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E-Commerce

Detroit’s Chalkfly Brings Social Good to Office Supplies

Andrew and Ryan Landau attended rival universities in Michigan, then left the state after graduation to pursue jobs at Google and IBM. But the pull of home, and the prospect of being part of a burgeoning entrepreneurial renaissance, brought the brothers back to Detroit to launch an innovative e-commerce company. Chalkfly, their fast-growing two-year-old office-supply e-commerce company, lets users donate 5 percent of each sale directly to teachers. Andrew calls the chance to work with his brother and be part of Detroit's revitalization an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.   More

Business E-Commerce

New Economics: Sharing Isn’t Free, and Price Gouging Isn’t Mean

The pros and cons of the so-called "sharing economy" are getting plenty of press these days. Consider the diverse takes this week from Technology Review, the New York Times, and the Kansas City Star. In a Times report about workers who are finding "both freedom and uncertainty" in the contract employment trend, Natasha Singer explains how Navy veteran Jennifer Guidry attempts to help cover her family's food and rent costs with popup gigs.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Bitcoin Momentum Grows in Emerging Markets

Bitcoin is gradually making progress as a medium of exchange in developing countries. While it can be volatile as an investment asset, it has real utility as an instrument for payment and money transfer, especially in places where conventional payment systems are immature. Because Bitcoin facilitates instant payment through peer-to-peer technology, most transactions can be completed in less than 10 minutes no matter how distant the two parties are. In addition, each transaction is recorded in a public ledger, enhancing transparency and trustworthiness.   More

E-Commerce

Sharing Economy in Cities: Moving Towards a More Inclusive Urban Future

The sharing economy makes headlines daily: from anti-Uber protests across Europe to Airbnb's recent $10 billion valuation, new start-ups entering the private sector are offering more things to share (or rent, swap, borrow or barter) and more ways to do so. Quietly and gradually, however, a parallel evolution is taking place in the public sector.   More

Business E-Commerce

Alibaba Picks NYSE, Plays with Yahoo, Football

It’s been two weeks since I’ve written a post exclusively about leading e-commerce company Alibaba, so I thought I’d end the week with a round-up of a few company news bits including its selection of the New York Stock Exchange for its highly-anticipated IPO. In related news, the company’s major shareholder Yahoo is reportedly in talks to reduce its planned sale of Alibaba shares in the offering. Last but not least, Alibaba has formally added its name to one of its latest acquisitions, a stake in one of China’s leading soccer clubs.   More

E-Commerce Finance

Does Bitcoin Foreshadow a Decentralized World?

Will we one day be able to trade stocks without a brokerage or pay for goods with a currency that has no central issuer? With Bitcoin, people can now do the latter. In the future, they may also be able to do the former, and much more, in a world where applications are open-source, commonly controlled, and operated without middlemen. This is the disruptive power of the blockchain, a revolutionary piece of software that can defy convention.   More

E-Commerce Learning

Audible Founder Katz on Discovering the Music in Language

Even the head of an audiobook juggernaut has to admit that certain books were meant to be read on the page rather than listened to on headphones. For Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz, that book is “The Sound and the Fury,” which he describes as “one of the most complex and beautifully constructed pieces of literature” and a primer on the “music in language.”   More

E-Commerce Learning

Got Audiobook? Audible CEO Katz on the Rewards of Listening to Literature

Since introducing one of the first digital audio players in 1997, Audible (now owned by Amazon) has become the biggest name in audiobooks. “It really is seen as a service now,” says Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz of the surging audiobook phenomenon. We spoke to Katz at the recent Venture for America Summer Celebration in NYC. He ticked off some of the benefits enjoyed by the growing legions of audiobook consumers: “They get to work smarter than the guy in the next cube; they have storytelling in their lives on a consistent basis.” Most importantly, he said, they’ve found a valuable way to spend the millions of hour per week Americans spend in traffic.   More

Business E-Commerce

How Warby Parker Doubles Down on Disruption and Social Change

The technology-driven eyewear company Warby Parker has bigger fish to fry than disrupting an industry and hooking up consumers with hip, inexpensive glasses, although it’s done a pretty good job of that so far. “We started Warby Parker with two goals in mind,” said company co-founder David Gilboa at a recent Venture for America event. The first goal was to transform “a $65 billion industry that had been ripping consumers off for decades … by creating our own vertically integrated brand.” In so doing the company is able to offer glasses for $95 that, according to Gilboa, would normally sell for $500-$600. Warby Parker’s second goal, said Gilboa, is to prove that a for-profit business can have “a massive positive impact in the world.”   More

Business E-Commerce

Why Warby Parker Admires Tesla’s Disruptive Drive

Warby Parker has used tech tools to shake up the eyewear industry, making high quality glasses available to consumers for a fraction of what they used to pay. Meanwhile, insurgent carmaker Tesla is changing the way people think about driving, but has run into regulatory roadblocks in its attempt to subvert traditional distribution models. At the recent Venture for America Summer Celebration, we asked Warby Parker co-founder David Gilboa for his thoughts on Tesla and its founder Elon Musk. Unsurprisingly, Gilboa is a fan. "[Musk] is one of the most brilliant thinkers alive, and one of the biggest thinkers alive," he said.   More

E-Commerce Government

Can a Sharing Platform for Artists Point to a More Equitable Society?

