Tag Archives: technology

Stark Presentation at Luxury Retail Summit NYC

I had the privilege of representing Stark at the Luxury Retail Summit in NYC yesterday and was able to inform attendees of what I am doing at Stark to protect our relationships with designs while expanding our business to include retail as well. Check out the below post from Luxury Daily‘s blog summarizing my presentation. Also, check out a quick video clip at the end on me speaking about how Ecommerce will help our business!

Stark Carpet Room Setting

NEW YORK – A Stark Carpet executive at the Luxury Retail Summit: Holiday Focus 2013 yesterday discussed the lessons that the company learned while transitioning from trade-only to a retail trade combination.

During the “Stark: Evolving a Luxury Floor Coverings Brand from Trade-only Business to Retail” session, the executive discussed the challenges the company faced and how Stark readjusted its business model to accommodate both trade and retail without compromising its brand DNA and relations with interior designers. Exploring various methods can allow a brand to better adapt to a new market sector.

“Understanding the role of interior designers is vital to Stark,” said Chad Stark, vice president of operations and technology at Stark Carpet, New York.

“Interior designers are responsible for the growth and success of our business,” he said. “They understand the value of our products and translate this to consumers.”

“Designers are valuable consumers based on the frequency of projects compared to the average retail consumer.”

Luxury Daily organized the Luxury Retail Summit: Holiday Focus 2013.

Technological, generational and economic challenges
Mr. Stark shared the brand’s challenges and lessons learned subsequently.

The Internet created design enthusiasts who had wide access to free design materials when previously this was left to a knowledgeable interior designer.

Between Web sites and design magazines, retail consumers are more informed than ever and many circumvent the advice and assistance of interior designers.

For Stark it was important not to tarnish its relationship with interior designers who had helped to elevate the brand to its standing as the leader in luxury floor coverings.

The new generation of consumers is less about touch and feel and is less inclined to travel far distances to experience a product first hand before making a purchase.

With a willingness to purchase online rather than in bricks-and-mortar locations, the new generation of Stark consumers prefer the accessibility of ecommerce.

Stark discovered that this new generation is much more price-sensitive than previous groups of consumers. The Internet and their increased knowledge led to consumers visiting showrooms without a designer in an attempt to buy products directly.

Stark Carpet Room Setting Elipse

Adaptations

To accommodate the growing number of informed and price conscious consumers, Stark held warehouse clearance sales every two years in different markets to sell its overstocked products.

Stark discovered that although the warehouse was successful from a consumer standpoint, interior designers pushed back at first. Overtime, interior designers began to bring clients to the warehouse sales.

Next, Stark developed retail outlets with a trade showroom within the same bricks-and-mortar location. The trade showroom was closed off to retail consumers, but the rest of the location was designed with a scaled-down warehouse format.

This concept damaged Stark because the brand featured its high-end exclusive products next to closeout items. From this model, Stark was able to re-envision its retail outposts in the form of Stark Home.

The Stark Home model replicated the exclusive nature of its trade showrooms but created a retail atmosphere as well. In theory, the Norwalk, CT, location was meant to amplify the New York showroom, but designers felt consumers were able to obtain Stark products without their assistance after visiting the showroom.

Stark, valuing the continued support of interior designers, sought out designers circumvented by consumers and compensated their time.

Ecommerce gave Stark significant exposure through flash sales with Web sites such as One Kings Lane, Gilt and Rue La La. Although sales and exposure were successful, the flash sales ruined the exclusive nature of its products while confusing design industry.

In 2014, Stark plans to re-launch its ecommerce site to increase convenience for trade and retail consumers.

Lessons learned
Today, Stark showrooms are rooted in experience. The showrooms carry carpets and fabrics, as well as “cash & carry” area rugs in a combined trade and retail space. To inform retail consumers about Stark, products are accompanied by relevant information allowing for more engagement.

Although the trade area is only shoppable by interior designers, retail consumers are welcome to browse the area. If a product strikes them, Stark suggests a local designer to assist with the project.

The “to-the-trade” program highlights interior designers as partners since their continued patronage has ensured the integrity of Stark. The program includes signature exclusive products for trade professionals such as Stark’s collaboration with fashion label Missoni, additional discounts online and in-store, and special services such a custom product development and home consultation.

