HowAboutWe – Product Analyst Opportunity

We (LaunchTime) are investors in HowAboutWe which is really redefining the online dating experience. Aaron and Brian who are the co-founders are two of the most impressive entrepreneurs I have met in NYC and are really excited about the direction they are taking the company. If you know someone that is looking into breaking into a Product Management career path at a fast paced start up, please pass along this opportunity.

Product Analyst – HowAboutWe

Who We Are
HowAboutWe makes it faster, easier and more fun than ever to get offline on
awesome dates. We are the offline dating site. We’re a well-funded ($18.5mm), rapidly-growing startup with headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. We build breathtaking products that transform people’s lives. You
can read more about us here. In addition to our core dating product, we are currently focused on creating the
world’s most innovative mobile/tablet dating applications and a new application focused on helping couples discover and buy amazing date experiences.

Who You Are
You want to help build the most beautiful and best performing web and mobile experiences in the world. In this role, you are on a career path to becoming a skilled Product Manager. You are a smart, creative, and independent thinker. You are innovative and, at the same time, fanatical about details. People want you on their project because they know you will increase its chances of success. You are a top-notch communicator, even-keeled under stress, and generally positive.

You:
• 1-3 years of work experience in a fast-paced environment
• Prior exposure to product development – and particularly to collaboration with designers and developers – a major plus (but not required)
• Very smart, very quick, and very thoughtful
• Exceptional communication skills
• A learner and contributor by nature
• Love the internet, mobile products, tech, start-ups, and making things

The Job
You will:
• Help to define new features for our web and mobile products.
• Support our Product Manager in writing thoughtful and thorough user stories for designers and developers.
• Conduct user research, facilitate on-going feedback from our users, and gather inspiration for new features.• Do quality assurance testing on all our products. This is detail-oriented work and will be a major part of your responsibilities.
• Manage communication with our customer service team.

Benefits
• Competitive Salaries and Stock Options — We pay highly competitive salaries in addition to significant stock options.
• Sustainable Pace — Our whole team is committed to a full workday of energized work that includes an hour lunch break and leaving at a reasonable hour. Really.
• Health Insurance — Exceptional Health Benefits.
• Ten Paid Holidays — Our office closes for all standard paid holidays.
• Fifteen PTO Days — We encourage all team members to take vacation and recharge.
• Food & Drink — Stocked fridge, some team meals, etc.
To apply please first check out our site and make sure you love what we’re doing. Then please send a resume and cover letter to Ruti Wajnberg, Product Manager at ruti@howaboutwe.com.

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AMAZING OPPORTUNITY TO WORK IN KOREA

As some of you know, I am an early investor and board member of Coupang.com. We are the leading flash/deal site in Korea. The company has experienced amazing growth getting to a $700 million+ revenue run rate, full net income profitable with over 12 million subscribers and more than 700 employees – all done in less than 2 years. The opportunity for the next great ecommerce company is wide open in Korea and were are excited to lead the way.

We are looking for Korean Americans who are interested in going back to Korea (hq is in Seoul) and working for Coupang in senior roles. Ideally they are bilingual and have come from Internet/ecommerce backgrounds. However, we also are hiring people that are looking to leave investment banking or consulting gigs. We are hiring for all different types of roles from strategy and BD to marketing and product and are just looking for smart and driven folks.

Honestly, I think this is an amazing opportunity. If you know of anyone, please send them my way. You can reach me at ben@bensun.net. Happy to give them more background.

Thanks again!

-Ben

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Coupang is looking for Strategy and Biz Dev Talent

Coupang is one of the fastest growing e-Commerce companies in Korea. With over 11 million users, the Company has already achieved an annual revenue run rate of $700 million to date.

Opportunity

Coupang is looking to build a team of top talents and provide them with an unparalleled experience in eCommerce with the longer-term objective of creating the next generation of leaders for Coupang’s future businesses. For more detailed information on Coupang, please visit our website at http://www.coupang.com .

Job Title

Senior Manager : Strategy and Corporate Development

Job Description

Business Development Team will be responsible for developing and executing strategic initiatives for Coupang.

