Equal Opportunities for All. Are Electronic Markets Making the World a Better Place?

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In 1932, Ben Graham asked a tough question: “Is American Business Worth More Dead than Alive?”.  At the time US and the World were struggling through the depths of the Great Depression. The 1929 and 1930 stock market crashes left anyone with a sense of reality discouraged with stock exchange.

But Ben Graham, then a small investor with a brilliant mind, noticed something interesting. The stock market crashes left companies deeply undervalued. The companies were worth more taken apart than sold as a whole. They struggled with banks that not loaning them money and investors far too prudent.

30% of all listed companies had a larger value disassembled than sold as a whole. Their net quick assets (cash, marketable securities, and accounts receivable minus current liabilities) were worth more than the value investors were willing to pay for. Mr. Graham basically said: it’s now safe to invest again.

It’s 2014 and now we wonder how technology companies are evaluated. We strive to understand how something so seemingly small and useless as messaging app, a social network and an electronic market can be so highly valued. If Ben Graham would look at Amazon, would he decide to buy? Well I don’t know about the messaging app or the social network but if it were for the electronic markets, I bet mr. Graham would say: it’s now safe to invest again. Below you’ll find out why.

The Prodigal Student

Ben Graham lived until 1976. Although definitely not a poor man, he didn’t die a very wealthy one either. He had no problem ensuring his wealth increased steadily but he was more fond of reading Proust in French and Plato in Latin than gathering fortunes.

It was one of his disciples that reminded the world about Mr. Graham. It was this disciple, the worlds richest man for a very long time, that made Ben Graham famous, repeating his mentor’s name every chance he got.

Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet made his first investment when he was just nine. He ran his own business by the age of 14. He was a millionaire by the age of 32. He tried to get Ben Graham to hire him for years until the mentor finally accepted he was ready to join his company.

He than evolved continuously. Using Graham’s method he increased his fortune by the year. There were of course setbacks but he managed his money and his partners’ like no other.

But there was something Warren was not fond of: technology. He refused to be one of the early investors in Intel because he just didn’t understand technology. He was more focused on long term companies that he understood. Amid the Dot Com Bubble, when everyone was rushing in to buy tech stocks he said:

“Technology is just something we don’t understand, so we don’t invest in it.”

They laughed and they lost. The Oracle of Omaha, as mr. Buffet is often called in media, was right again. He left the bubble unwounded. An than he bought tech stocks.

Warren Buffet invested in IBM and Intel. These companies fit his principles. They were strong companies, that he could expect to own indefinitely. They survived the hype and escaped stronger.

Fairness and the money

Fairness is a concept that sometimes eludes our understanding. At least most of us. Warren Buffet is not like most of us. He was able to see beyond the hype when tech stocks were overvalued and he was able to see beyond the public opinion when important matters were disputed.

He and his wife were one of the few anti – segregation militants in Omaha, back when rasial differences were the norm. He fought strongly anti – semitism in his hometown. He pledged $31 billion to charity and now he is one of the strongest advocates of increased taxation on the rich.

“So let’s forget about the rich and ultra rich going on strike and stuffing their ample funds under their mattresses if — gasp — capital gains rates and ordinary income rates are increased,” he said. “The ultra rich, including me, will forever pursue investment opportunities.” Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet was never an elitist. He believed everyone should have equal opportunities at pursuing his interests and he stands even today as the living proof fair opportunities make up for very successful people.

But for the recorded human history, wealth has been unequally spread. From the dawn of man kind, through the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, one thing was constant: wealth is not distributed equally. For a very long period of time also wealth (especially inherited) also mean life opportunities.

Here’s how we perceive wealth disparity right now:

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

The long story short:

  • wealth is not distributed equally
  • not only is wealth not distributed equally, but it is actually in the hands of those that don’t deserve it
  • the distance between the lowest paid and the highest paid earners is absurd
Wealth Distribution 1983 - 2010
Wealth Distribution 1983 – 2010. Source: Professor G. William Domhoff, University of California.

Wealth disparity may indeed be a problem. If it meant the poor stay poor and the rich stay rich forever.

But it’s not really that way. At least not anymore.

In the past 20 years the top 1 percent increased their share of total net worth from 33.8% to 35.4%, with a peak of 38.5% in 1995. The next 19 percent increased their share of total wealth from 47.5% to 53.5% and all of these at the expense of the bottom 80%, who lost a 7.6% share of total net worth.

The rich 1% didn’t get much richer. The rich 20% got richer on the expense of the poor. It’s not the rich that take away from the poor. Nor is the middle class disappearing . The middle class is getting a lot richer.

There is a rich 1%. It’s just not who you think it is.

Think about it for a second. Are these categories fixed? Are people in the bottom 80% destined to remain there? Are the top 1% staying there forever?

The previous two examples, Warren Buffet and Ben Graham, although not dirt poor, did not come from rich families. Sure, they were not starving (well except Ben Graham, at an earlier point in his life), but they were definitely not rich.

Yes, Warren Buffet’s father was congressmen for 4 terms, but he did struggle at length in his youth to keep the family finances afloat. Through extensive work he managed to provide a decent lifestyle for him and his family, and thus young Warren was provided an opportunity to put his outstanding mind at work.

So did Ben Graham. His mother inherited a decent fortune from his father but lost it all in 1907, when he was just 11 years old. What he did receive was a brilliant mind and before 25 he already had a $500 000 small fortune.

It’s not inherited wealth. Graham and Buffet improved their financial status with as a result from their innate intelligence and hard work. They did not receive a fortune. They received a fair chance at earning their fortune.

