The Tech, Logistical and Business Innovations of Internet 3.0

July 31, 2014 by


Throughout our age-of-personalization series, we reported on the evolution of the internet, with the 60s which brought on the decade of semiconductors, the 70s which was the era of the personal computer, the 80s, the with the prominence of networks, the 90s, the with the rise of the modern internet, and the 00s with the prominence of social networks, and asked the question ‘what will the next decade bring’?

As we pondered the question, while blogging, researching, interviewing and curating data through our series, we find ourselves focusing on identifying and supporting successful companies who are leveraging technology – networks, databases, aggregated information, sensors and processes –  people –  stakeholders and communities representing the voice of the customer – and processes – operations, logistics, methods and transactions, in order to more efficiently serve an ever more selective and discerning customer base, demanding the delivery of personalized solutions. This direction is both inevitable and pervasive, impacting industries ranging from retail to financial services, clean energy to healthcare IT, affecting all of us in every part of our day-to-day life, establishing a new reality.  The macro conclusions, observations and learnings to date are summarized below, with opportunity questions and comments.

Tech Innovations in the Age of Personalization

1. Data will only grow and get more complex. Yes, it’s about the data, we have oodles and oodles of it, coming out of our ears, detailing everything from our web search habits to buying and texting patterns, from time spent in a room to preferred heating temperatures, from average speed on freeways to average expenditure for each trip to preferred stores, in preferred months, at preferred times of day.

The key to adding value through data is to first capture and integrate data from multiple sources, generate an actionable report for targeted users, measure outcomes and impact, and correct as you go. Engaging a community will be key to generating data that is relevant and connect stakeholders who can work collaboratively to serve members of the community.

2. Sensors will become even more pervasive, not just in what-we-already see for everything from home energy monitoring to health diagnostic tools, but the integration of sensors between each other, and the embedding of sensors even within the body will change the way we live, work, play and think.

The standardization of sensor technology and the data generated from it will generate integration opportunities. The winners will be companies that can integrate multiple data input from sensors, sift out the noise of the data, and provide an actionable dashboard for paying users.

Logistical Innovations in the Age of Personalization

3. Companies that can efficiently deliver personalized orders to the door will reign supreme. Thank you Dell for revolutionizing the supply chain process, making it on-demand. Thank you Google and Amazon for raising the bar beyond that, and aggregating the delivery of products to the door so efficiently and conveniently.

The key to profitability is to aggregate standard, off-the-shelf products and deliver them in concentration urban areas, in relative frequency to ensure efficient and excellent on-demand customized orders are fulfilled with sufficient margins to command profitability for the organization.

4. With that said, there will be an opportunity for those who serve niche audiences and even rural locations. It will be difficult without the fulfillment centers of Amazon, the retailer relationships of Google, and the brand of both.

Perhaps SnapDeal, the largest ecommerce marketplace in India, can compete while focusing on another tech-philic and concentrated market. Perhaps other organizations can focus on high-volume, specialized, high-margin needs for another affluent niche market. Perhaps another successful company can focus on efficiently serving the specific needs for rural populations.

Business Innovations in the Age of Personalization

5. The way we look at revenues will change, and the lines will blur between transaction, membership, advertising, and subscription revenue models. The successful companies will find synergistic opportunities that will leverage the success of one revenue stream to fuel the momentum of another, while providing wins for all stakeholders. The key is not around the revenue opportunities, but about the way to better understand and serve the customer, the ability to build a community serving your customers, and creating that virtuous circle where serving communities and customers provides increasingly more value.

What can we all learn from the Amazon example: a $299 annual fee for Amazon prime, which includes free same-day and early morning delivery on grocery orders over $35 as well as free two-day delivery on select items, a free Kindle e-book lending library, and an unlimited video streaming through its FireTV solution.

6. The way we sell will be forever changed. No longer are we in an age of buying-what-you-don’t-need, with money-you-don’t-have, to impress people-who-don’t-care. Successful sales people will be more customer-oriented, more tech-savvy, more proficient with social media and communications in order to create communities and distribute information efficiently, more collaborative, working with other stakeholders internally and externally and more proactive, with a clear view of their value-add: understanding the specific needs of customers, and working to tailor solutions to address these needs.

What if we selected for people with this techno-philic, progressive mindset to lead our sales efforts? What if we successfully partnered these sales stars with marketing leaders to help them communicate the message to targeted audiences? What if we all sold, not matter what our title was? What will happen to those who can’t embrace this mentality?

7. Relationship management solutions will help people connect with each other, remember each other, and communicate with each other – for the benefit of both parties. Savvy professionals will also use these relationship management tools as communication platforms for their message and brand and target prospect and customer bases as well.

How are you using LinkedIn to grow your network and stay in touch with your network? How can Newsle help you keep tabs of members of your network who make headlines? How can LinkSV give you a bottom-up view of who’s who whether your target companies? How can each be integrated into your content curation and creation efforts? What new relationship management solutions and processes would be helpful to you?

