Category Archives: Companies

Shopping Comparison Apps

Joseph Pisani wrote an interesting article comparing Shopping Apps.  He goes through the features and benefits of 5 apps:  RetailMeNot; Amazon; RedLaser; Cartwheel by Target; and Flipp.

Check your app store to see what’s available for your phone.

As I noted in an earlier post, Best Buy seems to be reluctantly embracing the “showrooming” phenomenon whereby consumers go to their local stores to try out the devices they later buy online.  Best Buy seems to be recognizing that convenient locations will only help so far – they still need to compete on price.

These apps will make comparing prices much easier.  You can check advertised prices, you can check internet pricing and you can even get coupons you didn’t know were available.

Attention retailers.  Location is important.  Pricing is important.  But you better make sure you’re efficient at running your business so you can stay in business.

 

The Everything Store

I just finished The Everything Store, the history of Amazon.com by Brad Stone (@bradstone).  51N7s0z8kXL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_I pre-ordered the book around 6 weeks ago when I heard Brad Stone moderate a panel discussion on the future of retailing at a GeekWire event in Seattle.

Stone asked interesting and thought-provoking questions of the panelists.  I thought his book on Amazon might be an interesting topic given the company’s role in creating the internet experience we all have today.  I didn’t think reading the book would be the “popular thing to do.”  I don’t do a good job of following the herd.

Well, the book certainly didn’t disappoint.  There was plenty of information on Jeff Bezos’ single-minded focus on the customer experience as he established and lead Amazon from the garage roots to the corporate leadership role it has today.  A number of stories weren’t flattering of Bezos; he seems to have a bit of a temper and uses and leaves by the wayside both employees and corporate partners.

Still, the book also has a number of asides showing the amazing vision Bezos had in leading Amazon while also growing as a person. While I’m certainly happy that I never worked at Amazon, I’m equally certain that we’d have a much less vibrant and impactful internet if Bezos hadn’t been the leader of Amazon.  And I don’t think that would have made us better.

Back to my comment on reading this book being the “popular thing to do.”  When I started this article, the book was #59 on Amazon’s list of best sellers.  As I’m finishing, the book is now #57.  As I’ve said, I enjoyed the book.  But how much of the bump is due to Bezos’ wife MacKenzie and former Amazon executive Rick Dalzell panning the book on the Amazon website because of technical inaccuracies.  They point to incorrect dates, or missing information to call into validity everything in the book.  Interestingly, Dalzell still gave the book 3 stars out of 5.

Personally, I didn’t read the book expecting it to be the definitive guide to Amazon.com.  There’s a lot more left to write in that story.  I wanted to experience the flavor of the man and the company he’s lead into such a position of prominence.  In that, the book was very successful.

You can find the Kindle version of the book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Best Buy Embracing Showrooming?

I saw an interesting television commercial from Best Buy over the weekend billing themselves as “Your Ultimate Holiday Showroom.”

Have they seen their fate?  Are they recognizing that consumers have been using them as Amazon’s technology demo floor for awhile now?  Are they acknowledging that a neighborhood store doesn’t guarantee loyalty?  Consumers may come into their store to “kick the tires” on the latest gadget only to go home and purchase the product online.

Low Price Guarantee

One things for sure, adding a low price guarantee to the commercial and their web site reinforces that they understand price is always part of the equation.  Will they now take this to the next level and give consumers the in-store tools to show them they’re getting a good price?  Or, will the price guarantee be painful to enforce both for the store personnel and the consumers?

I don’t believe they need to be the absolute lowest price.  There is, after all some value in the instant gratification of taking the product home with you right away.  But that premium isn’t going to be as high as they’ve envisioned it in the past.

This is a nice step for Best Buy.  It will be interesting to see how it continues.

What can Best Buy do in their stores to help you make the purchase?

The Big Exit

There were a number of great stories at GeekWire Startup Day (#GWStartupday), but none like that of Dave Cotter, CEO of SquareHub.