They’re not the only ones. Forbes top 10 richest people are similar cases:

  1. Warren Buffet was born in a middle class american family, earned his wealth through heavy saving and intelligent investments. Worth  $60.3 billion.
  2. Carlos Slim was born to immigrant parents. Slim was early to invest (bought first share at 12). His story is a lot similar to Buffets, although he came from a much poorer background and in a poorer country. Worth $72 billion.
  3. Amancio Ortega, founder of the Zara brand and – was the youngest of four children. His father – a railway worker. His first job, at 14 – shop hand for a local shirtmaker called Gala. Worth $65.3 billion.
  4. Ingvar Kamprad – founder of IKEA – was raised on a farm. He started business as a little boy selling matches to locals. Worth $52.8 billion.
  5. Larry Ellison – founder of Oracle – son of an unwed mother and an italian pilot. He was given for adoption at the age of 9 months. Worth $43.3 billion.
  6. Sheldon Adelson – business magnate – his father was a taxi driver and his mother ran a knitting shop. Worth $37.5 billion.

And they’re not the only ones. Have a look at Forbes top 400 richest people and you’ll notice the self made billionaire is not the exception. Out of 400 richest people, 386 were self made. That’s an astonishing number. 96.5% of the richest 400 are self made.

So it is not inheritance that builds fortune. It’s sometimes the opposite. As numbers would have it wealth is a result of fair opportunities, a brilliant mind, drive and hard work.

Well … at least if you’re lucky enough to be born in the US.

The opportunity disparity in the world

Income per capita in the world. Source:
Income per capita in the world. Source: Keith Sill.

In the past, before the airplane, the radio, the telephone and eventually the internet chances looked pretty grim for those born outside rich countries. Capital was scarce, life was hard but most of all education was a real problem.

Starting with the industrial revolution, unless you were born in the Western Europe or the Western Offshoots (United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) your chances of getting a decent lifestyle were slim to none. Getting an education – even worse.

So if you are reading this from a computer in the western world and you are complaining about the 1% stealing your wealth know this: 96.5% of Forbes 400 are self made. You have an equal opportunity at getting rich.

Those born outside don’t have this opportunity. Or do they?

Technology made Western World rich

As the world moved from the pre-industrial to post-industrial era some won and some lost. Income grew and grew, helped by the magical vector of technology. Human workforce was replaced by exponentially growing human ingenuity.

The working hand was replaced by the steam-powered machine. Carriages were replaced by cars, trains and railways. Houses were replaced by steel and concrete behemoths. In the western world people were no longer working the fields but rather in factories and offices. Capitalism fought and (relatively) quickly replaced all other economic ideologies.

Marketing and advertising were born to help sell excess production. The stock markets were fueled and exploded. Multinational companies roamed the world to sell the products the West could make better, faster and cheaper.

Technology patents piled up until masses of workers became nothing but managers, lawyers, tradesmen, pencil-pushers. Those brilliant enough to harness the power of technology and improve their peers’ lives were rewarded with vast fortunes.

The temple of the mighty dollar discovered and pushed new concepts and new ways of doing things, growing faster and faster apart from the rest of the world. Until it built the personal computers and the Internet.

The Internet leveled the playing field

When the Internet came online it was a military application. It quickly evolved into an academic research network that spread throughout the world. There weren’t too many people willing to bet big on its economic impact yet the internet economy is now expected to reach 4.2 trillion by 2016.

Robert Lucas, Nobel Laureate
Robert Lucas, Nobel Laureate

Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas stated that economies that are at the forefront of economic and technological development will grow by approximately 2% per year. Those below them are usually kept below by what he called “technology frontiers”. Advances in genetics, IT, robotics and others that help labor and capital be more productive, are technology frontiers. Once technology frontiers disappear, lower economies will grow 2% + an additional growth rate determined by the income gap between itself and the richest country. So – the later the technology frontiers disappear, the bigger the income gap. The bigger the income gap, the faster the growth. The world tends to balance inequality.

Countries that are later to develop can adopt new technologies easier and the main factor that helps emerging markets evolve is technology and education.They can freely adopt and integrate these, without having to go through the research and developed the countries at the top of the food chain had to.

Even though countries may start development later, they tend to reach the same point in terms of income.
Even though countries may start development later, they tend to reach the same point in terms of income.

Internet made everything easily accessible. It quickly became the gateway for anyone willing to access the sum of all human knowledge. Western colleges now post courses online free of charge. Online academies help students become specialists in any desired field, ranging from business, to communication to computer sciences.

In a simulation of Lucas’s model (on the left) you can see how countries that are later to break through technology frontiers are also those with the fastest growth. For most countries the bulldozer that broke through the technology frontiers was the Internet.

With the widespread adoption of the Internet, global opportunities shifted quickly. Countries that were previously kept in the dark by economic conditions, lack of education and poor access to information now had a fighting chance. They were no longer tied to menial jobs and export of raw materials. Giant leaps were made in the past twenty years in terms of global access to information and decreasing the opportunity gap between the Western Countries / Western Offshoots and the World.

Jan Koum’s rags to riches story is deeply iconic on how much the field was leveled in the past years. He grew up in a village near Kiev, Ukraine. He lived through poor conditions until he put his skills to use in the US. Just as his country was being torn apart by an anti-government revolution he sold his company, WhatsApp, becoming a billionaire at just 38.

And it’s not just software, code and people. Goods are quickly moving from country to country, continent to continent. All due to the new electronic markets, enabling global access for small to medium producers and retailers.

Companies such as Amazon, Ebay, AliBaba.com are connecting the world and taking out the middle man. With less losses on the way to the end consumer, products are cheaper and competition is itself leveled. Everyone gets an equal opportunity and a decent start.

The electronic markets are changing commerce for the first time in human history

Take China for example. It was pretty late to the party in terms of economic development. When it did start to grow, it took the world by storm. 

As for electronic markets, China hadn’t had to invent or discover the internet. It just adopted it. It made a great leap forward in terms of manufacturing. It made an even bigger leap forward when it comes to e-tailing and electronic markets:

China's compound Growth rate, 2003-2011 - 120% . China grew 7 times faster than the US.
China’s compound Growth rate, 2003-2011 – 120% . China grew 7 times faster than the US.

