VCs putting money into personal finance sites

February 17, 2008

Venture capitalists have been busy investing in personal-finance Web start-ups, attempting to tap into a new generation of consumers who have never balanced a checkbook and increasingly view online money management as they would any other kind of Web service.

Read at www.unitedBIT.com

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Turning Innovation Into Cash

February 17, 2008

Ideas are good, but if they don’t make money, they’re useless. That’s the premise of Payback: Reaping the Rewards of Innovation, by James P. Andrew and Harold L. Sirkin, who have seen the best and worst innovation practices from their perch as senior vice presidents of the Boston Consulting Group. Their new book is a helpful “how-to” for companies looking to refine their innovation process.

Read at www.unitedBIT.com


U.S. Online Ad Market Double In Four Years

February 13, 2008

The U.S. online advertising market will generate annual revenue of $50.3 billion by 2011, the Yankee Group predicts. However, it still accounts for only a small percentage of advertisers’ overall budget. Advertisers currently spend 7.5% of their budget online, even though the Internet accounts for 20% of overall media consumption in the U.S.

http://www.unitedBIT.com


Al Ries on branding strategy

February 13, 2008

Whether you are selling a politician or a product, your objective is exactly the same: build a brand in the prospect’s mind. Owning a word is as important for brands as it is for US presidential candidates. However, many marketing people make some fundamental mistakes.

Read more at http://www.unitedBIT.com


What’s Next: The Monster Dilemma

November 20, 2007

By David H. Freedman

For business owners plagued by a dearth of candidates for key job openings, the Web was supposed to provide an ideal solution. Job-search sites like Monster.com (NASDAQ:MNST) can put postings in front of millions of applicants instantly. And newer business-oriented social networking sites like LinkedIn provide similarly fertile recruiting territory, supplying access to the contacts of thousands of people. On the other hand, anyone who’s actually tried to hire someone through the Web knows the truth: You post an ad and are immediately flooded with hundreds of resumés, many from people whose backgrounds are wildly inappropriate. So much for the Web making things easier. It’s enough to make you long for the days of print newspaper ads and snail mail.

But just as technology created the problem, newer technology aims to solve it. A new generation of hiring tools promises to screen out inappropriate applicants, allow the suitable ones to put their best foot forward, and even hunt down good candidates who haven’t applied. As these new services get better at these tasks, they may well change the balance of power in the job-recruiting industry and could even redefine the way we think about jobs.

A shot at diverting a river of weak applicants is the chief advantage offered to employers by Protuo, a Woodstock, Georgia-based start-up that launched its service in January. Protuo isn’t only a job-listing site; it also forwards its clients’ listings to some 270 established job-listing sites, including Monster. But applicants can’t respond to a Protuo posting unless they spend seven minutes or so filling out a survey that asks about experience, skills, workstyles, and job preferences. Employers can customize the survey by choosing from a wide field of prepared questions or by adding their own, and they specify which responses get a candidate’s resumé past the screen. Has the candidate managed a technical project? Is he or she willing to move? The approach is modeled, to some extent, on the sort of compatibility gauging one encounters on a matchmaking site like eHarmony, notes Jennifer Gerlach, Protuo’s co-founder and vice president of marketing. Gerlach went through the dating process on eHarmony just to research the technique. “I learned a lot,” she says. “And I met some very, very nice people.”

With online job postings sometimes pulling in more than a thousand applicants, the ability to winnow the flood could mean the difference between being able to retain control of the hiring process and having to bring in a professional recruiter–at a typical cost of $30,000 for a midlevel hire. The time and expense of dealing with a huge influx of resumés is all the more frustrating because much of the flow comes from online applicants who indiscriminately bombard hirers with resumés. You can try a keyword search on the resumés to narrow things down, but applicants have learned to load their resumés with them, often by pasting in phrases from the job posting. Even LinkedIn has suffered from inflation, as many users aggressively build networks of people they don’t really know in order to make themselves appear better connected. “There’s no value in a lot of these contacts,” says LinkedIn user Chris Knudsen, who heads business development for podcasting company Podango in Salt Lake City. “It can just be someone whose card you got at a trade show.” (A LinkedIn spokesperson commented via e-mail: “Anyone can join the LinkedIn network; however, the quality of your own personal LinkedIn network is the responsibility of each individual.”) But a well-designed survey, contends Gerlach, allows users to skim the cream.