The Needs of the Customer

8. Companies and people will find to elegantly navigate regulations and policies, making it seamless for the customer throughout the prospecting, sales, integration and support periods. In addition, savvy organizations will make it easier for customers to work with them, while remaining in compliance with their own regulations.

Navigating policies and regulations are inherently a part of local and infrastructure solutions, whether it’s related to city, state, national or international requirements. Making it easier for companies to provide and deliver service locally will drive the economic development for these regions. And leaders who welcome simplified procedures and processes leveraging technology to remain in compliance will support the development of regions and organizations alike.

9. Deputizing passionate customers to deliver products and services is an interesting new trend which may take off. Whether you are enlisting vetted passengers to become drivers as in the case of UBER or Lyft, or whether it’s creating pre-ordered, recipe-d, nutritious, customized meals through services like Blue Apron, the key is that local, talented people with time and desire are blurring the lines between customer and provider.

What if we brought this concept to healthcare . . . if doctors or nurses offered concierge services and even made house calls to check in on you or your aging parents?

What if you had an on-call tech support person to fix or configure your home network and entertainment systems?

10.  Delegating the small stuff will get BIG. If we’re all so busy between work and play and life, who will do the essential little stuff for us, from feeding the family to walking the dogs? We need not just a Siri on your phone who may answer your questions or add to your task list, but someone who might actually pick up a few items at the store, get the oil changed on your car, and make sure that the kids get from school to activities and back.

Technology can help calendar and coordinate and find the best resources, but it takes physical bodies to get things done, and competent, reliable ones to get them done well and efficiently, and business acumen to scale concierge services that would be attractive for busy professionals. 

Couple this need with the concept above of deputizing passionate customers and where’s the win-for-all business? How will it scale and continue to serve all?

In conclusion, as we emerge into the Age of Personalization, the leaders will be those who can cost-effectively deliver customized products and services to the door of discerning users, leveraging technology to collect and analyze data, and to optimize the distribution of same. Tech, logistical and business innovations will be core to that successful solution, and the focus on the customer will remain more important than ever.

E-mail us at with your thoughts.

Embracing Change

July 31, 2014 by


Change is a way of life, as inevitable as it gets. Sometimes it’s change you want and have pushed for. Sometimes it’s sudden, sometimes it’s welcome. Sometimes it’s long-overdue, sometimes it’s for the better. Regardless of what the change is and how it takes place, embracing and welcoming the change is a growth opportunity in general. Below are some suggestions for how to accept and integrate the changes in front of you, and integrate them into the next leg of your journey.

  1. Accept that nothing is permanent, that everything will pass, no matter how good or not-so-good it is.
  2. Push yourself to grow and evolve and change. Explore the uncomfortable, go for stretch goals. Consciously welcoming change will help you accept the changes that happen, regardless of whether you had a role in making them come about.
  3. Surround yourself with people that aren’t quite like you. Do things that stretch your horizons.
  4. Fondly remember highlights and accomplishments and think of current changes and challenges as a stepping stone to what’s next.
  5. Laugh when a life lesson keeps coming back to you, and you finally hear the message.
  6. Combine two disparate things in your life or connect two very different people in your life and see what new synergies arise.
  7. Surprise someone by doing something differently than you’ve ever done before. Do something backwards or sideways to get a new perspective.
  8. Pretend that an unwanted change is exactly what you were looking for, until it actually becomes just that.
  9. Remember times when unwanted changes winded up better than you had expected.
  10. Make the next change an opportunity to find the next new you.

May the next changes in your life lead to opportunities beyond our imagination.

Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play

July 12, 2014 by


FountainBlue’s July 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives for our panel, women leaders representing marketing, strategy, management, diversity, and social responsibility. They are impacted by social media through their daily work and working with internal staff, executive management, as well as customer communities. Their vision and leadership drive social media successes for their companies, and they generously shared their advice and wisdom with the audience.

1. Social media will forever change the way we communicate – respect its power and its impact, and integrate it into your everyday work and play.

  • There is no avoiding social media. People will use it and develop an opinion and perspective because of how you and your company are perceived. So embrace it and learn how to integrate it into your daily life.
  • Communication is two-way and immediate – more a conversation than a mandate.
  • Impact is probably broader than you intended.
  • Impact is immediate and can spread rapidly.
  • Impact will probably live longer than you expected.
  • Messages will reach people you don’t know.
  • Whether or not you know someone, he or she will have an opinion of you based on what you communicate on social media.

2. Given the above, be strategic about how you leverage social media in work and in play. Make sure that the message is clear, is in alignment with your values and your goals.

  • Leverage social media to get the word out, cost-effectively, engaging communities strategically.
  • Know your audience and be clear what your message is to that audience, and what results and engagement you’d like from that audience.
  • Focus on the business objectives for the social media campaigns/messages and deliver measurable results.