If you look carefully at the China’s e-tailing market growth, the growth rate it’s pretty similar to Robert Lucas’economic growth theoretical modeling. China’s quick adoption of ecommerce as a means to get a larger retailing coverage was a breakthrough in a very important technology frontier: electronic markets.

AliBaba.com compared to Amazon and Ebay
AliBaba.com compared to Amazon and Ebay

It is estimated China’s internal ecommerce market will reach $655 billion by 2020. The figure, as astonishing as it may seem, is dwarfed by AliBaba.com’s sales figures.

AliBaba.com, China’s main ecommerce company, is focused on B2B / C2C transactions between Chinese manufacturers and the rest of the world and it reported gross sales of $170 billion in 2012. That figure has only been ever  reported by two companies: Walmart and AliBaba. It was founded in 1999 by 18 people and an initial investment of 22 million dollars. Now it is the largest ecommerce company in the world and quickly becoming an unbeatable force in retail as a whole.

The company is a prime example of how a previously complicated international supply chain can turn into a click of the button. AliBaba is responsible for developments in key areas of China’s economy:

  1. increasing exports by connecting manufacturers and retailers (B2B)
  2. improving retail coverage for the internal and external customer (C2C)
  3. improving Chinese suppliers reliability and accountability through its certification programs

Companies such as AliBaba, Amazon , Ebay are supplying the world with something it badly needs: equal opportunities. With electronic markets easily available and growing fast, people all over the world are starting to have, for the first time in history, equal chances at attaining success.

It’s not Equality, but Meritocracy  is as good as it gets

By empowering individuals to access the same wealth of possibilities, the new tech companies are changing the way we think of human development.

Our history has been sadly occupied by mostly dynastic forms of leadership. Aristocracy, brute force ruling, totalitarian states have one thing in common – unequal opportunities for those that deserve them.

Marxism brought a fake yet inciting concept: that all man are equal. Indeed we are all created equal. We should have equal opportunities. But perfect equality is neither attainable nor fair. Even among equally gifted individuals, drive and hard work can shift the balance more than we care to admit.

Equal access to opportunities is needed and desirable. We have to make it possible that even if the future cancer – curing Nobel Laureate is born in a poor village in Africa, he has the chance to rise. Even if the physicist that will invent faster than light travel will be born in a poor family, he has the chance to reach his full potential.

Our electronic markets are so far the only way we can ensure equal opportunities to all mankind. What made Warren Buffet rich was a brief period of time when stocks were great to buy, his innate intelligence, his access to the best information he can get, a close relationship to an intelligent mentor. And hard work.

Beside innate abilities that turn out to be not so important, everything else above is now available or shortly be available to each citizen of the world.

Companies that are building electronic markets are not overvalued. They are a new breed of companies that work for the betterment of mankind. Knowingly or not. That’s why we need to look at them not from the previous brick and mortar, asset only point of view, but a new one. We need a perspective where we look at a company and choose to invest in it based on a simple question: “Does this company get us closer to an equal opportunity world?”

It’s not all good …

However – be sure equal opportunities do not mean equality. Man was not born a machine. He is a creative force of nature and as long as it will use his creativity and intellect, opportunities will be used.

Unfortunately a dark veil has been pulled over, at the dawn of our productive society. Many of us still act as if we depend on simple, repetitive jobs to make a living. Whether it is our instincts fighting the technology we hardly understand or  a self perpetuating fallacy we must stop trying to act as machines.

The world is potentially free. We must leave all repetitive tasks to technology and become the creators we are able to become. Those that fail at this will be the 80% struggling tomorrow.

Twitter-commerce is in the Making. And it Looks Great.

It seems that Twitter is moving forward with its plans to enter the ecommerce market. Last year the company hired Nathan Hubbard, former Ticketmaster CEO and ecommerce heavyweight, to handle ecommerce development efforts.

News about Twitter Commerce have now surfaced, showing a potential user flow for customers buying directly from Twitter.

The company has partnered with Fancy.com (online catalogue / Pinterest for buyers) AND Stripe (web and mobile payments) to provide merchants with the option to sell on its social network. The link between Twitter and Fancy is obviously Mr. Jack Dorsey, Twitter (somehow) co-founder and member of the board for Fancy.com.

Twitter commerce user flow found on Fancy.com

Twitter commerce - Source: Re/Code.net
Twitter commerce – Source: Re/Code.net

Re/Code “found” some “documents on fancy.com, in a “unprotected” area. Italics mark some obvious skepticism with “finding the documents” (what- did they just type fancy.com/twitter-commerce?) .

Whereas the documents and their source is of little importance, the fact is the user flow looks great and seems beautifully integrated with Twitter. It even provides a package tracking app and same-day delivery options.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook notoriously killed the much-awaited f-commerce by ignoring the growing ecommerce trend and its own potential opportunities. Much more –  it then decreased organic reach through its platform for non paying customers, thus alienating potential f-commerce merchants.

Now that the playing field is leveled, Twitter may somehow turn out to be a spectacular and unexpected challenger to eBay and Amazon. It does have 645 million potential customers.

Ad-Supported Mac OS? It could have happened.

steve-jobsIt was 1999. Only three years have passed since Steve Jobs returned to Apple. Britney Spears was climbing the charts with “Baby one more time” and engineers at Apple were a few months into launching the Mac OS 9. They would dub it “The Best Internet Operating System Ever”. It was a visionary product and an awesome precursor to today’s Internet-enabled operating systems.

Unlike its direct competitor, Microsoft, Apple had a simpler way of shipping its operating systems. They would either come pre-installed on purchased computers or subjected to a standard $99 upgrade fee.