What do you do if you’re an artist in need of supplies, but you happen to be broke? Creative people have been pooling and exchanging resources for generations. Now, the emerging Internet-enabled sharing economy makes it easier than ever to swap, say, legal advice for lumber. That’s the kind of transaction that OurGoods, a new resource-sharing platform for artists, actually facilitates. OurGoods also serves “designers, technologists, makers, farmers, and activists,” said co-founder and activist Caroline Woolard when we talked to her at the recent Sharing Economy Summit at NYU’s Stern School of Business. “Artists have a lot of skills and also education, but don’t necessarily have money to pay each other to get their work done,” said Woolard. But OurGoods doesn’t just aim for one-off online bartering. Its greater goal is to build what Woolard calls “cross-class trust networks” that “enable a kind of trust-building that leads to social justice.”   More

E-Commerce

Want to Donate Your Old Sofa to Charity? There’s an App for That

The sharing economy is rooted in the idea that at any given moment, the things that people own—their tools, their cars, and sometimes even their homes—are sitting idle, ready to be used by someone who needs them. The Internet is a natural marketplace for matching these assets with consumers, in many cases providing a revenue stream for the owners who sell or rent them. For those motivated more by giving than by profit, now there’s a platform for selling their unwanted stuff and seamlessly donating the proceeds to charity. By streamlining charitable donations, WebThriftStore provides an essential service for non-profits, which often don’t have the infrastructure to process in-kind donations, let alone the resources to run a physical store.   More

E-Commerce

Writing the Rules of the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy has been called the next big disruptor. But is it disrupting enough? Fast enough? Broadly enough? The answers depend on whom you ask. As sharing expands into more industries and infiltrates more cities, it’s hard to keep up with the changes and understand whether they amount to progress. “We should be looking forward and asking ourselves, ‘What kind of future do we want to create?’” said Airbnb Co-founder and CTO Nathan Blecharczyk at the Collaborative, Peer, and Sharing Economy Summit at New York University last week. The summit sought to take a big-picture look at the much-hyped sharing economy, examining not only what it is, but also its effects, the platforms and institutions powering it, and the regulatory questions it’s raising.   More

E-Commerce Finance

Bitcoin Backers Work to Make It Mainstream

bitcoin

When Bitcoin emerged five years ago, it was the payment system many geeks and enthusiasts had dreamed of: an international, decentralized, anonymous, and transparent virtual currency that could potentially replace inefficient traditional ones. But even though Bitcoin remains very far from mainstream adoption, a new chapter just possibly may be dawning for the controversial currency. Up until now, the cryptocurrency has been way too complex for most people to comprehend (feel free to explain to your family concepts like "blockchain," "exchanges," and "mining"). It has been tied to illegal activity. The prominent Japan-based Bitcoin exchange called Mt. Gox notoriously imploded, destroying many traders' holdings. Perhaps worst of all, its value spikes and plummets regularly.   More

E-Commerce

Internet Grocery Shopping Meets the Sharing Economy

San Francisco-based startup Instacart is hoping to trump services like AmazonFresh, Peapod, and FreshDirect in the battle to deliver fresh food to your door. But unlike those bigger players, Instacart uses the tactics of the maturing sharing economy. The online grocery startup aims to deliver the same experience we now expect from sharing-economy darlings like Uber and Airbnb.   More

Cities E-Commerce

Airbnb Will Give New York Home-Sharers’ Addresses to State

Airbnb has agreed to hand over information about its New York hosts in order to comply with a subpoena it received last week from the New York Attorney General. The NYAG's office had claimed that "more than 60 percent of the service's listings in New York City on Jan. 31 appeared to violate a 2010 law targeting illicit hotels," Bloomberg reports. Crain's New York today published a letter of agreement that was signed yesterday between Airbnb General Counsel Belinda Johnson and Clark Russell, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Internet Bureau in the New York Attorney General's Office.   More

Business E-Commerce

How to Regulate the Sharing Economy

Techonomists Arun Sundararajan and Andrew McAfee were among seven who contributed to a debate in The New York Times last week about how to handle the disruptive economic effects of the emerging sharing economy. The Times asked the pundits to consider whether the apps and online services that are powering the sharing economy, such as Airbnb, Uber, and TaskRabbit, are “cutting edge conveniences that should be encouraged, or money-making businesses that need more regulation?”   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

E-commerce Empowers Southeast Asia’s Local Brands

As online marketplaces and e-commerce services grow in sophistication, small retailers worldwide gain access to new business opportunities that boost local economies and give more choice to consumers everywhere. Even in Southeast Asia, where e-commerce markets remain underdeveloped, local brands see opportunity to achieve national, regional, or even global scale. A few recent initiatives highlight the possibilities.   More

E-Commerce

Local Tech Platforms Uncover Neighborhood Secrets

When the favorite dog groomer and sitter for our family’s timid and particular Maltese left town one week before we were headed overseas, finding a replacement quickly became a household priority. We had no dog care referrals and there was little time to vet the unexplored options. What to do? Being digitally-minded, we decided to turn to Yelp. It helped us quickly identify a groomer/sitter less than a mile away who specializes in Malteses. People in more and more communities are experiencing similar successes. Some expected that off-shoring and consequent “big box” low-prices would be the death knell for local businesses. But online digital platforms are enabling individuals and small businesses to act like large ones, connecting with suppliers and customers wherever they may reside.   More

E-Commerce Mobile

eBay’s Devin Wenig on Retail in a Post-Mobile Age

With mobile connectivity more and more ubiquitous, could we be entering a post-mobile age? eBay's Devin Wenig thinks so, and says it will increasingly define the global marketplace. "The physical and digital worlds are coming together in incredibly interesting ways," Wenig told us at a recent Techonomy dinner salon in San Francisco. Retail is turning stores into virtual shopping and shipping centers, said Wenig, while platforms like Uber and Airbnb use tech to link data to the physical world. The fear that online retailers like eBay could decimate physical retail is being upended, according to Wenig. Instead, small merchants and service providers are learning to use tech and data to broaden their distribution and become more competitive. "Some call it collaborative consumption, some call it the merger of physical and digital. Whatever you call it," said Wenig, "the change ... has been astounding."   More