3. Leverage the power of social media and the analytics behind it to amplify the voice of the customer, to translate their desires to your internal teams, to connect one with the other.

  • Know what you’re measuring and why. Communicate that to the right people and plan accordingly.
  • Don’t count on automation and reports for making judgment calls about the community and what they are saying.

4. If a social media message brings negative response:

  • Develop and communicate a social media triage plan.
  • Leverage your relationship with the people who are responding badly.
  • Understand where they are coming from, and make them feel heard.
  • Diffuse the situation.
  • Decide whether it’s best to take a conversation offline, respond directly, ignore it, etc.,

5. Respect the person delivering the message.

  • Don’t try to control or over-manage the way people communicate. Let her/him have an authentic voice.
  • Do help them keep in alignment with corporate policies and strategies.

6. Train your internal staff to embrace social media.

  • Have clear policies in place.
  • Set up templates.
  • Provide materials and examples.
  • Encourage execs to lead the way.
  • Leverage what they are already doing, already comfortable with to bridge into social media communications, brand and message.
  • Refresher courses and ongoing tips would help most people more successfully embrace social media.

7. Build engagement and involvement within the communities, connections across communities.

  • Nurture your most involved community members and convert them to become advocates.
  • Deputize members of your team to represent different perspectives in the community. For example, having developers manage developer communities would make sense.

8. What you say across social media platforms will impact your brand, how others perceive you, so be proactive about understanding, communicating and managing your brand.

9. Connect with a larger group of people – across generations, across cultures, through the power of social media.

10. Create campaigns that leverage the power of communities and social media to spread the word, while saving money and increasing impact.

The bottom line is that social media is not a fad, it’s here to stay, changing the way we communicate and connect with each other, blurring the lines between personal and business, between employee and customer, and broadening and expanding and engaging all.


Please join us in thanking our hosts at Visa and our panelists for FountainBlue’s July 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play:

Facilitator Natascha Thomson, MarketingXLerator, Co-Author of 42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing Book

Panelist Christina Gleason, Director, Global Digital Strategy, Visa Inc.

Panelist Pegah Kamal, Social Media Marketing Manager, Aruba Networks

Panelist Petra Neiger, Senior Director, Integrated Marketing, Polycom

Panelist Keren Pavese, Program Manager, Western Division Office of Sustainability, Community Outreach & Diversity Councils, EMC Corporation

Panelist Mary Anne Petrillo, Strategic Marketing and Media Partnerships for Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility

Managing Stress

June 20, 2014 by


STRESS! It’s a part of life, especially if you like to live life on the edge! If you’ve chosen a life of leadership in tech, embrace stress as a part of the life you’ve chosen. Here are some thoughts on how to say address your stress head-on.

1. Get a broader perspective.

Do what you need to do to rise above and beyond your current reality. Who can mentor, guide, support and coach you through a difficult situation? Consulting with an outside party on the dynamics causing your stress will help you shift it from an emotional issue to a tactical problem to resolve.

2. Be analytical about the problem.

Drill down in the short-term and long-term causes of the problem, as well as the derivative causes and effects of the problem. Objectively, what are the options for solving the problem, what are the implications of these options, what is the best way to move things forward?

3. Identify the players and their motivations.

Have the org chart but consider the dotted line relationships as well as all the alliances and causes threading the players together. Lean on someone you trusted to help you ferret out the motivations of all the players involved.

4. Analyze the string of events which have led to the particular situation.

Look at the current situation and past similar situations, identify trends and themes and commonalities.

5. Reflect on your history with the type of stress you’re experiencing now.

Focus on your feelings around the stress. When did you feel similarly? What was the situation? Who were the players? What are the trends? What can you learn? How can you leverage your past successes and experience to deal with what’s in front of you now?

6. Tie into the resources that can support you in addressing the stressors – people, situational and environmental.

With the data from above, make a plan-ful approach for dealing with the current stresses, and consider what changes need to happen to help make sure that there are fewer causal factors for the stress in the future, and changes you can make in yourself so that you’re more resilient and more purposeful in dealing with the stress.

7. Choose your battles.

Is the underlying cause of your stress a battle worth waging? If so, do so plan-fully. If not, suck it up!

8. Create a new normal.

Accept that stress is a part of life. Learn to embrace low-level stress as a learning opportunity, and to nip high-risk stress in the bud through relationships and proactive choices.

9. Escape, but don’t give in, unless you consciously decide to do so.

If it’s a battle you choose, and you need a break emotionally, take one. Do what it takes to re-energize and refresh yourself. Don’t roll over, or you will invite a harsher battle.

10. Know when you consciously decide to do so.

If you elect to roll over, do it on your own terms, and know why you’re doing it, what’s next for you, and most of all, what you learned about yourself.

Best of luck to you, as you manage your stress. Squeeze all the pleasure from every stressful encounter you experience!

