Oh yea, I should probably start thinking about getting started with my tax preparation.
Oh yea, I should probably start thinking about getting started with my tax preparation.
Today was the first day of the 2nd annual Techcrunch 50 conference. The goal of the conference, dreamed up by entrepreneurs Micahel Arrington and Jason Calacanis, was to promote 50 great start-ups to the “industry’s most influential VCs, corporations, fellow entrepreneurs and press.” They also hoped to eliminate the fee for start-ups to present like other conferences.
Today they announced the 50 finalists where a few companies caught my eye right off the bat.
Fitbit wants to make living a healthy lifestyle easier. The company is developing an “ultra-compact” wearable sensor that transmits various data (like calories burned, quality of sleep, number of steps, and distance) to it’s website for analysis. The wearer can track data and mark their progress as they strive to reach personal goals.
This product resonates with me. I’ve been trying to keep track of my health, like what I eat and how much I weigh, but it becomes tedious. A small, compact device that can do a lot of the tedious recording for me is certainly welcome.
Yammer is like Twitter for companies. Instead of answering “What are you doing?” Yammer wants you to answer “What are you working on?” The service is more secure than public micro-blogging services because you can only join a network if you have an approved e-mail domain. The hope is Yammer will be a central repository which can archived and searched will make everyone more productive.
I would find something like this useful to keep tabs on what projects my co-workers were working on without being a nosy micro-manager. The problem is older people don’t really get Twitter so it would be a tough sell to get everyone on bored. Younger works already update what they’re doing on Twitter and other micro-blogging services albeit a little more obscure.
Out of all the websites of the Techcrunch 50 finalists that I visited, Popego looked the best. The service sounds vague according to the Techcrunch description: “Surfaces the most meaningful information from within your social graph based on your interests and other factors.”
Blah Girls probably had the biggest buzz of the bunch because it is being pitched by Ashton Kutcher. The premise is “a gossip site that features a group of animated teenage girls who provide opinions on what’s going on in the world of entertainment.” I’m curious to see an episode or two to see if it is worthy of joining my video podcast playlist.
Finally, the biggest WTF award goes to Shryk. How is their name pronounced? Shrike? Shreik? I have no idea. The goal of the company is something I can get behind however. They hope to promote financial literacy and good saving habits among teens/tweens with web based software built specifically for that age group.
There are many more companies I didn’t have a chance to get to either for lack of time or because the company just sounded flat out stupid. Like PlaYce, which aims to go head-to-head with the often misunderstood Google Lively. Browser based virtual worlds seem like such a losing proposition.
It will be interesting to see who the Techcrunch50 judges pick as the most interesting startup of the conference.
Crunchbase links for the start-ups mentioned:
Old-fashioned auction dynamo, eBay, sent an e-mail to it’s members today detailing changes in their fee structure. Starting February 20th the fees to initially list an item regardless if it sells or not will be reduced.
|Starting or Reserve Price||Current Insertion Fee||Insertion Fee (effective 02/20/2008)|
|$0.01 – $0.99||$0.20||$0.15 Lower fee!|
|$1.00 – $9.99||$0.40||$0.35 Lower fee!|
|$10.00 – $24.99||$0.60||$0.55 Lower fee!|
|$25.00 – $49.99||$1.20||$1.00 Lower fee!|
|$50.00 – $199.99||$2.40||$2.00 Lower fee!|
|$200.00 – $499.99||$3.60||$3.00 Lower fee!|
|$500.00 or more||$4.80||$4.00 Lower fee!|
As an added bonus the $0.35 gallery fee has now been dropped meaning eBay will include a picture of every item in the search results. The price cuts up front came with an increase of the final value fees assessed at the end of successful auctions.
|Closing Price||Final Value Fee||Final Value Fee (effective 02/20/2008)|
|Item not sold||No fee||No change|
|$0.01-$25.00||5.25% of the closing value||8.75% of the closing value|
|$25.01 – $1,000.00||5.25% of the initial $25.00, plus 3.25% of the remaining closing value balance ($25.01 to $1,000.00)||8.75% of the initial $25.00, plus 3.50% of the remaining closing value balance ($25.01 to $1,000.00)|
|Over $1,000.01||5.25% of the initial $25.00, plus 3.25% of the initial $25.00 – $1,000.00 plus 1.50% of the remaining closing value balance ($1,000.01 – closing value)||8.75% of the initial $25.00, plus 3.50% of the initial $25.00 – $1,000.00 plus 1.50% of the remaining closing value balance ($1,000.01 – closing value)|
To put this final value increase into perspective here is a sample of fees for a range of final auction prices.
|Final Value||Old Fee||New Fee||Difference|
All calculations were done at http://www.ebcalc.com which allows you to change fee values.