Take responsibility and drive all activities required to launch a new businesses, including:

  • Verify business case and conduct market analysis
  • Develop and implement organizational structure
  • Develop and execute on marketing and PR strategy
  • Implement IT setup
  • Key accounts management
  • Other company-wide strategic initiatives

Skills/Qualifications

• Self motivation and multitask capabilities

• Excellent leadership and interpersonal skills

• Strong ability to prioritize and organize

• Strong ability to analyze market trends and business models

• Quantitative skills to interpret business data and draw conclusions / implementation plans

• More than 3 years of experience in business development / management consulting, overseeing
major projects and leading teams or working with senior executives

• Must be able to communicate well in both Korean and English

Contact information
For more details please contact Kevin Chung at kevin@coupang.com

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Social Commerce or Ecommerce Facebook Spam?

So I read this morning about FirstMark Capital leading a $7.5 million round in social shopping start up, Sneakpeeq.  I decided to go to the site and check it out.  Sneakpeeq aims to replicate the experience of flipping over a price tag when shopping for items in a retail store.  Sneakpeeq doesn’t tell you the price instantly when you visit a product’s landing page instead you have to click a “Peeq” button to find the price. The site features items that are similar to what you would find at Fab.com.  At first I couldn’t figure out why they would have you “Peeq” each time you wanted to see a price.  Why would you want to replicate an experience of fishing for a price tag?  That is a barrier to a purchase decision not an enabler.   And then the light bulb went off!  They were using the Peeq button to basically get you to post to your Facebook feed to create virality.  Let me walk you through what they are doing:

Step 1 – You have to use Facebook Connect to Join SneakPeeq.  No other option!

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Step 2 – You are then told that you are going to get Discounts for Sharing with your Friends

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Step 3 – They give you a Badge that gives you a $10 Credit once you join.

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Step 4 – You have to hit the “Peeq” button to see the price.  Since you just got a  $10 credit, you want to see what you can get for super cheap.  I check out 10 products just to see how cheap I can get it.

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Step 5 – Everytime I hit the Peeq button, I didn’t realize that I posted it in my Facebook feed each time!  I just posted 10 items in my feed.  Remember I had to use FB connect to use the site.  Most likely at least 1 of my friends will join and do the same exact thing to their friends.  Let the virality begin!

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If you understand the viral coefficient or K factor, the goal is to get to >1.  That means for every person that you get to use your site, they will refer at least 1 other person who joins.  If you can’t get to >1 then it is not truly viral.  If you get it >1 and especially > 1.3, your site will grow very quickly.  To get there, you need to try to “infect” as many people as possible.  For a site that means you need to get some kind of messaging to as many users as possible as often as possible.  This is the problem with the usual implementation of the “Share” button.  When people shop they rarely share therefore it never really goes viral.  However, in this “Peeq” mechanic they are making you basically share everytime you check out the price.  You are basically sharing whether you really intended to or not (and most likely you didn’t intend to in this mechanic).

So did it work for Sneakpeeq?  Well based on this Compete traffic chart it looks like they made some of these changes at the end of last year and it is working.

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We saw a very similar tactic used by Pinterest.  If you have used Pinterest which most of you have, you had to join by using Facebook Connect.  At that point, everytime you pinned it would show up in your feed.  Probably not a surprise that FirstMark is an investor in both Pinterest and now SneakPeeq and they understand this mechanic very well.  This is not meant to be disparaging to FirstMark.  They are a very good venture capital firm.  I hold them in very high regard.  However, has SneakPeeq crossed the line here?  Is this really social commerce or is this just using Facebook to spam your friends.? I am not saying it’s not a good short tem marketing tactic.  Zynga built their business on spamming Facebook users and getting to a level of scale where when Facebook shut those channels down, they were left as the kings that no one could dethrone.  They are now a $10 billion market cap company so its hard to argue that it wasn’t worth it.  I have a feeling we are going to see a lot more of these type of tactics this year.  Remember seeing Farmville and other games in your feed.  Get ready for tons of ecommerce posts from your friends and they didn’t even realize they were doing it.

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If You Build It, They Probably Won’t Come

I probably have met with over 100 start up entrepreneurs this past year and with each of them I asked “how do you plan to solve distribution?”.  I was incredibly fortunate to have built Community Connect Inc. during a time when you built unique and valuable Web properties then people would just come.  There is so much noise out there now that the strategy of getting to your end customer needs to be well thought out and executed.