Millennials In Our Midst

June 14, 2014 by

June13Panel (1)FountainBlue’s June 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Millennials In Our Mids. Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at EMC. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panelists represented a range of tech companies, with leaders from many backgrounds and roles, representing different generations – working with and as millennials, all with experience at many different levels within and outside tech organizations and start-ups and consultancies. They have worked with a range of people, leaders, teams and companies, and have generously shared their wisdom and advice.

We started the conversation talking about what a millennial is and what they had in common. Our panelists agreed that although we should not stereotype millennials or any generation group, and we should not mistake lack of experience with traits of being a millennial, and we should not think that all millennials are equal, millennials do have some similar traits.

  • Millennials like to chase ‘bright, shiny objects’, in the work context and outside it. To motivate a millennial on the team, speak about projects so that they are motivated to participate, and allow them to move between and within groups to help retain and develop them within the company.
  • Millennials are known by some as the ‘trophy’ generation, where they are used to being winners. When reality hits in the work context, and they are no longer winning at everything, or winning because they show their best efforts, it would take some getting-used-to for them. So, sandwich criticism and help them embrace feedback as learning opportunities while continuing to stroke their egos.
  • Millennials creatively problem solve collaboratively with others. Give them big picture descriptions for meaningful projects (focus on the why), and avoid telling them what to do and how to do it.
  • Millennials love technology and devices, and communicate and connect differently than those of other generations. So accept that they communicate differently, but help them brand and message who they are and what they do in a professional manner. However, when a millennials’ love-of-devices makes them appear unfocused and un-engaged in meetings, someone should help them understand how he/she is coming across and make different choices.
  • Millennials may be more experienced and less fearful of trying new things, especially around technology, so use this to your advantage.
  • Millennials have an entrepreneurial streak, and enjoy both technical and business challenges.
  • Millennials love to continuously learn and grown. The other side of that is that they need to feel continually challenged in new ways, so they may hop from job to job, role to role. But if you understand that, you can create those roles for them and help them navigate through different jobs within the company.
  • Millennials tell it the way it is – they are clear and transparent and direct in general. This is great, but some may need a lesson in strategy or tact, in order to be perceived as a respectful team player.
  • Millennials want to know the why of things, and want to see the metrics and the data. Explaining projects with this context will help them understand its relevance and impact.

Our panelists espoused these truisms, regardless of which generation you represent:

  • Communicate, collaborate and connect with each other – build a relationship, work as a team.
  • Accept other viewpoints and perspectives will help us all learn and grow.
  • Customer-focused people, teams and companies win business.
  • Find your passion, and work with those who share that passion.
  • Communicate and message your brand, what you stand for, in a way that resonates with others.
  • It’s all about the attitude – be willing to work with the team, do what it takes, learn as you grow, work with others to make something great.

Advice for getting millennials integrated into your workforce:

  • Have millennials do a shadowing visit before they join, so they get to know who’s in the company, what the culture is like, and what the work is like.
  • Do cross-generational mentoring, especially if it would help bridge disconnects between engineering and sales, for example.



Please join us in thanking our hosts at EMC and our speakers for FountainBlue’s June 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Millennials In Our Midst:

Facilitator Camille Smith, Work In Progress Coaching

Panelist Lori Burningham, Manager, University Programs [UP]Community & Learning, eBay

Panelist Kim Chrystie, Sr. Manager, Advertising & Brand Strategy, EMC

Panelist Pegah Kamal, Social Media Marketing Manager, Aruba Networks

Panelist Almitra Karnik Sharma, Senior Product and Solutions Marketing Manager, Twilio, Inc.

Panelist Amy Papciak, IT Project Manager, Cisco


Next Generation of Retail

June 3, 2014 by

It is now common knowledge that customer analytics will help retailers better understand and anticipate shopping behavior. Based on McKinsey’s Me Commerce and the Future of Retail findings, retailers can provide tailored product recommendations increase shopping volume by 5-10%, improve supplier negotiations, reducing costs by 1-2%, and schedule promotions for multiple locations increasing sales volumes by 1-2%.

Based on that same report, the EBITDA growth rate for grocery retailers focusing on customer analytics is 11% vs 3% for those who don’t, and 10% vs 2% for big box retailers who do it. There’s a 10% increase in volume when ad campaigns are personalized, and 75% of NetFlix content is based on personal recommendations.

But if we could understand what happens *after* the product is brought home, we can better serve the customer, better anticipate her/his needs, and better connect them with the new types of products which may be of use for them.

What it would take is sensors to track and report on what’s happening, volumes of data and the capacity to integrate and manage it, applications that filter relevant information, actionable reports based on preferences, programs to ensure that various stakeholders receive relevant, meaningful information, as they define it, and the applications and processes to ensure that goods are cost-effectively transferred to the customer?

If we could bring it all together, we would better understand what’s in the ‘black box’, what’s behind the curtain, what happens after products are brought home. And if we know that, the world of retail would be forever transformed.