Source: Insanely Simple - The Obsession that Drives Apple's Success
Source: Insanely Simple – The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success

Steve Jobs thought he can get more users aboard if he somehow reached out to those yet unwilling to pay for the OS. Ken Segall, the man credited with naming the iMac , recalls how this happened, in his book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success:

“[…] Steve provided some details about how the advertising would work. At systems start-up, the user would see a sixty-second commercial. This ad could be regularly changed via updates from Apple’s servers. Throughout the rest of the OS, ads would appear in places where they had the most relevance. For example, if the print dialogue box indicated that you were running low on printer ink, you might see an ad from Epson with a link to its store – so you could buy some ink right then and there”. 

The consensus was the main ad, the one running at systems start, would be a premium spot for top-knotch companies. Those Steve admired, say BMW and Nike. Once the ad started running , some system functions would be suspended so the user had to see the whole ad.

Apple engineers and staff were psyched about the idea and they loved the fact that such a new interface could let users try the OS and buy it whenever they felt like upgrading. Apple even registered the patent for this, listing Steve Jobs as the main inventor. Fortunately this system never went public and Apple went on to build its success and later on give out the Maverick OS upgrade for free, but that’s a story for another post.

Apple thought about it, Google and Amazon did it.

Apple was not the only company that thought about the ad-supported OS, but it was the first to seriously consider it.

For starters – like most smartphone users you’ve heard about Android. It’s the most popular mobile OS (or at least the most used). It’s free and it helps Google leverage on mobile ads. So much that it Google now takes in about half of all mobile ads revenue.

Google’s other venture into ad-supported OS is Chrome OS / Chromium OS – the web OS that has Google at its center. And Google’s Ads.

Yeah, both Google and Apple thought about an ad-supported OS. The time-frame, however, is pretty important. Apple thought about the ad-supported OS, it nearly implemented it and ditched it. An year later (2000) Google launches AdWords. After yet another 5 years (2005) Google buys Android. 6 more years passed until Google launched its Chromebooks in 2011.

Amazon, the king of online retail, thought this is a great idea also.It started using it on its Kindle readers in 2011. Later on the Kindle Fire was subsidized through ads. The ad-supported device / OS seemed so good that Amazon didn’t actually bothered to built no-ads versions. Or talk about it.

Apple’s “say no” culture lead to dumping the ad-supported Mac OS

Fortunately Apple scraped the idea and later on figured out an way to give the Mac OS for free (it’s doing pretty well selling apps and music). Its focus on delivering a great user experience finally won. It was Probably Steve Jobs who remembered his own words, spoken at the 1997 Apple World Developers Conference:

“Innovation is saying no to a thousand things”

Ticket Sales Companies Infographic – Who’s Who?

Last week we’ve had a look at world’s top 5 ticket sales and event management companies. To put things in perspective, below you’ll find an infographic showing some of the facts and figures you might not now about the leaders and challengers in the ticket sales market.

SEE ALSO: Ticket Sales Business Models – The Retailer, The Marketplace, The “Enabler” Platform »

The infographic focuses on three companies – StubHub, Eventbrite and Ticketmaster. Beauties and the beast. Things you’ll find below: info regarding the business model, founding dates, growth numbers and such.

Ticket sales infographic
Ticket sales infographic

Sources:

  • http://netonomy.net/2014/01/10/top-5-ticket-sales-event-management-companies-behind-curtains/
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StubHub
  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2013/09/25/eventbrite-brags-2-billion-in-ticket-sales-500-million-in-just-six-months/
  • http://blog.eventbrite.com/eventbrite-2013-year-in-review/

Anti-Amazon Law passed in France, Banning Free Shipping.

France surely is a culturally rich country. Unfortunately, when it comes to the economy – things are not really blooming. Part of that issue is the state’s ever-increasing interventionism. The country now has a  project aimed at slashing development of web libraries. And by web libraries I mean Amazon.

amazon-france

The french Senate has voted a ban on Amazon’s free shipping on books. The free-shipping is frowned upon in France, as the policy is contravening the Lang Law. Simply put the law, named after Jack Lang, states that publishers set a fixed price to any book. Retailers can afterwards discount the book up to 5%, but no more. The reason for this policy to be so deeply ingrained is that it supports the 3500 bookstores in France. It is a  “part of our cultural heritage“, as conservative lawmaker and law sponsor Christian Kert states.

So what is Amazon guilty of? Apparently the company is using the 5% discount AND offers free shipping. Isn’t this absolutely terrifying? The good people of France can’t let that happen, now can they?

The bill passed, Amazon is forced to stop offering free shipping

Put forward by the centre-right opposition UMP party, the bill passed by the senate this month. A near-universal pro vote assured the bill will stand and soon Amazon and others will be forced to drop the free shipping. 

The “Anti-Amazon Law” as it is informally referred to, is rumoured to be a payback for the company’s decision of setting up its fiscal headquarter in Luxembourg, to avoid french taxes. It is also part of an increasing wave of what some might call “discrimination” against american companies. Both Amazon and Google have been having their fair share of legal issues with France and they are constantly under fiscal audit.

The Anti-Amazon law is but a symptom of a state incapable of holding onto talent and encouraging innovation

While this particular law has drawn a lot of attention, it’s but a symptom of a growing problem in France – the socialist / interventionist state. Things seem pretty grim there. Taxes under socialist leader Francois Hollande grew to upwards 75% for high earners. This caused the mass emigration of talented high earners and companies historically providing for the state’s lavish expenses.

This article in Newsweek quickly went viral as it shows the people’s distaste with the way the country is managed. Business are forced to pay taxes, rather than being encouraged to innovate and develop. Talented entrepreneurs and professionals are driven abroad, rather than being encouraged to stay and help the country recover. Still a large group of people, heavily relying on social care, heavily resisting change, do support the government’s actions.

