking back as a ten year veteran that started not long after e-commerce and internet marketing originated and seeing what has changed and knowing I have been a part of some of the biggest pieces.  In tribute, my colleague Patrick Terrell and I created a video related to Affiliate Summit West 2009 that we attended in Las Vegas this last week.  Without further adieu –

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek67Ps7_vXU]

This video is a spoof on Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s “you want us to host the Espy’s” video.  I’ll add this here as well because it is worth the extra two minutes to watch.  [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI_FO4QaIR4]

Black Friday is BIG – Cyber Monday is BIGGER

Now that the holiday season is officially here for 2008 (Yes, it is a late Thanksgiving by most years’ standards) the two biggest shopping days of the year happen in the next 96 hours. Those days are Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Being around retail the last 10 years or so, I know how big of a time this is for retailers big and small.  This year has an even bigger feel to it with the economic conditions that are provoking some retail companies either into bankruptcy or contemplating it.Black Friday Shopping

Much earlier than usual, I have seen Black Friday Ads popping up all over the place.  Notably, I have also heard less claims of legal action against websites posting “leaked” ads this year.  I think that definitely signifies that retailers are willing to accept all help in marketing at all costs.  Sites like DealTaker.com that conglomerate ads into one spot are a great way for shoppers to plan for the big shopping day in the stores.  Stores like JCPenney, Sears, Toys R Us, and others have ads that are posted with some really good deals.

Cyber Monday ShoppingNot being one to go from store to store on the busiest day of the year, I tend to wait for Cyber Monday and all the great deals that will be had that day as well.  Instead of fighting everyone for parking, the last Wii, and a spot in line at the food court, I will sit at my desk and price comparison shop and find even better deals.  Most of those items will then be shipped right to me or my intended recipient (often with Free Shipping).

Alas, a Happy Thanksgiving to all.  Eat well, shop hard, and enjoy those around you.