Description Point of Purchase Point of Use
  1. Understand customer behaviors and preferences.
Understand the volumes (quantity, location) and types (sizes, colors) of merchandise purchased. Know not just what was purchased but also whether and often it was used and when you are running out.
  1. Use aggregated data to see and even predict buying trends.
Aggregated point of sale purchases show purchasing trends and help retailers make educated predictions on what will sell and how best to engage with the customer. Supplement point of purchase data with usage patterns at home to more clearly identify trends and make educated predictions on future purchases.
  1. Proactively manage supply.
Supply each store location on specific styles, colors, sizes and brands based on past purchase patterns. Use both purchase and usage patterns and information to manage store supply.
  1. Target new product introductions.
Experiment with new styles, colors, and products based on past preferences. Understand which experiments work, based on who’s buying and how many are buying. Extend the experiment beyond the point of purchase to the point of use. Who’s buying and using something how often and with which other products?
  1. Recommend other products based on current and past purchases.
Coupons for similar products from the same or different manufacturers presented at the point of purchase. Coupons at the point of use would be more compelling as they are sent when a product is running low, not just provided at the point of sale when you have a fresh supply, and it’s not a given whether it would be used at home, or how long it would take to use it.
  1. Tailor product recommendations and coupons.
Provide tailored product recommendations based on purchase patterns and know which categories of people and which specific individuals take advantage of these recommendations and coupons. Provide tailored product recommendations and coupons based on usage patterns and also time them based on how much of the product is remaining.
  1. Encourage feedback.
Invite customers at point of purchase to go online and report on shopping experience and reward them with coupons for doing so. Invite customers who don’t use products purchased to give feedback on why not. Offer coupons for feedback and even replacement product if it makes sense.
  1. Manage inventories.
Use analytics at point of sale to manage inventory proactively. Couple POS data with POU data to augment your data set and better manage inventory.
  1. Report purchasing trends to retailers and manufacturers.
Provide detailed analytics to retailers so that they can stock their shelves and manufacturers so that they can understand and predict the needs of the consumer. Add point of use information to see which purchased products are actually used, which ones are used in conjunction with which products, etc.
    10. Negotiate with suppliers on volume orders. Better negotiate with suppliers on volume orders as you better understand purchase patterns. Add point of use data to increase amount of data you have to anticipate product orders.


What are your thoughts for the next generation of retail? E-mail us at

Delivering Customizations to the Masses

May 28, 2014 by


As we emerge into the Age of Personalization, the leaders will be those who can cost-effectively deliver customized products and services to the door of discerning users, leveraging technology to collect and analyze data, and to optimize the distribution of same. Below are some winning strategies from tech companies to up-starts raising the bar for them.

Aggregating Delivery of Off-the-Shelf Products: Congratulations to Amazon and Google for finding the opportunity in aggregating off-the-shelf products, delivered to the door. Challenges are that the recipients must buy things off-the-shelf (must be standard sizes and offerings, customizations need not apply), that they must be in urban areas (there’s no way to deliver it cheaply to rural areas), and that there’s a service fee (in the case of Amazon Prime Fresh, it’s a $299 annual fee, which includes free same-day and early morning delivery on grocery orders over $35 as well as free two-day delivery on select items, the free Kindle e-book lending library, and unlimited video streaming through its FireTV solution – look out NetFlix, and in the case of Google, it’s free for 6 months, paid by merchants who sign up, and then annual fee is TBD, but for now, staples are emphasized, not produce and dairy which require special care).

  1. Can a start-up like SnapDeal, the largest ecommerce marketplace in India compete against the 800-pound gorillas and survive beyond what WebVan and Kosmo did when the opportunity was at its infancy? It will be difficult without the fulfillment centers of Amazon, the retailer relationships of Google, and the brand of both, both perhaps they can stay specialize in delivering to an established, high-population geography, and poise themselves for a buy-out by larger entities, perhaps they will remain dominate in that geographic area, or perhaps they will expand to other high-population, tech-philic, non-US regions quickly, or a combination of the above.

Connecting Buyers and Sellers: eBay is a prime example of an organization which built a market and industry around connecting buyers and sellers online, paying local couriers to deliver a wide range of products to areas throughout the US and the world, customized to the needs of the buyer, while also creating a process for validating both buyers and sellers. Other new options are emerging, also connecting buyers to sellers, for the purchase or products or services.

  1. eBid has local sites in over 20 countries including USA, Australia, New Zealand the UK, Canada and Ireland and sellers are reporting that customer service and ease of use are great. Listing auctions on eBid is free, sellers just pay for listing upgrades and success fees. ArtFire is where buyers go to find vintage, antique or handmade items. Selling items on ArtFire is free, but you can upgrade to a paid account for US $9.95 per month and you will receive greater options for customization, promotional tools, more exposure and faster service.
  2. Craigslist is the world’s largest online classified website and allows people to sell locally (mostly in US metro areas) if you are willing to organize pickups. There are no listing fees or selling fees, but there is less automation of the selling process. And Angieslist gives buyers a list of vetted recommended service providers for a wide range of needs.
  3. Lyft connects people who need rides to people who can provide rides.