A common piece of advice that I offer entrepreneurs is to find distribution opportunities where there is much greater supply of accessing your customer versus the demand.  Time and time again, you see businesses that take advantage of a temporal period of such distribution dynamics and build their companies to scale giving them a long term competitive advantage.  Here are some examples:

1. Zynga – there was once a time when Facebook allowed you to build apps on Facebook and basically massively spam your friends who in turn would spam their friends.  They basically built their business on the largest free and legal spam platforms.  Zynga’s massive success was born from taking advantage of that opportunity and growing Farmville to over 80 million Monthly Active Users.  Eventually, Facebook changed their rules of how you can message users and that SPAM opportunity  quickly went away.  However, with that initial large user base, Zynga has been able to replenish their stable of games and maintain their customer reach.  At the same time, other game publishers are locked out from building their own large customer base.  The Facebook spam window closing has created a massive barrier for other social game providers to penetrate the market!

2. LegalZoom – I had the pleasure of meeting with Brian Lee this past summer.  Brian is a very successful serial entrepreneur who founded LegalZoom and most recently founded ShoeDazzle.  Brian told me a story of when LegalZoom first started that they were one of the first to try PPC advertising on Search Engines.  At that time, GoTo.com was the only player in the space and they were able to buy clicks at $.01.  To give you perspective, I am sure the terms they were bidding on are now fetching PPCs that are well north of $1.00.   GoTo.com was hosting a user group meeting of some of their most active customers.  Brian was sitting next to someone who asked him how many different keywords he was buying.  Brian thinking that he was a pro at SEM (Search Engine Marketing) answered that they were buying dozens.  He then asked back how many that person was buying and he answered “Ten Thousand”.  Brian was shocked.  He asked that person to show him what they were doing.  Luckily, they were not in a competitive businesses so the person showed him.  Brian went home that night and started expanding his keyword campaigns.  LegalZoom invested heavily in SEM including building their own bidding and optimization technology.  LegalZoom became the leading player in online legal documents by taking advantage of incredibly cheap SEM allowing it build to a level of scale that other players are able to match.

The marketing opportunities usually don’t last long because eventually demand catches up with supply.  However those that take advantage of these opportunities usually build their businesses to a level of scale where they now have more resources to invest in the product and service making them superior to their competitors.  With an existing large installed base of customers and strong brand recognition and less friendly distribution opportunities for their competitors, they then are in dominant market positions.  So as you think of your business, keep abreast of what is happening with the new marketing channels.  Look for areas where there has been a ton of growth in supply because it usually means demand hasn’t caught up.

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Why Groupon’s Margins will Hold Up

LaunchTime (the business I am a partner of) is very bullish on the daily deal space.  For full disclosure we are investors and are incubating businesses in this space including Yipit, Coupang.com and DoodleDeals.com.  We were told about Groupon in the middle of 2009 about 7 or 8 months after they launched.  Our initial reaction was that this business was a great idea but the low barriers of entry would force margins of the business to shrink dramatically.  This is what happens in markets with tons of competition.  Competitors compete for business and when there is not enough of a differentiation, they are forced to drop their price in order to compete to try to win the business.  Bidding wars ensue and margins are compressed.  This is what happened in Search Engine Marketing agencies.  They started off with 30 to 40% margins but tons of them both big and small sprouted up and margins got compressed to less than 10%.  So our initial hypothesis is that this would happen to Groupon.  Groupon clones would sprout up like weeds and they would start going to the same merchants and ask for much lower revenue shares and margins would be compressed.  However, it is now 2 years in the business and Groupon’s margins have been firm at 40% to 50% revenue share on the deals they run.  So how have margins remained strong as hundreds of daily deals sites have entered the market?

The reason why the margins of Groupon have held up is because of scale.  When I refer to scale, I mean the size of both their audience (consumers) and merchant network.  Groupon has over 25 million email subscribers giving them the power of being one of the few “rainmakers”.  For businesses that have the capacity and desire to add a lot of new customer, if you are featured on Groupon, they usually deliver enough new customers to completely fill that need.  At this time, very few daily deals site can do that. I would argue that LivingSocial may be the only competitor in the same ball park.  So when people think that Groupon has a lot of competition, in reality, they don’t.  They are working primarily with businesses that want a lot of new customers and the capacity to handle the “firehose” – being featured and getting a ton of new customers.  They are not interested in working with the business that wants a handful of new customers such as the popular restaurant that has a little excess capacity on a Monday night at 5pm.  They want to work with the large new restaurant that needs a lot of new customers right away so their business can quickly have a loyal regular customer base.  If you want the trickle of new customers, you can go to their competitors or just use Groupon StoresGroupon Stores doesn’t even to plan to make money from a revenue share just on breakage of non-redeemed vouchers.  The market for the trickle of customers is competitive and will have low margins.  The market for the firehose will not have low margins because it won’t be nearly as competitive.