Auctions that sell for under a dollar benefit the most with these latest changes as the lower insertion fee plus the free gallery upgrade outweigh the increased final value fee. Sellers who do a high volume of business will be hit hard as more of their earnings will come out of the already slim margins and go toward more fees.
eBay has been on the decline for the past couple of years. They are already the dominant auction site with a virtual monopoly on the industry. Computers have been getting more efficient as technology advances but apparently eBay can’t lower its costs fast enough. And let’s not mention that billion dollar Skype purchase which has done absolutely nothing to eBay’s auction business.
eBay has become a victim of it’s own success. In the beginning people went to eBay to find rare collectibles or heavily discounted items. Some even considered eBay to have the perfect business model as a middle-man connecting buyers to sellers with no inventory to keep on it’s own. Now eBay is littered with suspicious listings, outrageously high shipping prices, and generally more distractions to wade through in search of the desired item. The selling process is a laborious one requiring lots of time to specify all of the necessary options to help auctions stand out from the crowd. What eBay needs to do is simplify everything as much as possible starting with the listing process. They also need to focus on helping it’s biggest asset: the buyers and sellers. Buyers want a safe, friendly environment to do business in and sellers want the least amount of obstacles to selling their goods. More fees result in less incentive for sellers to consider eBay which results in a less lucrative market for buyers to enter. eBay should take a page from the Amazon Marketplace which provides a much better experience for both buyers and sellers.
That improved experience is why when I need to sell something to a stranger I turn to the efficient book dealer rather than the decrepit auctioneer.
As the days inch towards Christmas people around the nation will be frantically finishing up their shopping and wrapping gifts. I’m not a big fan of wrapping gifts. For one, it is an extra step before hoisting the gift off to it’s recipient. All the work and energy, physical as well as creative, that goes into the presentation is quickly shredded to a pulp as it is ripped off and tossed aside for the main attraction below the surface. That precious wrapping paper, tape, and pretty bow will make their way to the trash where they will rot away in a landfill.
But my biggest gripe is the price for all of that frilly paper, which only provides only a moment of glee. And while I would like to see the 2007 Christmas season be the one that ditches the idea of wrapping up gifts (after all, being green is in vogue) there is a snowflake’s chance in hell that is going to happen. Companies that make wrapping paper and related products must be raking it in as the busiest shopping season heads into full insane-o-mode. I couldn’t find any statistics about wrapping paper revenue, but I am sure that it is such a large chunk of company profits that the last thing they would want to do is stop the frivolous holiday tradition.
How could I get out of wrapping gifts without disappointing my family and friends while not spending a dime? Why not turn to the one thing that has helped give consumers the things they want without charging them a thing, advertising-supported goods! I would gladly accept gift-wrapping materials that have been plastered in logos if it were free and saved me time. It seems to make sense in helping companies spread brand awareness as the giftee would be exposed with a happy and joyous moment of opening a gift which creates a positive psychological effect and brand association. Companies could ship it to people for free or give it out at stores with every purchase. Boxes already pre-wrapped and decorated using a Christmas variation of the corporate colors and branded tissue paper inside would be the perfect ad vehicle to their next potential customer. And with the cost of buying everything in bulk, the company wouldn’t be spending more than the usual barrage of printed material such as full-page magazine ads, billboards, or direct mailing fliers. Wrapping paper would be unusual in the fact that it is actually useful! That’s a valuable exchange in my book.
I’m surprised I haven’t seen this idea more widespread. Lots of stores offer gift wrapping though it is usually offered as an extra service for a price. Why not offset that cost with advertising? Everything else seems to work that way. And it’s not like Christmas isn’t already over-marketed, over-hyped, and over-crowded with the consumerism mentality of BUY, BUY, BUY! Why not just a little bit more with free wrapping paper?