Package Pick-ups and Deliveries: Amazon Prime did raise the bar for shipping companies including USPS, UPS and FedEx, and each are competing to get packages delivered to the door within 2 days. But what could we do to make it easier for sellers to efficiently package and send custom packages to the door of customers, and/or if we could aggregate packages received by customers into conveniently located shared mailboxes, would more people be buying and selling online? Here are two start-ups addressing this problem and opportunity.

  1. Shyp picks up your items, packs and sends them anywhere in the world, using the lowest cost, most reliable option. Unfortunately, it’s only being offered in SF, for now.
  2. MyDoorman gives you a secure address for package delivery, sign for your package, alert you when the package(s) have arrived, and then arranges for after-hours delivery of your online purchases for $7 a delivery (not for package). Unfortunately, it too is only being offered in SF, for now.

One-Time Customizations, Applied to Many: High-end men’s clothing stores like Men’s Wearhouse set the expectation that clothes will be high quality, tailored to fit, and relatively easy to care for, but not necessarily cheaply. Emerging start-ups are extending this concept to the internet marketplace where customers demand quality, fit and style, taking the time to meet in person the first time, to get measured and fit and identify preferences, and then automating orders from there.

  1. Trumaker delivers men’s casual and dress shirts and takes the time to meet you in person, measure you for fit, and understand your preferences for sleeve length, collar, material, cuffs, and costs. After the fitting, order online, for a cost similar to in-store prices.

Preference Identification: Amazon again set the standard with its online store, predicting other books or songs you might like because you’ve purchased something in the past. Grocery stores and just about everybody else is very much into that now, rewarding you for being a customer, and conveniently offering discounts for other products or services which may be of interest, given what you’ve shared about yourself through your past purchases.

  1. StitchFix is doing this online now, allowing you to set your profile online, receive 5 hand-picked items based on your identified tastes, and allowing for easy returns. The more you order and keep or exchange, the more they will understand what you like in terms of style, size, materials, patterns, etc., And they won’t just send you the same items, they would also send you styles and options that would stretch your range and help you create a fashion identity. Note that items are priced around $65 each.

Platforms for Creating and Sharing Customized Content, to your device: Applause to NetFlix for efficiently moving from moving from DVD to online content, making it easy to queue up your preferred shows and download them online, and now even creating customized content for your binge-viewing pleasure. Today there are platforms that allow users to upload their own custom content – from text to videos to pictures – to public and/or targeted audiences.

  1. Photo and video editing sites ArcSoft and YouTube and photo and video storing and sharing sites like SmugMug and Vimeo and Flickr allow users to upload and share custom content of interest to personal, social and general networks.
  2. Platforms like WordPress and PBWiki facilitates the creation and distribution of original content like blogs and wikis while curation platforms like let users gather theme-based content and social media platforms like FaceBook and LinkedIn and Twitter allow users to follow content creators. But the next generation of innovation in content creation will be solutions like WattPad, which recently received $46 million in funding, with its 25 million people creating 150,000 stories a day, with live feedback from readers.! Any way you slice it, there are plenty of ways for content consumers to decide whom or what to follow, based on their personal interests.

What are your thoughts on delivering customized solutions to the masses efficiently? E-mail us at with your thoughts.

Building Trust

May 28, 2014 by


As a follow-up to last month’s post on underground motivations, let’s say that you’ve detected that the person you’re talking to isn’t quite comfortable communicating transparently with you. If you need to work with this person, or if you would just like to support this person in her/his growth, consider doing any combination of the following things:

  1. Determine *why* that other person might have reservations about communicating transparently with you. Below are some common reasons why she/he is not choosing to trust you and be transparent with you.
    1. It’s YOU: they heard from someone else that you may not be as trustworthy as you’d like to think.
    2. It’s THEM: they are not naturally trusting people and/or they’ve recently misplaced their trust.
    3. It’s the SITUATION: they are reacting to the instability of the circumstances for the individuals, group, company, industry.
  2. Once you know *why* someone is not easily trusting or communicating with you, and you’ve decided that you’re willing and able to fix it, decide whether you want to. It’s a commitment of time and energy to do so, don’t just fall into it and leave it half-way done, or you won’t be worth the trust someone else may have in you for next time.
  3. Next, have a discussion about whether the other person wants to work with you to figure out how to address the core underlying problem. And be OK with it if that other person decides that they don’t want to solve the problem, that you may not be the right person to solve the problem, that the timing isn’t right to fix the problem, etc. Just having you say that you know there’s a problem will help her/him acknowledge and accept that there’s a problem, and help them deal with it.
  4. Assuming that she/he would like your support in solving the problem, scope out all facets of the issue and all the stakeholders involved.
  5. Then strategize on how to fix the problem short term and long term.
  6. Whether or not you make progress in addressing the core issue, build a relationship based on trust with him/her.
  7. Make it OK to share transparently with you – be a safe sounding board and advocate.
  8. Remember that trust is a two-way street – act trustworthy, and call the other person on it if he or she is not doing the same.
  9. Try not to judge, but use your best judgment in helping him or her resolve any issues which strain your personal moral compass. Even go so far as to spell out your opinion and perspective and provide boundaries and even taboo topics if necessary, to ensure that you are true to your values, while also making it ‘safe’ for someone to share deeply with you.
  10. Building a relationship of trust means that you must accept the other person for who they are and be a neutral sounding board in as many areas as you can. Being honest with yourself about areas where you don’t feel comfortable doing so will help you succeed in this endeavor.

