Archive for the ‘vendor’ tag
Interestingly, I’ve been meeting more compliance, legal, and governance professionals in meetings involved in brand side discussions around social business strategies. To understand the needs of this specific role’s goal is to protect the company but enable business to connect to customers Altimeter conduct an Open Research project
My colleagues Analyst Alan Webber and Researcher Jaimy Szymanski interviewed 33 professionals and vendors on the front end of social media risk management and surveyed 92 professionals who said social media risk management was either a significant part or the primary part of their job. The result is our report Guarding The Social Gates: The Imperative For Social Media Risk Management which looks at the newly emerging field of social media risk management.
If you’re a social strategist, (or serve one on agency or vendor side) it’s important you know how to manage risk as you roll out social business programs. Please forward this research report to those who are guarding the gates.
This report includes
- Interviews with 33 professionals of vendor and risk management, including those from top brands.
- Survey of 92 professionals who have a significant part or the primary part of their job in risk management
- Nearly a dozen frameworks, graphics, charts, and flow diagrams
Let’s face it, apps are the new sexy. They’re an easy path to success, right?
With companies like Instagram being purchased for $1 billion, everyone hopes their application is going to become the next big hit. But with the hundreds of thousands of apps on the market, only a few are going to be huge successes.
This is where platform choice becomes critical. Having reliable vendors, massive distribution channels, and the ability to rapidly bring products to market sounds like a gift from the startup gods. At the same time, relying too much on a single vendor, a single distribution channel or a single product can make it difficult to both scale and stay successful. The platform you choose may determine the fate of your business. Instead of relying upon OPP (other people’s platforms), why not build, control, and own your own?
Entrapment by the “Gang of Four”
In the book, The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business, author Phil Simon explains how the “Gang of Four” are leveraging their platforms to succeed, making thousands of other businesses and millions of consumers reliant on them in the process. Few talk about the Internet without talking about these platforms.
- Amazon: Amazon’s platform powers some of the largest websites. When you hear of a problem with AWS (Amazon Web Services), you hear about major websites going down, from established giants like Netflix to growing startups like Quora. There are certainly advantages to allowing Amazon to do the heavy lifting for your business, but becoming too heavily invested in a single provider creates other issues, such as vulnerability to their terms, pricing, technological changes, and downtime. That’s why companies like Twitter and Zynga are increasing investment in their own data centers to support their mission-critical operations and limit exposure to OPP.
- Apple: Many online businesses also use their vendor as their primary distribution channel, creating increased platform risk. If Apple decides to change its rules for apps, your business may suddenly be at risk if the company rejects your feature. Or, it may decide to incorporate your feature into its platform — suddenly, your business is obsolete.
- Facebook: With Facebook updating its policies and updating its layout regularly, it’s becoming harder to adapt to the evolving platform changes. Again, Zynga is expanding outside Facebook to further reduce its reliance on OPP. Like Apple, Facebook takes a 70/30 split on sales through its platform, but 30 percent is significantly more than the 2-4 percent in processing fees you’d pay if selling through your own website.
- Google: Everyone wants to be at the top of Google’s search results because it’s free advertising. To a small business, that free advertising can be a significant driver of revenue. However, being too heavily reliant on Google can be devastating when it makes an algorithm change — just ask the small businesses who were affected by the recent Penguin algorithm update.
Why Digg failed
When I asked Phil Simon about Digg, he said, “I wouldn’t say that Digg failed ‘as a platform’ because I’m not entirely convinced that it ever was one. They made two fundamental mistakes: their improvements weren’t innovative enough, and companies like Twitter and Facebook more or less co-opted Digg. In 2004, the idea of doing one thing on one site made sense; but in the Age of the Platform, people no longer want to use single-purpose sites as much as all-encompassing platforms.”
Digg never became a critical tool in the arsenal of its customers in the same way the Gang of Four have. It wasn’t a platform customers relied upon for critical needs, and so its disappearance caused no pain to anyone but its VCs.