A deeply iconic example of France’s resistance happened january the 13th. Some of the cabbies in Paris attacked an Uber car, breaking the glass and slashing the tyres. The reason – cabbies were not happy with the new taxes and the Uber-like apps that caused unwanted competition. Inside the cab – Eventbrite founder and one of those talented professionals leaving the country to find success, Renaud Visage. The old France meets the new France. Violence ensues.

The country is also pushing for increasing regulations in the EU against internet companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, instead of pushing for increasing regulation to foster innovation and economic development. The country’s inability to adapt and evolve in this new age can pose serious threats to the EU itself. As France still has plenty of negotiation power, it might push further for a rigid European Union, an inward looking, scared empire that might not make it very well into the next century.

Top 5 Ticket Sales and Event Management Companies. Have a look behind the curtains.

top5ticket_thmbLong gone are the days people would wait in line to buy tickets. Conferences, plays, movies, sports events – they all have one thing in common – the business model implies selling tickets and organising the event. With innovative solutions event managers and venue owners can now leverage the power of cloud solutions, CRMs, mobile apps and a bunch of other buzzwords.

In this post you’ll get a look at the champion and the challengers. The market is split between marketplaces (such as StubHub), ticket retailers (some of which are rather large – see Ticketmaster) and solutions providers, such as Xing Events.

SEE ALSO: Ticket Sales Business Models – The Retailer, The Marketplace, The “Enabler” Platform »

Let’s start with number 5 and count down to the king of the hill:

5. Oveit

Oveit is an innovative take on ticket sales and event management. It is feature packed and allows event planners to publish events and sell tickets on their own website.

 

By using an embedded technology, Oveit allows event organizers to work with a fully functional ticketing and event management app in minutes, right on their website. Some of its features are:

  • simple event setup and implementation – copy-paste implementation or click to publish to Facebook
  • direct payments (connecting a PayPal account allows event organizers to receiving payments instantly)
  • free service for free events
  • customized registration forms
  • interactive badge design application
  • seating design 
  • multiple options packed in one ticket (entry, beverages, tshirts – you name it)

 

Tickets are automatically issued on purchase and they are scanned using mobile apps (so no need for costly scanners). One particular piece of technology is what Oveit calls multiple access. It makes it simple to sell multi-day tickets, pack multiple perks and synchronize data between mobile scanning apps.

Oveit key takeaways

  • Oveit allows event planners to install ticket sales on their own websites or Facebook pages by just copy-ing and pasting an embed code
  • Payments flow from attendee to the organizers. No interruption needed, right?
  • It packs all the right tools in one simple to use interface
  • Though still a startup, it is the best choice on this list for mid-sized event organizers. By the way – creating a free account takes around 5 seconds.

4. Xing Events (Former Amiando)

The company formerly known as Amiando was purchased in 2010 by Xing. Later on it was rebranded Xing Events. It’s worth mentioning that it was probably not a great exit for the company. Rumor has it that the €10 million paid for Amiando was not at all satisfying for early investors. Then again the company seems to be doing great in the last three years since the purchase.

Le Web partners with Amiando to manage events / sell tickets
Le Web partners with Amiando to manage events / sell tickets

Xing itself is not an overly popular company. It is a competitor to LinkedIn and that is a tough spot to be in. Being a german company they are doing pretty well in Germany. Zee Germans make up for 76% of Xing’s traffic. 90% of it’s traffic comes from german speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

It seems the joint venture took the best of worlds. In the last three years since the acquisitions, Xing, the social network, has been providing less value to Amiando than Amiando has been providing to Xing. Some fairly popular conferences organize their events and ticket sales using Amiando /Xing Events. One of them is Le Web, probably the most popular tech conference in Europe.

Xing Events’ best features are its integrated ticket sales / mobile app / entry management  solution. It allows its users to create event websites, customized ticket shops and process payments.

The product is now an end-to-end solution for event management and ticket sales and it’s growing fast, allowing Xing to expand its presence outside Europe.

Amiando Key Takeaways

  • Amiando was purchased by Xing in 2010 and has been growing steadily
  • It is now an end-to-end solution for event planning and ticket sales
  • The company acts as a payment processor / collector for ticket sales and charges a standard fee of approximately €1 / visitor + ~6% of ticket cost (registration fee + payment processing fee)

 

SEE ALSO: Ticket Sales Business Models – The Retailer, The Marketplace, The “Enabler” Platform »

3. StubHub

StubHub_logoStubHub, now a subsidiary of Ebay, is the world’s largest marketplace for secondary market tickets. It was founded in 2000 by Eric Baker and Jeff Fluhr, former investment bankers.

From the largest ticket marketplace in the US it quickly grew into world’s largest ticket marketplace, now serving US, UK and Canada. It is now the go to place for anyone looking into selling and buying tickets for sports events , concerts, theater and entertainment events.

After being featured in 2006 in Fortune 500’s fastest growing companies, StubHub was quickly purchased by Ebay for a reported $310 million . The company has now over 1250 employees and it’s expanding its operations quickly to keep up with growth. The mothership, Ebay, is actually forwarding ticket sellers to StubHub, in an effort to consolidate the market.

Interestingly, on of StubHub’s competitor, Viagogo, a company that has so far raised $65 million, was founded in 2005 by Eric Baker. Sounds familiar? It should. He’s one of the two guys that founded StubHub.

StubHub Key Takeaways

  • StubHub is the largest ticket marketplace for sports events, theaters, concerts and entertainment events
  • It was founded in 2000 and acquired in 2007 by Ebay for $310 million
  • It’s present in the US, UK and Canada

2. Eventbrite

Eventbrite Founders. Left to right: Julia Hartz, Kevin Hartz, Renaud Visage
Eventbrite Founders. Left to right: Julia Hartz, Kevin Hartz, Renaud Visage

Eventbrite is a self-service platform for managing and marketing events, selling tickets promoting events across social networks. It allows event managers to promote events and attendees to find these events and buy tickets.