Dave Cotter,  CEO of SquareHub

Dave Cotter,
CEO of SquareHub

His talk was titled “The Big Exit.”  Given the venue and the audience it might be about selling your startup or perhaps closing the door because there just wasn’t enough traction. Or perhaps it was a tale of making it through an IPO.

Actually the title didn’t refer to any of those.  It meant the exit all of us have.  Death.

It wasn’t a Halloween tale full of ghosts and goblins — although it sounded like some of Dave’s former colleagues might live in that world.  It was about a man in the prime of a life filled with work in the fast-paced tech industry suffering a stroke.

In the hospital he was surrounded by thoughts.  I’m sure he had people with him some of the time — he’s too engaging a character to be completely alone.  But the wife, who was now an ex-wife, and the three daughters he admitted to not knowing all that well, really made him think.

He started a change.  He made a list of the 10 people who meant the most to him in this life.  And he vowed to pay them back, not in wild, extravagant, meaningless ways.  But to pay them back with the simple things of contact, recognition, surprises and understanding.

When we each make our own list, and I’m sure you’re thinking about it now, you need to make sure you add your own name.   You need to be part of whats most meaningful in your life to enjoy and share the full benefit.

Check out SquareHub, his new gig.  It’s an application made for friends and families to connect.

GeekWire Startup Day

I’m at the Geekwire Startup Day event. The agenda looks great — a full day of capitalism at its most basic. I hope to have a lot of information to share in the coming days.

Startup Day — October 25th

I’ve got my ticket and am anxious to attend this Friday’s Startup Day sponsored by GeekWire in Seattle. 

There are a lot of great speakers planned — both start up CEO’s and venture capital  guys.  Whether you’re a start up company needing direction, an investor looking for new investment ideas or someone fascinated by the early stages of capitalism, there should be something for each of us.

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SolarCity

Well, didn’t think I was going to be updating my SolarCity post quite so soon.  But, they just announced new funding to the tune of approximately $344 million.

They will be selling 3.4 million shares of common stock at $46.54 per share as well as $200 million in convertible senior notes.  The stock offer price would have been right in line with the current value until the shares rocked up another 12% to close at $52.38 per share. 

While SolarCity has been bleeding cash in the past few income statements, they still had current assets of over $309 million as of June 30th.  Adding another $344 million will definitely help if they grow as they expect in 2014. 

Solar Photovoltaic Installer SolarCity


#SolarCity (SCTY) installs solar photovoltaic systems in homes, businesses and government buildings.  I recently purchased shares in this company so I’m not unbiased, but the story is still interesting.  Here’s their company website.
The company was founded in 2006 by Elon Musk, yes the same man who started a company that later became PayPal.  When PayPal was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, Musk owned 11.7% of the company.  He’s rolled that wealth into other ventures like Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity.
Renewable energy systems have always suffered on the economic front from the high upfront cost of installation.  SolarCity financing changed that by allowing customers to lease their system with no money down.  SolarCity owns and maintains the system; the business or homeowner pays for the energy they use, frequently at a lower rate than their currently utility bill.
On October 11th, while announcing their earnings, SolarCity said they installed 78 MW during the 3rd quarter of 2013.  This is up from the previously estimated 72 MW for this period.  Guidance for the full year continued at 278 MW.
However, the real news in that announcement was the guidance for 2014.  SolarCity now anticipates installing between 475 MW and 525 MW of capacity in 2014 – a 70-90% increase over 2013.  No surprise – the stock jumped over 20% in trading that day.
Now this doesn’t mean the future is unbelievably bright for SolarCity.  They will face changes to the federal investment tax credits in 2016, continuing challenges in financing the installations they’re making and ongoing competition from others in the industry.  They will also face the view of some that they may be a good company, but the price run up has made them a bad investment right now.
But isn’t it great, after all this time, to be realistically talking about solar electric playing a key role in our nation’s energy mix?