We hope that these thoughts and suggestions help you to create and grow relationships of trust with a wide network of people.

Business Analytics in Retail and eCommerce

May 12, 2014 by

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FountainBlue’s June 3, 2011 Business Analytics Event: Business Analytics in eCommerce and Retail and featured:
Facilitator Adrian Ott, CEO, Exponential Edge Inc. and Author, The 24-Hour Customer
Panelist Darren Bruntz, Senior Director, Analytics Platform & Delivery, eBay
Panelist Tobin Gilman, Vice President, BI and EPM Product Marketing, Oracle
Panelist Raj Sen, Group Manager, Multi-Channel Analytics, Adobe

Please join us in thanking our hosts at eBay for graciously hosting us at their facilities and for their ongoing support of FountainBlue. Below are notes from the conversation.
With the explosion of online, web, social, mobile and video, the sheer volume of data over the next four years will approach the total amount ever created in the history of the planet. As our panelists agree that understanding what customers are doing and personalizing experiences based on their behavior is a must-have, not a nice-to-have, the challenge for technology companies and retailers is how to take this volume of data and target, acquire, engage and measure customers in order to provide personalized systems which would lead to better customer experiences and loyalty.

We have rapidly moved from a period of relatively little data, most of it offline, with few big tech companies specializing in analytics and business decisions based on intuition to a period where the volumes of data overwhelm even the largest tech companies, large companies partner with other large companies to cost-effective provide personalized experiences for customers, and seamless presentation of dynamically generated information online, customized to the needs of the user, based on analytics.

The sophisticated business analytics of today’s large tech companies including data management, database technology, data integration, standard BI, end-user, predictive, financial performance management, hardware and software are all leveraged to serve the individual and personalized needs of the user. But there is a challenge of creating scalable, cost-effective solutions which serve a business purpose, and isn’t too high-maintenance from a technology perspective. Each of our panelists and their companies are looking for opportunities to innovate in business analytics space overall, in the retail and other sectors so that we build trust and do the right thing for the customer, saving them time and money, while respecting their privacy.

This challenge of getting-heard-through-the-noise has existed for decades, yet it is amplified now for several reasons, including the proliferation of products and brands, the number of channels where information can be presented to customers – from web site to mobile to brick and mortar, plus the integration of all, the relative ease of reaching to customers leveraging technology like e-mail and web sites, the formidable margin pressures put on management with the commiserate pressure to ensure advertising dollars reap rewards and other factors. There may be more information and data to process, but studies find that consumers are using the same amount of time to make purchasing decisions now as they have before.
This all leads to the impatience of customers and the escalating demand for instant evaluation metrics and vetted recommendations from trusted sources. Below is advice from our panelists for better serving that customer and providing value-added, dynamically-generated, data-driven personalized solutions for those customers:
• Be a trusted brand and resource to the customer. Leverage their behavior, history, profile, and other data so that it best serves them while respecting their privacy and adding value to them.
• Leverage social media so that the wisdom of the crowd can best decide the best sellers, the best buyers and the best products.
• Be a neutral body for both sellers and buyers and be clear on policies and procedures for buying and selling.
• From the vendor’s perspective, your business analytics program goal should be more customer loyalty, increased likelihood of up-sell and increased referrals. From the customer’s perspective, the goal might be more timely, more personalized recommendations based on patterns of use, survey of needs, and available product offerings.
• Address the needs of the customer with sophisticated, integrated technologies which appear seamless to the customer.
• Understand and segment your users and note patterns so that you can better serve and even anticipate the needs of the customer.
• Rather than striving to interpret the huge volumes of generated data, seek larger patterns of behaviors and create use cases which would make recommendations on what’s important to the user, without looking at *all* the data to justify that recommendation. Extend the concept further into use case families to better understand customer segments, product feedback, buying trends, etc.
• Collaborate with key vendors to create generic application for future use, keeping solutions simple for customers, retailers and vendor alike.
• Buy or build technologies that would serve your customer, but if possible, don’t create another technology stack which needs to be upgraded and managed.
Below are some ideas and suggestions for entrepreneurs innovating in this space:
• Find the integration between mobile devices and cameras and how it can integrate with more traditional retail experience in brick and mortar stores as well as in ecommerce solutions.
• Leverage social media to more efficiently provided customized, personalized, vetted feedback to niche customers.
• Make it easy for retailers who are not necessarily technophilic to learn and adopt business analytics practices which would serve both their customers and their businesses.
• Leverage personalized online visualization so customers experience the product visually and in 3D in a way that drives customer purchasing decisions without too much extra technology overhead.
• Create a solution which would generate results faster, more accurately, more efficiently.
• Consumers are hungry for the score – how do you create a vetted, five-star instant-gradafication system cost-effectively to them?
• Go beyond tables and bar charts and produce 3D reports like waterfalls or scatter-plots so that retailers can better manage their merchandise online, on-site, in the warehouse, and elsewhere. These reports
• Create solutions which address the intersection of data on behavior, customers, transactions and products and translate it into actionable correlations.
• The pro-privacy movement led by some consumers will make it more difficult for retailers and vendors to understand behaviors of consumers. But this is also an opportunity.