The company was founded by Kevin Hartz and Julia Hartz back in 2006. Legend has it that after the two got engaged (notice the “Hartz”?) Julia moved to the Bay Area and helped setup the company . The platform was developed by Renaud Visage, current CTO and third co-founder. At the time the company was just a startup, Renaud was the only developer so for one year he developed, designed and maintained the platform.

Years later Renaud is still the CTO of Eventbrite. He is generous enough to provide those in the lookout for a roadmap to an $1billion company. Technically speaking. Here it is bellow:

[slideshare id=15031913&doc=dublinwebsummitpresentationrenaudvisage-121105083638-phpapp02]

Eventbrite did pretty well in 2013. 25% of its total sales up to date happened in the last 6 months.
Eventbrite did pretty well in 2013. 25% of its total sales up to date happened in the last 6 months.

In 2013 the company reported a total of $2 billion in total ticket sales, with $500 millions in the last 6 months. The company actually sold more in the past 6 months than it did in its first five years.

How did that happen – how could such a growth happen so fast? Two words: global expansion. Eventbrite started in the US but it’s now available in 7 languages and used in 179 countries.

“We… are ready to put even more power into our global presence” said Julia Hartz – Eventbrite President

Eventbrite has also acquired some companies on its way to the big payday (expect something big with this company). Eventioz and London-based Lanyrd were both acquired in 2013, after Eventbrite secured a $60 million investment, led by Tiger Investment Global.  The reason? Same as above – Global Expansion. Both companies listed above are doing great in the global presence department. Eventioz is an event planning and ticket sales leader in South-America. Lanyrd is a great resource for anyone looking into adding small and medium events such as “conferences, workshops, unconferences, evening events with talks, conventions, trade shows and so forth“.

Eventbrite Key Takeaways

  • Eventbrite is now the fastest growing mid-size events management platform
  • Its growth has been vastly accelerated in the past year
  • 25% of its total sales up to date happened in the last 6 months
  • Given the new investment, its fast growth and global expansion – expect something big coming up in 2014-2015. My bets are on an IPO/large acquisition deal. Maybe even trying to take on …

1. The King of the Ticket Hill: Ticketmaster

Ticketmaster is the granddaddy of all ticket sales and event marketing companies. It’s been founded in … get this … 1976. It’s the oldest and biggest company on the list. It has paid $388million for its three latest acquisitions, Front Line Management, SLO Ltd and Ticketsnow . That figure is 2.7 times bigger than Eventbrite’s total funding to date ($140million).

The company is the king of the hill when it comes to ticket sales for concerts. In 2010 it merged with Live Nation to create Live Nation Entertainment. Maybe you haven’t heard about the company but you’ve definitely heard about its operations. Besides its creepy “One nation under music” tagline, the company sports some of the most popular artists in the world.

Ticketmaster is a pretty big part of Live Nation Entertainment.
Ticketmaster is a pretty big part of Live Nation Entertainment.

The company manages artists, merchandise, tours and ticket sales for a bunch of artists you may have heard of: Jay-Z, Madonna, Beatles, U2, Justin Timberlake and more. Among them – this year’s media sensation: Miley Cyrus.

"That's Mr. King of the Hill". There's no picture of Mr. Maffei not smiling but then again I think he's not the guy you want frowning.
“That’s Mr. King of the Hill to you!”.
There’s no picture of Mr. Maffei not smiling but then again I think he’s not the guy you want frowning.

On the company board sits mr. Greg Maffei, a seemingly not very important person, as he seems not worthy enough for his own Wikipedia page. He is, however, worthy of being the chairman of Live Nation Entertainment AND president of Liberty Media. Just as with LNE – you might not be very familiar with the company – but you do know its subsidiaries. Among them: Associated Press, Barnes & Noble, Time Warner, Viacom and others. Mr. Maffei seems to also be a pretty hard working guy: In 2012 he was the 3rd best payed executive in the US Media ($391mill). You may want to have a look at his payment sources (see previous link).

So that’s where Ticketmaster hangs around. With the big guys. It has the backing it needs, it has its ticket sales outlets, it has two fulfilment centers in  Texas and West Virginia. It has it all. So much that in 1995 Perl Jam accused Ticketmaster of excersing a monopoly over ticket distribution and used its market power to gouge consumers with excessive service fees. [see source]. The Justice Department, of course, cracked down on Ticketmaster’s unlawfully practices … oh wait… it didn’t. 

The Justice Department abruptly dropped the investigation without further notice. Of course that was a great decision for Ticketmaster. At the time the JD had its Antitrust resources stretched thin as it was investigating another company – Microsoft. Guess who owned 80% of Ticketmaster at the time? Well if it wasn’t Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

Ticketmaster is still the leader after a not so glorious past. Its practices are often frowned upon. Scratch that – Ticketmaster is actually one of the most hated companies in the US, its competitors are catching up and the company hadn’t had a stellar year in 2013. The company is a leader in its field. A hated, feared, sieged leader and it is a matter of time until it loses supremacy.

SEE ALSO: Ticket Sales Business Models – The Retailer, The Marketplace, The “Enabler” Platform »

Ticketmaster Key Takeaways

  • Ticketmaster is the largest company in ticketing and event management
  • It’s part of a very large conglomerate of businesses
  • It has a shady past and a gloomy future
  • Competitors will soon catch up

So these are the top 5 ticket sales and event management companies. There are, of course, others out there but this is a pretty good place to start if you want to get an understanding of ticket sales and event management industry.

There are also worthy mentions, smaller but very interesting companies such as Ticket Tailor, GuestManager and UK based Ticket Script.

SEE ALSO: Ticket Sales Business Models – The Retailer, The Marketplace, The “Enabler” Platform »

If in need for a more graphic overview on this post – click here to have a look at the “Ticket Sales Companies Infographic – Who’s Who”.

ticket-sales-infographic-thumb

The next post will focus on the anatomy of these companies, their business models and trends that will change the way we sell and buy tickets.