Starks trials and tribulations during its adaptations from trade-only to retail is bound to affect the industry as a whole.

“Stark is the only luxury flooring brand and we take risks for the benefit of the industry,” Mr. Stark said.

“It is a scary and thrilling position to be in,” he said. “The industry is changing and the way interior designers work with clients is changing.

“The world is transparent and information is widely found online so our sales will likely to continue to be based on designers.”

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Writing down ideas in a notepad? Psht. Meet Elevatr

elevatr-screen-4s-0-1

If you couldn’t tell from What I’ve Done, I had a new idea every hour of every day. Until now, I haven’t really found a way to organize and develope my ideas. Thankfully, Elevatr is here to save the day!

Background Info

Serial entrepreneur will love this new mobile app called Elevatr, which helps you keep track of your inspirations, as well as develop a business model, in order to turn your passing thoughts into plans actually worth pursuing some day.

The beautifully designed app was dreamt up by New York-based David Spiro (one of my closest friends and past business partners), a recent college of engineering and business school grad from the University of Michigan. We spent all our time outside the classroom learning through standard tools for business model development, including the Business Model Canvas and Lean Canvas.

03-Elevatr-Screen-2.0

“It became very clear that entrepreneurship – and people inspired by the startup revolution – is more than those actually studying entrepreneurship,” Spiro says. “I was really inspired to take those tools that I was taught to use, and create a mobile-first product that could apply to more than just those people who were in my classes.”

After the two of us decided to end development on our most recent collaboration, Spiro finally decided to commit himself to the creation of Elevatr full-time, after first doing some consulting for a local angel following graduation in spring 2012. By this January, he had an MVP (aka Minimum Viable Product) ready to go after contracting with Fueled, a mobile app development agency in Soho that had previously built apps for JackThreads and Urban Daddy. David  now works out of Fueled’s offices, and has hired a small team (with help from AngelList), including CTO Rafael Amorim.

The Product

The product itself is simple. Elevatr is essentially a note-taking app that takes the structure of a traditional business plan and makes it more accessible to design and develop on the smaller screen of mobile devices. After tapping the button to add your idea, the app prompts you to describe the idea in 140 characters or fewer, just like Twitter.

06-Elevatr-Screen-2.3

This is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs, who can’t seem to condense their business’ idea to a single sentence, as Techcrunch has discovered in the past, much less 140 characters. Spiro goes on to say, “if you can’t explain it in less than 140 characters, you probably don’t know what you’re doing.”

On the following screens, you’re walked through the other standard pieces to business-model creation, filling out details as to the target market, market size, competition, differentiation, features and uses, and so on. There’s also plenty of room for free-form note making in Elevatr, so you can really flesh out your ideas and plans.

At launch, the app is designed for personal use, but the team already has the intention to expand its capabilities in the near future. Next week, an option to export your ideas to a responsive website will be introduced, essentially turning your notes into a more fully developed online deck of sorts that you can share with others in order to get feedback. In addition, collaboration will be built into the app, which will allow you to invite others to view or comment on the content, given their permission levels.

Another idea for future expansion is to partner with other companies – agencies like Fueled, for example – giving them access to an administrative interface that would allow them to leverage the service to sort through a larger group of startup ideas, like those submitted as part of a contest, for instance.

“One day I will be using this at STARK”

That, and some other advanced features, may be paid options in the future, but currently the app itself is a free download here on iTunes.

Elevatr has a small amount of friends and family funding, but is now raising an angel round upwards of $500,000.

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Houzz Expands Its Pro+ Service For Remodeling And Design Professionals To 425 Markets, Launches New Analytics Tool

houzz logo

Houzz is mostly known for the pretty pictures of homes on its website and mobile app that will stir up house envy in even the happiest of home owners, but the service also offers a wide range of tools that aim to help design and remodeling professionals find new clients. Late last year, Houzz launched its Pro+ platform that allows professionals to market their services on the site in 12 markets after raising a $35 million Series C round. Today, it is expanding this platform for professionals with its new Pro+ Dashboard analytics tools and opening it up to contractors, architects, designers, landscapers and other professionals in 425 new markets in the U.S. and Canada.