The bottom line is that data is a double-edge sword: it holds the secret to better understanding and serving the customer, but the sheer volume of data makes it a challenge to integrate and protect/secure it while identifying the kernels of wisdom and information which would spell out patterns and better anticipate and deliver actionable personalized solutions for retailers, vendors and customers alike. The market will continue to evolve as retailers open up to analytics, consumers keep raising the bar on what’s immediate and what’s personalized, vendors collaborate to dynamically deliver more sophisticated, integrated technology solutions, and entrepreneurs continue to innovate.

• Wall St. Journal May 18, 2011 Article on Check Out the Future of Shopping covers mobile shopping gadgets
• Our facilitator Adrian Ott , CEO of Exponential Edge Inc. and NAWBO’s Silicon Valley’s Enterprising Woman of the Year 2011 is also the author of The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved,
Always-Connected Economy The 24-Hour Customer, named a Best Business Book 2010 by Library Journal and Small Business Trends, provides a framework that helps businesses turn customer time and attention scarcity into a competitive advantage. The book demonstrates how to make your products and services more addictive through the use of key buying triggers and techniques that redirect customer attention and traction in your favor. To purchase your copy online, visit

Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors

May 12, 2014 by

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FountainBlue’s May 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors. Below are notes from the conversation. Our mentors represented a range of tech companies, with leaders from many backgrounds and roles, all with experience at many different levels within and outside tech organizations and start-ups and consultancies. They have worked with a range of mentees and mentors and generously shared their wisdom and advice. Know what you want

  • A mentor is different than a coach, who focuses more on mostly your business goals. It’s different than an executive sponsor, who may have the influence and authority to help you advance in your career, open doors and navigate the politics. It’s different than a boss, who focuses more on your job performance and goals. A mentor goes beyond that and is generally a longer term (beyond a task/project), more inclusive (beyond work) relationship.
  • A mentor stretches your perspective and horizons – first listening deeply to you, and then offering information and perspectives that stretch your comfort zone and the range of possibilities for you, in work and in life.

Follow a process for selecting and working with a mentor

  • Know what you want to do and why before you reach out to identify a mentor.
  • Be worthy of mentoring – show intelligence, trustworthiness, integrity, competence, promise.
  • Consider the task you need help you, the time you need for support, and the scope of support you need before reaching out to identify a mentor.
  • Select a mentor/mentee you respect who is competent and trustworthy. The relationship will be longer term and will cover work as well as life issues, so you want someone competent and trustworthy on both sides of the mentoring table.
  • Mentees need to take ownership and drive the process and relationship, embracing opportunities to learn and grow, especially when it’s uncomfortable.
  • Be organized, on top of things, punctual, respectful of the mentor’s time and advice and connections.

Make the relationship rewarding for both sides

  • Everyone’s time is valuable – make the mentoring experience a positive, thought-provoking experience for both sides.
  • A mentoring session is not a gripe session. Find others for that type of support.
  • Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow in areas you want to focus on, but also take advantage of serendipitous opportunities to learn and stretch.
  • Celebrate your relationship, your progress.

The bottom line is that mentoring is a two-way street. Make sure that both parties benefit and grow from the relationship and interactions.

Please join us in thanking our speakers for  FountainBlue’s May 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors, and to our gracious hosts at Aruba. Facilitator Pat Obuchowski, MBA, CPCC, PCC, CEO, inVisionaria Panelist Marta Beckwith, Vice President of Legal, Aruba Networks Panelist Karen Borden, Senior Director of HR, Lam Research Panelist Laura Danckwerth, Director of Social Engineering, Stub Hub, President of eBay Women In Technology Panelist Martha Galley, Vice President,, Advisor, ASTIA


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