Why Instagram was different
While Instagram leveraged the Gang of Four, it became its own social platform in the process, with people relying on it to power their photo sharing experiences. Certainly Instagram’s growth wouldn’t have been as explosive if it wasn’t for OPP, but it still controlled its own destiny and caused a rushed acquisition to thwart the hugh threat to Facebook.
You don’t need to build a massive global platform to succeed, but you will need to do two things: limit your exposure to OPP, and become your own platform.
Your website, your platform
Unfortunately, small businesses still have the mentality that a website is just for marketing, when in fact, your website can become a vital tool in your arsenal and serve as the launching platform to scale your business while limiting exposure to OPP. But if your website is not a critical part of your operation, then it’s not a platform and can’t be sufficiently leveraged to scale your business — yet.
Regardless of how popular OPP become, your website can be the platform upon which you can control your own destiny. With the least exposure to external forces, ultimately, your website can be the foundation upon which you build all other services — including mobile applications. Plus, wouldn’t it be cool to have people build on top of your platform, and make it so they can’t survive without it?
Take the first step: define the critical operations of your business, then start planning a website platform around them.
Mark Cenicola is the President and CEO BannerView.com and the author of “The Banner Brand: Small Business Success Comes from a BannerBrand, Build it on a Budget.”
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.
Image via kirainet/Flickr
Filed under: Entrepreneur
I reached out to Starbucks for some clarification on how its new partnership with mobile payments vendor Square will work. Here are the answers from Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson.
Rocky Agrawal: Will Starbucks be installing the Square dongle at POS and processing transactions through that or using existing POS systems?
Zack Hutson: Starbucks will not have Square Card Readers or Square Register at the point-of-sale at this time. Square will integrate with Starbucks POS so that card payments are handled by Square. We are always looking for innovative ways to enhance the customer experience and operational efficiencies. However, we do not have plans for implementing the readers in this way at this time.
RA: Does this affect existing Starbucks stored-value products, or does it only apply to credit and debit transactions?
ZH: This is for all credit and debit card transactions – including when you load money onto the Starbucks stored-value card.
RA: Will consumers who make purchases with credit or debit cards (not Pay with Square) have the option for email receipts as they do at other Square merchants?
RA: Is Starbucks committed to any marketing of Pay with Square?
ZH: Customers will be able to use Pay with Square at approximately 7,000 Starbucks locations. Starbucks locations will be listed in the Square Directory.
RA: Does this mean any changes to the existing Starbucks Mobile apps?
ZH: Starbucks will continue to offer customers its own mobile payment applications, enhanced with My Starbucks Rewards benefits. However, for current customers using Pay with Square, this opens up a new way to pay at Starbucks.
RA: What proportion of Starbucks transactions are currently done on the mobile apps?
ZH: We don’t break that out but can tell you that we have more than 1 million mobile payment transactions per week in the US.
RA: If someone uses Pay with Square, does he still get credit toward the Starbucks loyalty program, or does that only work with the Starbucks app?
ZH: At this time, Pay with Square will be a separate payment option from the Starbucks mobile payment applications, which are integrated with the My Starbucks Rewards program. Our goal is to eventually integrate My Starbucks Rewards into the Pay with Square payment option.
So, for die hard Starbucks junkies, it seems the best bet in the short term is to pay with your Starbucks card or the Starbucks mobile app.
The Square implementation for Starbucks is a custom implementation that doesn’t incorporate the things that Square has been known for: the dongle, the iPhone and iPad apps at the merchant, signing with your finger, or the Square Register.
[Top image credit: Square]
Danny Brown, VP of social CRM vendor, Jugnoo, writes one of the most useful social media focused blogs on the planet. He regularly takes on the hard topics and delves deep into the underlying behaviours to reveal the context in ways that we mere mortals can understand. So when he starts talking about visualising social media, my ears prick up.