It has been nearly a month and I thought I would update everyone about the last Zune in the DC area. I managed to sell the digital media player on the Amazon Marketplace for $329.99, a 32% markup over the original price. I still needed an MP3 player for my daily commute and with the profit I decided to buy another Zune 80 online via Amazon.com instead of in person at Target. In this situation buying online was a much better deal for the following reasons:
Here is a final breakdown of the math:
1st Zune Bought at Target
+$12.50 Sales Tax
= $262.49 Total
Sold on Amazon.com Marketplace
$329.99 Price Sold
+$7.48 Shipping Credit from Amazon.com
– $10.35 Actual Shipping Cost (Added insurance to the cost)
-$28.14 Amazon Fee
– $262.49 Cost to Acquire
= $36.49 Profit
2nd Zune Bought on Amazon.com
+$5.58 Shipping and Handling
-$5.58 Free Super Saver Shipping
-$9.00 Price Difference Refund
Final price for my Zune
$239.99 for 2nd Zune
-$36.49 Profit From 1st Zune
Not bad for waiting a little bit longer and taking advantage of a unique situation.
The Internet is great for connecting people across the world and exchanging junk that is usually sitting in the corner collecting dust. eBay and Amazon are the premier online trading centers but which one should you use? I’ve used both over the past month and here are my thoughts.
eBay is great for special, rare, or unique items; everything else is usually goes for a a bargain price. People go to eBay looking for a steal and mass items are hard to compete with against the pro eBayers who get their stuff at wholesale. But if you’re goal is simply to get rid of your clutter with any money being a bonus, then eBay will work for you.
In order to make a thorough auction posting, be prepared to set aside some time for research during the listing process. eBay buyers want lots of information and clear pictures so they know what they are getting in to. When I listed some auctions at the beginning of October it was taking me about an hour and a half per auction including taking and processing pictures, writing a clear and concise description, and researching similar auctions for comparison. Mike Panic guest posted at GetRichSlowly.org with tips to maximize the profits of your eBay auctions.
eBay charges a fee to list your item and a final value fee when your item sells. On top of that, if you use PayPal to receive payment, you will get a fee tacked on to that to. There are extra fees for special upgrades like boldening your item in the search results and extra super size pictures. These upgrades eat up your profit and do not provide any extra value. The only extra that should be considered is adding a gallery image which shows a thumbnail of your item in the search result.
When talking about Amazon, I am not talking about their auctions product, but rather the sellers marketplace. Amazon made it’s name selling books which it trumps eBay over. The process of listing a book is a simple three steps including searching for the book, entering the condition and your price, and hitting submit. Then you’re thrown into the mix with other sellers vying to list the lowest price. When you get a sale, Amazon emails you a reminder to ship it in 2 business days and provides a shipping credit. There is less flexibility to differentiate yourself compared to eBay but the listing process is much, much quicker.
Amazon lets you choose three shipping options to offer for your item: the standard shipping rate of $3.99, an expedited shipping rate of $6.99, and an international shipping rate of $12.99. I suggest offering all three as it broadens your possible audience. You might think the shipping credits are a little low, but for standard shipping use media mail/parcel post, and for expedited and international use a priority flat rate envelope. Then your shipping costs will be below the issued shipping credit!
Amazon Marketplace fees are more straight forward compared to eBay. There is no fee to list your item. Fees are only collected when your item sells where Amazon takes 6-15% of the sale price, a $0.99 transaction fee, and a variable closing fee. Before you list your item Amazon lets you know how much profit you can expect if your item sells and you are free to make changes at any time.
In the end I use Amazon Marketplace for media items like books, movies, and video games with eBay for everything else. To help you figure out which option is better for your stuff check out these useful fee calculators:
The popular online web magazine, A List Apart, conducted a survey of web professionals in April 2007 via their website. This week they finally released the results in a massive, though well designed, 80+ page PDF.
Being the first major survey of the web industry, I, and many others I’m sure, was anxious to see how I stacked up. The survey focused on the core areas of classification (gender, ethnicity, location etc.), education, work and job titles, and money. There are too many findings to even begin listing here but the PDF does a great job at explaining their conclusions with many, many graphs. Speaking of data, A List Apart is giving away all of the anonymized raw data for people to dig through and reach their own conclusions.
I can’t wait to see the results from the next survey to compare the changes in the industry from this year.
I got my hands on Seth Godin’s yet-to-be-released book titled Meatball Sundae. I was really impressed with what Godin had to say in his last book, The Dip, and I can’t wait to dive in to his latest work. According to Seth, Meatball Sundae is about “the internet and new marketing and the fourteen trends that change everything.” Sounds like every other book he has done. I’ll keep you posted once I get into it more.
*This was post was solely to make me feel special.