The importance of Houzz in the home remodeling market continues to increase. At the end of last year, the company reported that about 168,000 home professionals were using the service actively and today, Houzz says this number has now increased to 190,000. Overall, the service currently sees over 14 million unique visitors every month.

Houzz quickly sold out of spots in the original Pro+ program when it first launched. For an annual subscription, the Pro+ program gives professionals additional visibility in their local area and allows them to highlight their work to attract new customers. The new metrics dashboard gives professionals additional insight into how their photos are doing on the site and includes real-time data about the total number of photo impressions, the number of clicks on them, click-through rates and add rates (how many people saved a photo to their Houzz ‘ideabooks’). This data, Houzz says, will help professionals “to optimize their marketing and brand-building efforts.”

“With this powerful new analytics tool, remodeling professionals will be armed with real-time insights on how their profile and portfolio are resonating with the homeowner community, enabling them to make adjustments and craft the most effective brand presence possible to attract the right clients,” said Houzz CEO Adi Tatarko in a statement today. “Our goal with Pro+ is to deliver a service that helps professionals build their brands and increase their exposure to homeowners in their local area the way they want.”

Pro+ Dashboard - Full dashboard

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Elle Decor: “When Design is the Family Business”

 

Elle Decor March 2013 Cover

Elle Decor, a top tier shelter magazine published by Hearst Magazines, wrote an article this month featuring young entrepreneurs who have joined their family businesses.  The article features A. RudinStarkHorchow, and Phillip Jeffries. I was fortunate enough to be quoted in their Facebook post announcing the article online! Thank you Elle Decor (and thanks for the “like” dad)!

Elle Decor Facebook Post

The article is right on point. Check out the first paragraph below:

Jobs like “app designer” and “video game producer” may be trendy career paths, but not every recent graduate is determined to live in the cloud. Young designers are devoting themselves to carrying on their families’ established brands, creating artisanal and luxurious home furnishings. Armed with tablets and iPhones, these tech- and fashion-savvy entrepreneurs are preserving tradition while pushing it forward.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

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One Kings Lane Raises $50 Million

There’s certainly no venture crunch in the e-commerce home decor sector.

Home furniture startup One Kings Lane, on track to generate $200 million in revenue this year, has raised $50 million in Series D financing led by Institutional Venture Partners. This follows Fab.com’s $105 million round in July and Wayfair.com’s $36.3 million round announced yesterday.

Also participating in One Kings Lane’s funding were existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Greylock Partners, Tiger Global Management, and new investor Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. (NYSE: SNI). IVP is an experienced late-stage investor and Scripps Networks is the “perfect strategic investor” as a broadcast network with HGTV, Food Network and other home and garden shows, says CEO Doug Mack. There are no plans for a One Kings Lane television show, but that would be “intriguing,” Mack says

One Kings Lane expects this to be the last round to get the company to profitability, says Mack. That $200 million in expected 2012 revenue is about double last year’s revenue. The company, which has only been around for about three years, started off not offering many high ticket items. But the company realized that people are willing to buy area rugs, sofas and high end vintage items online and started offering more of them, Mack says. About 10% of all home decor is sold online now, he says.

One Kings Lane focuses on curating top products in each of its categories, which builds trust in the brand, Mack says. The company has hired experts in each category, such as lighting or rugs or even vintage books. OKL doesn’t take inventory itself. Instead it manages the sales, inventory and distribution process. It has built technology that can connect with merchants and manage inventory so that it knows exactly what product is available before it goes on sale. “One thing we have that people don’t get is, at core we’re a technology company,” Mack says. “You talk about Twitter, Yammer and Square (nearbySan Francisco companies). We have to do as much technical innovation as any of those companies.”

One Kings Lane has also built out a vintage section, where third parties that are verified by OKL can sell product. Now about 25% of the products on OKL are third party products–that is, sold not by OKL but direct from third parties. The third party products have enabled OKL to scale much to more products and more different products quicker, Mack says. Overall, OKL adds a mix of new products every day that mixes third party and OKL products. Overall One Kings Lane has kept its focus just on home decor, Mack says. It hasn’t gone more broadly into other categories like competitors.