Releasing their Tweet Visualyzer into free beta, it allows you to impose visual order on the chaos of Tweetstream. You can divide up your reporting across seven functions:
- What – is everyone talking about
- When – did they say it
- Who – is involved and who started it all
- Word – how did they say it
- How – did they send their message (client, web, platform)
- Group – are there self-forming conversations and who is in them
- Tag cloud – what are the keywords around your topic or brand
I thought I’d take it for a quick spin – and run the #fastBREAK hashtag through. fastBREAK is the regular monthly innovators event run by Vibewire and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney – and we get quite a strong tweetstream running thanks to a connected and passionate audience. Last month’s topic was “lies” (read a review here) which clustered a lot of conversation according to the graph above.
But my favourite view of the data comes with the Group tab. Here you get to see the people/accounts who are conversing on the same topic. It lets you see some of the social dimension of the conversation – to see what is common, what is retweeted and from this, what is resonating.
Of course, this is just a reporting tool – it lets you listen and watch. The analysis and thinking you will have to do yourself. But just wait until it’s integrated into Jugnoo’s social CRM platform. That’s when it could all get interesting.
What do you think? Something you’d use?
Digital identity protector OneID has partnered with four large e-commerce platforms so more shoppers can safely and conveniently make purchases online using just one password.
OneID provides customers with an account that can be used across multiple websites and payment systems. The technology authenticates user identity, while also consolidating all financial information into one secure location.
The vendor partners are Marketlive, Jagged Peak, ShopVisible, and Acadaca. By further integrating its services with e-commerce software, OneID provides retailers and customers alike with a more streamlined checkout process and greater confidence that sensitive data will not be hacked. These new partnerships will bring the benefits of OneID’s single sign-in to millions of people a year.
OneID was launched in March by six-time entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, who sold one of his former companies Infoseek for a reported $1.7 billion. Considering how sensitive the data is and how complicated the technology, it took someone with his credentials to execute the product.
The company raised $7 million in April from Khosla Ventures to expand its user base. To do this, strategic partnerships were necessary because OneID customers are not consumers, but rather e-commerce providers.
Today’s announcement is a further step in that direction. A few more partnerships, and passwords can be saved for fun stuff, like speakeasies and Top Secret CIA missions.
Filed under: VentureBeat
WeddingLovely, a 500 Startups-backed wedding planning service, is opening its doors today in an effort to “humanize” the wedding planning experience. It’s no small feat to take on wedding industry giant TheKnot.com, but co-founder Tracy Osborn believes there’s potential to do exactly that because many find TheKnot “overwhelming, confusing and very advertising-oriented,” she says. With WeddingLovely’s how-to’s and vendor directories, there’s more of a feeling of a sister or friend telling you how to get started with all the tasks leading up to your big day, including things like picking a venue, budgeting, finding a dress, flowers, catering, locating an officiant, photographer, videographer, picking out invitations, finding a band, and more.
Planning a wedding is a very stressful process, as anyone who has done so can tell you. It’s a lot of work, expensive, and for many new brides-to-be, it can even detract from the joy and excitement of the forthcoming marriage, as they get bogged down in details.
With WeddingLovely, everything about the process has been simplified. The site helps to walk you through each step, offering helpful advice and tips (e.g., flower mistakes to avoid, be aware that wedding venues have minimums, questions to ask when hiring a caterer, should you choose a band or DJ?, etc.), and it then links you to directories were you can find vendors associated with the task at hand so you can book their services. The company had previously created some of these directories as standalone websites, but with WeddingLovely’s launch, those are being integrated so the new site can serve as a one-stop shop for the entire wedding planning experience. (Note: full integration is still about 2 weeks out, we’re told.)
One thing that makes WeddingLovely different from the competition, is that it’s not an entirely advertising-based service. There’s no affiliate revenue generated from the vendors it suggests, but vendors can opt for a $25/month paid placement which will put them up at the top of the search results in the vendor listings. This feature has not gone live yet, but when it does, those vendors will be flagged in some way, so there’s no confusion.
However, WeddingLovely’s monetization mainly comes from the fact that it’s a paid service. There’s a 14-day free trial, then brides can sign up at $19/month or a flat rate of $119/year. (TechCrunch readers can take a 33% discount using the code TC33).