Fred Donovan, who runs Donovan Networks, a seven-employee computer network security firm, has been flooded with applicants responding to previous postings to Monster.com and other online job boards. He is currently conducting a Protuo search and likes what he’s seen so far. “I can specify that I want to see only resumés from people who say they have 10 years’ experience in negotiating sales and are familiar with the software development process,” he says. “I’m seeing a small, better-qualified subset of the applicants.” There must be something to the idea. Other hiring sites, including Market10, Jobster, and Taleo (NASDAQ:TLEO), are introducing their own approaches to automated candidate screening. And Monster is doing the same, making available–for a fee that adds about 20 percent to the cost of posting a job–the ability to direct applicants to a questionnaire designed to rank the suitability of candidates.

Sure, candidates can try to game these surveys by being less than truthful. But Gerlach insists that surveys can be designed to stymie such people by asking questions that don’t have an obviously right answer–such as whether the person prefers to work independently or in groups–and by warning candidates that they can be rated as overqualified. Protuo, which costs hirers $44 to $295 a month depending on the number of jobs they’re posting and is currently free to job seekers, also offers applicants a chance to do more than post a resumé. The firm invites users to create online portfolios that can include whatever documents, photos, videos, or other material that best represents that person’s career to date. (Monster is currently testing a similar capability.)

ZoomInfo, in Waltham, Massachusetts, takes a different approach. It assembles profiles of potential job candidates from all available online data, whether or not they’re looking for jobs. Starting with the same techniques that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) uses to gather Web data associated with a person’s name, ZoomInfo adds the significant additional step of crunching the results to pull out the most relevant information, weed out data referring to other people of the same name, and assemble a professional profile. ZoomInfo has an R&D team of 35 working on the technology. So far, the company has assembled some 34 million profiles, and as far as I can tell, most of them are fairly informative and accurate. (Check out your own name to put it to the test.)

But somebody has to pay for all those scientists, and that somebody is you. The company charges $5,000 a user per year for the ability to dig up personnel profiles by company or industry. It sounds like a lot, but ZoomInfo’s COO, Bryan Burdick, notes that if you get the right candidate for a single vacancy, the price is one-sixth that of using a recruiting firm. The company also offers less expensive, more limited searching capabilities aimed at smaller companies, as well as free access to searches on individuals. Many major executive search firms, along with some 500 other corporations, already use ZoomInfo, claims Burdick. “I can find personal information, professional backgrounds–and, sometimes, damning evidence–on tens of millions of people without having to go through 1.5 million Google hits on each one,” says John Boehmer, managing partner at executive search firm Barlow Group in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Boehmer is quick to point out that as ZoomInfo-like services get better, and more companies get comfortable using them, corporate hirers won’t need professional recruiting firms like his to turn up candidates. “It’s commoditizing the front end of what we do,” he says. “Eventually, everyone will know where everyone is and how to get hold of them, so we won’t be able to charge for identifying and contacting candidates.” Search firms will still be valuable for assessing candidates, he contends, though he acknowledges that new e-hiring systems could eventually eat into that end of the business as they get smarter and have more online data to work with.

For that matter, it’s easy to imagine the not-all-that-distant day when online tools make it so easy to find people to fill a specific slot that the notion of permanent jobs becomes irrelevant for many positions. Why hire a manager for years when you can find a new one with exactly the skill set needed for the precise tasks at hand? That’s not necessarily bad for employees: Think of an economy where top employees are constantly being sought out and bid over by companies that recognize them from their Web trails as the perfect short-term solution. And talented employees would be just as smart about whom they choose to work for–using similar services to weed out companies that aren’t good matches for them. You’ll want to treat those people well. If you don’t, and they post that fact online, it could haunt you for a long, long time.

Source:


Online marketplace for people renting items and those who need to rent them

November 20, 2007

 

Zilok is an online marketplace for people renting items and those who need to rent them. The simple, intuitive interface helps visitors connect and facilitates the transactions. It’s a nifty site that’ll get more useful as the community grows.

Provides an easy-to-use platform where you’ll find items you typically wouldn’t see for rent and can make money renting out items you use only occasionally. Facilitates the transactions. Provides PayPal deposits to insure your items. A calendar shows when items are available.

Too small a community to be useful right now. The service will stop being free come 2008.

We all have a ton of stuff we barely use that’s just gathering dust in the garage or closet. You could justify your purchase of that cordless drill or ski set by inventing new ways to use them between uses, but why not put them to work making money for you? Zilok.com gives you an online place where you can easily do just that and also easily find items you’ll only need for a short time. The creators hope to make their site the one-stop online shop for locating anything you need on a temporary basis.