Will Groupon be the only player with scale?  No, there are plenty of companies with very large audiences and customer bases that will tap into this model.  However, there are not going to be thousands.  There is just not enough consumer attention to have that many at scale.  People will go to a small handful of very large general market plays – like having a few major prime time major tv networks.  And then there will be a good number of middle tier players that are focused on a certain vertical or niche – like having a bunch of pretty popular cable networks.  And then there will be a ton of very small scale players – like having tons of people handing out paper fliers.  So the small handful of very big players and the good number of middle tier players will be a more competitive market than what we have now but there are millions of merchants to choose from on who to partner with to be their “firehose”.  The most coveted merchants will see more generous revenue shares.  However, there are plenty of good merchants to choose from for these larger scale players to choose from who will play ball at these higher revenue shares.  So if you want to pick the winners in this market – pick those who can get to scale as the very big players or the middle tier players.

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Families, Tribes and Organizations

The week after we sold Community Connect Inc., I didn’t receive any calls from Executive Search firms.  I remember waking up early one morning and feeling panicked not knowing what I was going to do next and more importantly that no one really cared.  Well, that didn’t last long as I soon started getting calls and being pitched CEO gigs.  When we sold Community Connect, we had about 130 employees and we were generating about $20 million in revenues.  Was the next stage of my career growing a company to over 1,000 people and 9 figures in revenues?  I had to take a step back and decide on what I really valued and liked to do.  Selling Community Connect gave me this enormous gift of having some financial independence and allowed me to  focus on what was going to really make me most happy.  So I reflected on the 12 years of running Community Connect and tried to recall the periods in which I was happiest and soon realized that I had the most fun in the early days.  Yes, I was in my early 20s and we were pioneering the concept of social networking before the term “social networking’ was even coined but what really made it so enjoyable was the people.  The environment and energy was incredible when the company was less than 50 people.  We all felt we were really “in it” together, everyone had this great entrepreneurial energy and most importantly we all became friends.  There was no sense of “corporate culture”, no formal corporate communication plans, no corporate processes.  Just a group of people trying to make things happen.  Organized chaos among a group of people that really enjoyed working and hanging out with each other.  That is what I missed.

I described this to a good friend and mentor – Bill Lohse.  Bill has had a very accomplished career including being President of Ziff Davis Publishing and he told me that what I longed for again is when a company is a family or a tribe versus an organization.  When a company is less than 20 people it really is like a “Family”.  Everyone is incredibly close.  It doesn’t mean that you all get along at all times but there is a level of connection and loyalty that is so powerful.  Everyone knows what is going on, there are no secrets.  Not because there are formal communication plans, it is because that you are all working so closely together that this complete openness is just organic.  When a company is between 20 and 50 people, it is like a “Tribe”.  The connection is still really powerful and there is this great underlying feeling of support from one another.  Greater than 50 people and especially over 100 people is when the company becomes an “Organization”.  There are HR policies, formality, hierarchy, roles and structure.  I enjoyed the challenge of growing an organization but I longed for the days of the family and tribe.  To this day, I think about those family and tribe members.  My family, there were obviously the co-founders: Pete, Mike, Cal and Grace.  Then there were those people that joined and help grow our family and tribe,: Betty, Omar, Candace, Ian, Stephanie, Alexis, Bea, Rashmi, Gary, Dan, Zakia, Edmund, Maheen, Mallie, George, Arul and Kingsley to name a few.  Those were amazing times and we all keep in touch one way or another.  Watching our careers evolve, attending each others weddings, celebrating the birth of our children.  I feel that the impression that was made on us from those days will last forever and be something that we all cherish.  I know I do at least.  This may be the biggest reason why I wanted to get back into start ups.  Having a chance to work with a group of people as a family and tribe is truly an awesome experience.  It may not be for everyone but I know it’s for me.

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