In addition to the tips and planning features, WeddingLovely also offers wedding websites for couples with all the usual features – event details, registries info, an “About Us” section, etc. Currently, there are just three themes to choose from, but this is being expanded soon.
Osborn, a designer by trade, impressively taught herself to code in just six weeks in order to build the service before finding co-founder and CTO Julia Grace to join her. “It’s a weddings product, and I was trying to find a co-founder like most people,” she says, “but not many people – and especially because it’s mostly all dudes in tech – were interested, or had the same amount of interest I did. So I said ‘screw it, I’m doing it myself.’” Nice!
In the near future, the product is expanding to include not only the deep integration of the vendor directories, which currently offers access to 1,500 vendors worldwide, but it will also be adding vendor reviews, spouse/friend integration, additional social features (via Facebook) to connect brides with each other, and aggregated, anonymized data that can tell brides things like how much money others have spent in various categories, for instance.
Based in Mountain View, and now a team of three, the startup has seed funding from 500 Startups, and is considering raising additional funding. However, says Osborn, they want to be picky about their investors. “With weddings, you want to make sure you have the right people on board,” she says. “We don’t want to go the way of TheKnot and be very tied to advertising revenue…we want to keep it morally correct. It’s about finding the right investors who believe in the vision.”
Apple has pulled security software vendor Bitdefender’s Clueful app from the app store.
Clueful is an app that examines other applications on your phone or iPad and tells you what they’re doing: accessing your address book, using location services such as GPS, encrypting stored data, connecting to your social accounts, and more.
It only worked with free apps, and it didn’t show you data on all applications, just about 60,000 of the most popular. Still, it was a very useful way for Apple device owners to get some insight into what their apps were doing.
But not anymore.
As Bitdefender announced on its website, Apple removed the app after previously approving it:
Apple informed Bitdefender’s product development team of the removal — for reasons we are studying — after it was approved under the same rules. iPhone owners who already use Clueful privacy may continue to do so.
Bitdefender is continuing to work on Clueful and plans to resubmit the app to Apple in an attempt to get back in the Cupertino company’s good graces.
While the company cannot speak about the reasons for the removal, and Apple never almost never comments on app store rejections, perhaps we can find a clue in what Bitdefender has already learned from Clueful. Of apps the company has studied:
- 42.5 percent do not encrypt users’ personal data, even when sending it over public Wi-Fi
- 41.4 percent can track a user’s location
- almost one in five of the apps analyzed can access your entire Address Book
- some apps send your information to the cloud without encrypting it.
Tracking location and accessing the address book are all fine and well, if the user has authorized it. But storing and sending private data unencrypted is not good news at all.
And it’s not something that improves Apple’s or iOS’ reputation as safe, secure, and friendly … nor the company’s desired contrast with the wild, wild, west of Android apps. Hopefully those considerations were not part of the app store approval — or un-approval, in this case — decision process.
Bitdefender could still use a private API or unauthorized method. But by continuing development the company is showing some confidence that Clueful will be re-approved when changes are made.
Bitdefender’s chief security researcher Catalin Cosoi says as much:
“While Clueful remains off the App Store, we are working hard toward understanding why our app was removed and to develop the app to improve its chances of staying there.”
For the sake of iOS users’ security and privacy, I hope the company’s successful.
Image credit: VectorARA/ShutterStock
Today Dell announced its official re-entry into the Linux laptop market. Project Sputnik, first announced in May, is graduating from Dell’s internal incubator program into a real product. According to project lead Barton Geroge, Dell will sell a special “developer edition” of its XPS13 Ultrabook starting this fall.
The laptop will come pre-loaded with Ubuntu, a user friendly distribution of the open source operating system Linux (or GNU/Linux to purists). George said the laptop won’t be able to dual boot Windows. But Dell made available an Ubuntu install image customized for the XPS13, so you could buy the Windows version and install Ubuntu yourself if you require dual booting. George says the developer version will be the high end configuration of the XPS13, with 4GB of RAM, an Intel Core i7 processor and a 256GB solid state hard drive. This model currently sells for $1,499, and George says the Linux version will sell for a little bit less than the Windows version.