Shopify Raises $100 million. Targets online and offline shopping.

shopify-ceo

Shopify, the company that now powers over 80 000 online shops, with almost $1.5 billion in sales generated on it platform, announced it has raised $100 million. Existing investors, as well as new ones, such as OMERS Ventures and Insight Venture Partners, chose to extend the initial $22 million investment.

Target: Clicks as well as Bricks.

Shopify is, as CEO Tobias Lutke mentions in its most recent blog post, the “fastest growing ecommerce platform in the world” but it seems this is not enough. The company plans to bridge the gap existing in small to mid companies’ approach to multichannel shopping.

shopify-posThe future, it seems, lies not only online or in an online vs offline struggle but rather in a 360% approach to customer care and sales.

Earlier this year Shopify announced Shopify POS, a point-of-sale solution designed for stores already running on Shopify’s platform. These stores can now easily use the software and hardware provided by the company to ensure a better care for their customers, independent of channel.

Rags to riches

The company was founded in 2004, when CEO Tobias Lutke and co-founders were trying to find a way to sell snowboards online, legend has it. Because they were not able to find an affordable application to help them do that, they built it themselves. Later on they thought it would be better to rent the software as a SaaS solution rather than try and sell snowboards. “That was the best decision of my life” says Lutke.

It took the company 6 years of bootstrapping until they finally got their big brake. Th first investment came in 2010 ($7million) and than 2011 ($15 million).

Now they sit on $122 million in investments and the company is probably the most interesting Canadian tech company of the moment. As the market’s demand for affordable, flexible solutions to multichannel retailing increases, so will Shopify’s market value.

Tracking customers in-store. Where is the Privacy?

Did you know that stores use smartphone WiFi and Bluetooth connections to track your movement? Turns out that’s kind of a growing trend right now. Showrooming is ever on the rise so traditional retailers need to act on understanding customers better. Tracking phones is one way to do it.

privacy

There are some companies out there (their number increasing) that provide tracking technologies. One of them is Shopper Trak and I had the pleasure of meeting one of their representatives this week. The company uses a combination of WiFi and Bluetooth signal detection to count, profile and report on customer behavior. How do they that? By registering the smartphone’s MAC address.

What are MAC addresses? Good thing you asked. These are unique identifiers for your smartphone. Kinda like your IP, except they don’t change. That’s one great feature if you’re going to track returning customers. Of course – all of these informations are anonymized and encrypted, as Bill McCarthy of Shopper Trak convincingly told me a couple when I had the pleasure of chatting with him.

Working in tech for some time now – i’m not really so sure about anonymous data but the technology is pretty interesting and its applications can work wonders for multichannel retailers.

Being a online-first type of guy, I was surprised to see the kind of tracking you get with Google Analytics in brick and mortar stores. The first question that popped into my mind was – “Can you compare store tracking data with online analytics data?”. Apparently most of the companies that provide such a service do provide a form of data export that can be used to understand online-offline behavior.

WiFi / Bluetooth tracking is not that popular, due to privacy concerns.

The second question was “Isn’t this thing a little intrusive?”. Probably.

Comments on Nordstrom's decision to track shoppers behavior.
Comments on Nordstrom’s decision to track shoppers behavior.

Last year Nordstrom decided to find out more about its brick-and-mortar store shoppers. They thought they can get valuable intel by tracking who comes in the shop, which products customers buy more, what’s the return rate and others. You know – the kind of stuff all online shops track so they can improve customer experience and increase sales. Except they did this by tracking customer’s smartphones.

But Nordstrom did something that online stores don’t usually do – they posted a sign announcing shoppers they were being tracked. And the shoppers were not happy at all. You can see in the image on the right the kind of feedback they received.

Fearing increasing frustration with their tactics, Nordstrom discontinued the program.

Tracking in-store traffic with video cameras

Some of Brickstream's graphics are definitely not intended to address privacy concerns
Some of Brickstream’s graphics are definitely not intended to address privacy concerns

Atlanta based Brickstream uses a 2d /3d type of cameras to track shoppers inside stores, reporting on queue length and customers behavior.

Brickstream uses path tracking to understand and report customer routes. It also uses height splitting in order to differentiate between different demographics (male, female, child) and 3D technologies to “see behind obstacles”.

Their video intel is, of course, pretty efficient. Used together with mobile tracking- even more so. It is also a little scary for customers inclined to privacy concerns.

Are you are one of those customers? Than you may want to scan through info on the 8 major players in this growing market, Brickstream being one of them:

Companies providing in-store customer tracking technologies

In-store traffic traffic tracking is an industry lead by these 8 companies, with other minor companies quickly growing. The list is provided by “Future of Privacy”, a think tank based in Washington DC, focused on “advancing responsible data practices”.

Nomi tracks customers online and offline
Nomi tracks customers online and offline

One of the younger companies providing in-store analytics, Nomi, which recently received a $10 million funding, mentions the length they go to in order to insure customer privacy. The privacy principles they list on their website are:

  1. Collect, use, and share anonymous information only.
  2. Allow you to opt out of Nomi’s services.
  3. Use industry standard security practices to protect the data we collect.

So everything is cool right? Well…

Good thing you can turn of your Bluetooth and WiFi, if you’re concerned about privacy. Oh, wait…

So far there have certainly been some concerns regarding privacy. Retailers usually addressed them as quick as possible. And when that was not the case – customers could just turn off their WiFi and Bluetooth connection so they won’t be tracked.

As mentioned earlier the technology only works when there is some type of WiFi or Btooth connection that beacons can track. Without it – smartphones are basically invisible. But than Apple thought – hey, let’s change that.