The site is like a Craigslist for rentals, showing available items in your area, but it also assists in the rental process, giving you the tools needed to set up terms and facilitate the transaction online. For instance, using Zilok search I found someone in the New York City area offering a Nikon D80 Digital-SLR camera and a 2GB memory card at a daily rate of $12 for 1 to 15 days. If that met my needs and budget, I’d send in a rent request, wait for an acceptance from the lender, and then set up a time and place to meet and pay for the item. It’s that simple.

You can sign up for the service as a business (if you’re a professional rental service) or an individual. As a lender, you can give potential customers peace of mind by becoming a verified member. To do so, you supply Zilok with your cell phone number, and in return, you’ll receive a text message confirming your information. Verification links an account to something concrete, giving potential renters more reason to trust you. Member profiles include ratings and customer feedback, which give you a good feel for who it is you’re renting from.

The stipulations you place on items you’re willing to loan out—the per-day price and length of rental—display online on that item’s page. A Zilok-provided rental agreement template for users to sign covers everything that happens in case of damage or lost of rented items. You can also set up a PayPal deposit as insurance on your goods.

To find items for rent, you search by keyword or category, then look at Zilok’s Google Maps mashup, which shows what’s available in your area. You can click on the image of the item to view the terms of rental and the lender’s profile. The item’s specs, supplied by the lender, appear below the map and the rental terms. A helpful calendar on the items page shows when the item is available. When you find something you like, clicking on the rent item button sends you to the booking page where you propose a start and end date for your rental and how long you’re willing to wait for an acceptance reply from the lender.

Once the rental request is accepted things move from the virtual to the actual. The lender and renter set up a meeting location by e-mail, where they meet and hash out the final details, such as payment method, and complete the transaction. After that, Zilok is no longer part of the process. The site doesn’t handle the actual exchange of the item and payment. The rental agreement, which according to Zilok ensures that “the consequences of an incident are governed by this contract and of course by any legislation that is in effect,” confirms the deal and conditions, helping to safeguard both sides.

As of this writing, the service is free, but that may change in less than two months. Starting January 2008, you might have to pay to put items up for rent. Site reps told me they’ll evaluate the site density, and if there are enough users to support it they’ll implement a charging scheme similar to what newspapers charge for classified ads. If there aren’t enough users, the site will remain free until later in 2008.

You can already find places to rent specific items, like cars, tuxedos, power tools—whatever—on- and off-line. But Zilok will create a marketplace where you’ll find not only those items, but others you don’t typically see—all in one place. The site is still too small to be tremendously useful right now. As of this writing there are only about 180 items up for rent in the U.S. I’m also not sure that imposing fees is the best way to promote growth. I doubt craigslist would’ve achieve such massive popularity if it charged a fee, no matter how minimal, to post ads. Regardless, Zilok sounds like a fantastic idea, and I’ll be interested to see if it will work.

Source:


Israeli Startup Sports Events 365 – The Google For Sports Events

November 19, 2007

Sports Events 365 Ltd. is a start up company, and the owner of www.sportsevents365.com, a unique Internet search engine for upcoming sports events, worldwide. Our web site enables the users to search for major sports events by location. It is a powerful tool for tourists and travelers who wish to add watching live sports to their trip. After choosing a sports event to his (or her) liking, the traveler can book a hotel or a flight and even purchase tickets for every match on our database. It is a one-stop tour-planning device that a growing number of people find useful to their needs.
They offer information on approx. 20,000 sports events worldwide (on annual basis), that will take place in 700 cities in 100 countries. The site display:

1: Football – first division football matches in 16 European countries, Champions
League, UEFA Cup and EURO 2008 qualifications – all over Europe.
2: Tennis – Grand Slam, Masters, ATP, WTA Davis and Federation cup.
3: Motor Sports – Formula 1, Nascar, MotoGP.
4: American Sports – Football, Baseball and Hockey.
5: Cricket – World cup, Ashes and more.
6: Rugby – World cup, Heineken cup, Tri Nations, Six Nations and more.
7: Basketball – NBA and first division matches in 6 European countries, Euroleague,
ULEB Cup– all over Europe.

Users of http://www.sportsevents365.com can search for sports events at a specific destination (search by country, search by city) and receive a full list of sports events for that destination as well as for nearby cities, up to a distance of 150Km. our database contain additional information such as the exact date and time and the exact location of the event including means of transportation, maps and venue charts.

Sports Events 365 has now two fully operative search engines for upcoming sports events. The sites are used regularly by thousands of people as part of their tour planning process. Work on turning www.sportsevents365.com into a multi-lingual site is in progress and a few White Label agreements were signed with leading bodies in the tourism industry, from several countries, all over the world.

Source:”a href=”http://www.israel-on-blog.com/israeli-startup-sports-events-365-the-google-for-sports-events”>Israel-on-blog.com