Dell started offering systems with Linux pre-installed back in 2007, due to popular demand on its online suggestion box IdeaStorm. But the company quietly stopped advertising Ubuntu as an option on its online store sometime in 2010. The Ubuntu option was too confusing to average users. “It wasn’t reaching the right audience,” George explains.
But the demand from power users never really went away. Since the original announcement of Project Sputnik Dell has gathered extensive feedback on IdeaStorm – enough, George says, to justify bringing a Linux laptop back into production. He says that although Dell hasn’t fully decided how to market the new product, it will be more clear to buyers that this is a computer for power users.
Dell won’t be alone in the Linux laptop market. There are several “white box” vendors offering Linux laptops, but no major vendor is selling fully featured (non-netbook) machines with Linux pre-installed. The closest thing is EmperorLinux, which installs Linux on laptops manufactured by major vendors and sells them along with technical support (check out this site for a round-up of Linux laptop vendors).
With growing concern about locked bootloaders on Window 8 machines possibly preventing users from installing Linux or other alternative operating systems it’s refreshing to see a major vendor promoting computational freedom.
The ThinkPad is going back home.
Lenovo is shifting some of the venerable laptop’s production back to Japan, where the ThinkPad was manufactured up until the 2000s, Japan’s Asihi Shimbun reports
The shift is the latest result of the partnership Lenovo formed with Japanese IT company NEC. Meant to boost Lenovo’s sales in Japan, the alliance combined NEC’s 20 percent consumer PC market share with Lenovo’s comparably weak five percent share in the country.
At the time of the announcement, Lenovo was the world’s fourth largest PC vendor. Now it’s the world’s second largest, trailing only HP.
But that success hasn’t come from growth in Japan, however. Japan’s PC market has been notoriously hard to crack for non-Japanese companies, a difficulty due in no small part the average Japanese consumer’s preference for Japanese-manufactured goods. By shifting ThinkPad production to Japan, Lenovo is clearly aiming to win over the hearts and minds of these sorts of nationalistic Japanese consumers.
In the ThinkPad’s case, this is something that Lenovo likely won’t have too much trouble with. Not only was the ThinkPad manufactured in Japan, the country is also responsible for its design. The laptop’s original designers used Japan’s traditional bento lunch boxes as inspiration for the ThinkPad’s now-infamous look and feel.
It’s also worth noting that the ThinkPad itself has become an increasingly multinational brand: Developed by the American IBM alongside Japanese researchers, the laptop line is now manufactured by a Chinese multinational company in tandem with a Japanese one. It’s a citizen of the world.
Filed under: mobile
ZTE isn’t a name we hear a lot over in the States, but the company plans to change all that. But head of mobile strategy Ryu Chienhao claims that ZTE plans on selling 35 million smartphones this year, with hopes to become the number 3 smartphone and mobile phone vendor in the world by 2015.
Last year, the company shipped 15 million smartphones with a heavy focus on Asia. To reach 35 million, ZTE will not only need to expand outside of China but also build more premium products to compete in the U.S. mobile landscape. The forthcoming “Grand” series should help with that, though the recently announced Grand X LTE is only headed to Europe and Asia Pacific.
IDC research pegs ZTE as No. 4 in general mobile phone sales (which includes smartphones), giving the company a 4.8 percent marketshare with 19.8 million mobile phones shipped in Q1 2012.
To give you a little context, Apple sold 17.7 million iPhones between Sept. 25 and Dec. 1, 2011. And Samsung, who has more than a few hot-selling flagships, expects that its Samsung Galaxy S III will hit 10 million sales by July. Clearly, competition is stiff between the number 1 and number 2 smartphone vendors here in the States, so ZTE has quite a bit of work cut out.
At the same time, the mobile landscape is ever-changing, and another mobile powerhouse is more than welcome into the ring.