One of the often left out features when it comes to Apple’s new iOS 7 is the iBeacon. The iBeacon is Apple’s response to NFC (near field communication). When an iOS 7 device comes within range with an iBeacon it emits a BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) response. It becomes trackable even when the above mentioned connections are turned off.

And Apple is really committed to using it:

Apple will track iOS users with iBeacons

The Apple Store Visits you
The Apple Store Visits you

The technology laid dormant during the past months since it was announced. Now Apple will instal iBeacon transmitters in its stores. When walking past such a device, iOS users will be notified of additional information they can read and save on their mobile devices.

The technology will offer in-store analytics to Apple, push ads and info to customers, assist in queue lines at the genius bar and of course help with purchases and payments.

Numerous other possible uses come to mind, mostly location based enhancements… Things like door opening for the blind, customized ads, personalized offers and many others will act as an usher in a new age of technology.

This new age, however, does not leave place for privacy.

Flipboard Becomes an Ecommerce Gateway with its New Catalogue Feature

flipboard

 

Flipboard, famous for making it easy to read webclips and magazines on mobile devices, flips over to ecommerce. In a recent blog post the team announced it will allow brands and users to create virtual product catalogues.

For starters the company allows users to flip through curated content with v-magazines such as “Modern Man,” “Beauty Bar,” “Home Sweet Home,” “The Pantry” and “The Active-ist”.

Several brands have also taken up the opportunity and have launched brand magazines. The thing is – these magazines allow users to browse through holidays offers and than shop. It’s safe to assume that Flipboard aims at something more than just content browsing.

Right now the company has enlisted Banana Republic, Birchbox, eBay, Etsy, Fab and Levi’s. Soon others will  join given the fact that Flipboard has more than 85 million users (a rather interesting market), with 1 million of them actively creating and curating magazines.

Flipboard closing into Pinterest

Remember when we talked about how Pinterest is killing it in terms of ecommerce referral traffic? It seems that Flipboard has also taken up the model and lets users collect products using this handy-dandy little bookmarklet that allows users to collect and share their favorite products.

A mobile commerce gateway to lovable goods

Flipboard is one of the most popular mobile apps around  and not just in terms of number of users. Its 1 million personalized magazines has led to change in user behavior. Almost 50% of all users now read personalized magazines created by less than 1%. The time stamps are interesting also: most reading is done in the morning (9 AM – kinda like a morning newspaper), magazine updating is done in the afternoon and most sharing is done in the evening.

So far their unpaid editors were not able to make an actual living curating the magazines but who knows – The new commercial magazines might change the way we look at Flipboard.

With over 1 million editors, 85 million users and a lot of nice products out there Flipboard can maybe become the mobile Pinterest. There is a need for socially curated ecommerce stores, Pinterest is a success so far in terms of ecommerce interest and mobile is on the rise. Say hello to the new Ecommerce Gateway.

Online Shopping Started in 1979. Birthplace: the UK.

If you think about someone who was there when ecommerce started, who would you picture? Jeff Bezos? You may be wrong because Bezos started Amazon in 1995, a full 17 years after ecommerce was born, in the UK.

The ecommerce revolution was televised

Back in 1979 a 38 year old innovator put together an online shopping system called Videotex. It was one of the first end-user technologies that displayed interactive information on a TV screen. Unlike most other connectivity breakthroughs of that age, the Videotex was more of a TV than a computer.

Michael Aldrich - the inventor of online shopping
Michael Aldrich – the inventor of online shopping

It was basically a domestic TV connected through a phone line to a central transaction processor.  It might sound simple now but at the time things like e-commerce, online orders, online banking and others were pretty close to science-fiction.

One day, early 1979, Michael Aldrich received in his office a 26” TV, capable of teletext. The TV was able to display news and weather information, broadcasted by the BBC. It had several components that allowed it to do that. Among them – a modem and an auto-dialer.

Those two components proved to be really useful to Aldrich. Later that year, after superficially examining the device, Aldrich was out with his wife, walking their dog, Tessa.

They chatted about the kids and such. At some point the subject of weekly supermarket expedition came up. Aldrich was thinking of how could he make that boring trip easier – and that’s when it hit him: He could connect the modem enabled TV to a central server and help companies process transactions and sell things. Things such as groceries.

Online shopping before the Internet

He worked with his colleagues, set up a basic system and demo-ed it to major companies. As he had sales and marketing jobs before, he was able to convince executives of the system’s competitive advantage.

It as a hit and his team received some heavy requests for the system. He spent most of the ’80s designing and implementing online shopping systems. Remember – this was an era predating even the most basic forms of computer technology – such as MS DOS, the IBM PC , internet and yes, the World Wide Web.

It wasn’t until 1990 that another great brit, Tim Berners Lee would write the World Wide Web and unlock the Internet’s potential.

Tesco shipped the first online shopping order

Truth be told, Videotex never really caught up with end consumers. It was mainly used as a B2B shopping / ordering technology. But people did use it to place the world’s first online shopping orders.

It was May 1984 and Jane Snowball, 72 years old, was pinned in hair chair after she broke her hip. She needed groceries and the local Tesco supermarket had joined a Gateshead Council initiative to help the elder receive groceries at home.

She needed only 15 minutes to learn how to use the remote. After that she was able to choose from the 1000 products available on Videotex. Her order was payed on delivery as no card processing was available at that time. But she did order and the order did arrive.

She, among other senior shoppers, were the first to shop online. What was then a local experiment with little success is now a $1 trillion industry and growing fast.

Aldrich, now a grandfather of 8 grandchildren, may not have been the Jeff Bezos of its time but he is the man that invented online shopping, among others. There was no B2C market for him to work on, but there was a B2B market. His innovations started what we now call the IT industry and revolutionized the way people thought of media (from few-to-many to many-to-many).

This is a man that innovated his way to ecommerce, the IT industry, and basic Social Media notions we apply today. Pretty great, right?