The e-commerce developer announced today that it has picked up $133 million in financing from its current partners American Express and JPMorgan Chase and from new investor Citi. The company is looking to spend the influx of cash on paying off debt, generating working capital, and setting up some acquisitions.
I wrote recently that receipts are the the new check-ins. And now companies are emerging that are trying to roll up the receipt collection process for consumers. One smart new business doing this: Itemize. It scans your e-mail receipts to build a profile of your favorite brands, and then it sends you deals so you can get the stuff you like at a discount.
"We are receipt geeks," CEO Jim Thomas told me. He previously worked on analytics for MasterCard, which you'd think would have the mother lode of data when it comes to analyzing what people like. But think again: credit card companies know where you shop, but not what you buy. "I wanted to build a Pandora for shopping," Thomas said.
There are two challenges facing Itemize. First, it needs a diet of receipts to work. Pretty much everything you buy online will generate an e-mail receipt, which works to its favor, but things you buy in physical retail stores generally don't--except for, say, the stuff you get at the Apple store. Thomas believes more retailers will be following Apple's lead, though.
Itemize will get a physical-receipt-scanning app eventually. The iPhone app for that is being built. Thomas does think that physical receipts will eventually vanish, but not soon enough.
The other problem: So you have this mailbox full of e-mail receipts. How do you get them to Itemize? The service gets your receipts by scanning your live inbox. You give it access to your mail (it works on Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and several other mail providers) and it watches for receipts. Thomas says the service does not keep your e-mail nor read anything that it doesn't at first determine is a receipt, but there will be consumers, like me, who don't like the idea of giving yet another third party access to their communication.… Read more
Back in 1999 and 2000, when I was writing Catch of the Day, a daily column about start-ups for Red Herring, my co-worker Jeff told me I needed to launch a new column called "That's the Stupidest Thing I've Ever Heard" to cover all the boneheaded pitches I got for companies that were too sickly to write about.
A few months ago, as this second Internet bubble began to inflate, Jeff told me I needed to really--finally--launch That's the Stupidest Thing, specifically so I could write about Zaarly, based on the coverage it got on TechCrunch.
CEO Bo Fishback is a big, twitchy man who seems uncomfortable sitting still. He is enthusiastic and eloquent about the idea that Zaarly is based on. I'd fund him if I was in a position to do so, even if I wasn't convinced (and I'm not) that Zaarly will be as big as Fishback says it can be. And how big is that? "It's the first idea I've seen in my life that will be bigger than a $50 billion company," he says.
Fishback calls Zaarly a buyer-powered market. Other markets--eBay, Craigslist, Macy's, Wal-Mart--are seller-powered. People with things to sell offer them up, and if you're looking for something, you check out what they have. On Zaarly, if you want something, you broadcast that desire; if someone has it, they find you.… Read more
Is it a sign of a bad bubble that we're re-hashing ideas from the first dot-com boom? Or are some ideas right, just too early? The team at Quidsi, which runs Diapers.com and Soap.com and which was bought by Amazon for $540 million this year, believes the latter, and they're launching Wag.com today to prove it.
Wag.com is a bubble 2.0 stab at Pets.com. For those of you too young to remember, Pets.com was a high-flying Internet retailer in 1999 and 2000. It sold pet food and other pet supplies online. Even in the frothy 1999 tech bubble, though, it was a puzzler that a company could make money selling dog food cheaply online and then paying for shipping on top of it.
In fact, Pets.com lost money selling and shipping low-margin pet consumables. So much that the company burned through its funding and folded less than two years after it launched.
Lesson learned, right? Apparently not. Quidsi believes that if they "start with the customer, and work our way back," as Quidsi's Marketing Director Earl Gordon says, they can make an online dog food business work. Because, clearly, nobody else has thought of this before.
The real secret is simply better logistics. There are three Wag.com warehouses, each with the entire inventory selection in them, to reduce shipping distances. Quidsi also uses proven Kiva robots to move items throughout its warehouses and help shop floor workers pack and pick shipments. "We've been doing this for a while," Gordon says. "We can efficiently deliver a a 40-pound bag of dog food."
The other trick to Wag.com, in addition to its ability to leverage Amazon's own marketing muscle, is that, "It's not all about dog food and cat litter." Josh Himwich, who runs commerce solution for Quidsi, says that the company would barely squeak by if it focused on selling commodities, as the Diapers.com brand already appears to do with its eponymous products. "Diapers are loss leaders at every single [retail] store. Not quite for us, but approaching it. If all you do is sell dogfood, you won't stay in business." … Read more
Three of the top wireless providers in the U.K. are joining forces to speed up the deployment of mobile payments that will allow shoppers to pay for things with their cell phones, according to Reuters.
Thursday the news service reported that Everything Everywhere, the joint venture between Orange and T-Mobile, Vodafone and Telefonica's O2 have agreed to create a mobile commerce system that would bring together retailers, banks and advertisers.
The payment service WePay launched a new online ticket store this week that competes in some ways with EventBrite. It's a logical addition to the growing service. But that's not what's interesting about WePay.
I'm seeing payment services companies like this popping up a bit more than I would have expected, given the serious regulatory and security issues involved in handling money in bulk (see Dwolla and Venmo). Talking about that with WePay founder Rich Aberman led to a fascinating discussion about how the company hopes to keep its fraud rate low enough to stay in … Read more
Amazon.com is threatening to cut ties with affiliates in any states that decide to collect sales tax, CEO Jeff Bezos said yesterday.
"We will continue to drop states who pass those affiliate laws, from the affiliate program," Bezos said at the ShopSmart Shopping Summit in New York, according to Reuters.
As on online company, Amazon itself isn't required to collect taxes in states where the company is … Read more
Honesty is the best policy--unless you're dealing with someone you can't trust.
The sad fact is, you can't trust anyone on the Web. Just ask the millions of people who signed up for Sony's PlayStation Network and who now must protect against possible hack attacks on their bank accounts and other private data lost due the recent data breach. CNET News reporter Erica Ogg explains the company's response to its customers in her Circuit Breaker blog.
Sony claims the credit card information was encrypted and did not include the cards' security codes; the company also … Read more
Daily deals site Groupon owes a chunk of its fast growth to new customers brought in by its unavoidable ads all over the Web and on Facebook--but it doesn't want them appearing on the Web site of "The Apprentice," the reality show hosted by real estate mogul Donald Trump, a political firebrand of late.
In a blog post Thursday, the freewheeling Groupon took a rare serious tone as it explained its decision to ask advertising partner NBC, which airs "The Apprentice," to ensure that its ads not be displayed on the show's site. "… Read more
Amazon's earnings report for the first quarter of 2011 wasn't pretty, even considering that Wall Street was expecting tepid performance.
Analysts were expecting earnings of $0.61 per share--and Amazon posted $0.44. Net sales were up 38 percent year-over-year to $9.86 billion, but it's the earnings per share that really counts.
That's a sign that spending--for example, on projects like the Cloud Drive media storage service, its own Android app store, the cheaper ad-supported Kindle that was announced earlier this month, and the e-reader's new "library lending" feature--may have been higher … Read more