A major focus lately has been a major spike in mobile usage for OKL. About 25% of its revenues now come from mobile devices. During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend about 42% of traffic came from mobile visits. Tablet visitors tend to be during the evening and purchase higher ticket items, while smartphone use more mirrors desktop usage patterns with higher volumes but lower average order sizes, Mack says.

Hurricane Sandy shut down power at the company’s New York office, where photography, copy writing and other operations are located. But the company has recovreed from that and is above it’s projections for the year, Mack says.

IVP’s Sandy Miller, who invested in Zynga and ngmoco, is leading the investment for IVP.

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Great Insight into Relevant Smartphone Usage

I thought this was a great article so i posted it via BII MOBILE INSIGHTS: 50 Million Shoppers To Use Smartphones This Holiday – Business Insider. Enjoy!

People Watching TV Are Also Doing Other Things (Marketing Pilgrim)
According to Nielsen, many people don’t just watch TV, they are also using a mobile device to multitask. Mobile is no longer just for techies. 50% of us are walking around with smartphones and 20% of people in the U.S. who have a TV also have a tablet. That’s amazing. Even more amazing, 40% of Americans use their mobile device while they watch TV every day. Yes, that’s what they’re saying, every day. When you pull back to “at least once a month,” the number more than doubles to 85%.

simultaneous mobile tv usage

The takeaway here is that TV time is a good time to promote your product. Shoppers are relaxed, part of their brain is bored and they have the means to research and buy— laying right on their lap. All you have to do is figure out how to get their attention.

Let the “Showrooming” Begin! (IDC via Internet Retailer)
This holiday season, 48 million shoppers (about 20% of the U.S. adult population) will use their smartphones to compare prices and research products while shopping in stores, a practice known as “showrooming,” according to IDC. This represents a 134% increase from 2011 when 20.5 million shoppers engaged in showrooming. IDC forecasts the number of showrooming shoppers will grow to 59 million next year, 69 million in 2014 and 78 million in 2015. This year, showrooming will influence $700 million to $1.7 billion in holiday retail purchases. Big-ticket items, in particular those that consumers can easily evaluate by reading descriptions, specifications, ratings and reviews, will be the biggest target of consumers shopping with smartphones.

Mobile Shoppers Don’t Just Compare Prices (Vibes via Internet Retailer)
Consumers who use their mobile phones when shopping are doing more than just comparing prices. They’re gathering more information on products and in the process sometimes using a retailer’s site or app, finds a new study from mobile marketing and technology firm Vibes. Retailers that operate physical stores need not fear “showrooming,” where consumers in stores compare prices between retailers and later make a purchase online or through mobile commerce. Rather, Vibes points to the full spectrum of activities of mobile shoppers in stores and concludes that retailers armed with their own sites, apps and deals can convince shoppers to buy in-store. While 54% of mobile shoppers have compared prices in-store, 51% have looked up a product review, 45% have scanned a QR code or bar code for more information, 33% have researched a product on the store’s web site and 28% have used a retailer’s app in-store.

The Rise Of The Mobile Shopper: Here’s How To Win (BI Intelligence)
In this report, we’ll first gauge the size of the mobile commerce opportunity in dollar terms, and then look at some of the top mobile commerce trends. The bottom-line: Purchases from mobile devices are on track to account for $154 million in Cyber Monday sales this year, and over $10 billion in 2012 sales, according to BII forecasts based on comScore data. Tablet consumers spend more per transaction than PC-based shoppers. Tablets’ role in commerce will drive more brands and retailers to design tablet-optimized sites and campaigns. Mobile payment apps will come to serve as full-service shopping suites, incorporating loyalty programs and couponing. Gamification-influenced marketing campaigns will be increasingly influential.

Mobile Means More (Success)
Mobile phones are changing how people buy, so you need to adjust how you market now to gain a huge business advantage. This “digital layer” that connects customers, merchants all the time, has resulted in a sea change in customer behavior that is shaking up how, when, and why people buy. This transition to mobile can be overwhelming. Where do you start if you’re self-employed or have less than $100 to invest? Here are three actions to take right away:

  1. Make your website mobile-friendly
  2. Make buying from you a game
  3. Offer customers the ability to stay in touch

Mobile is no longer the future of business. It’s an option that consumers want now.

Top Resources For Mobile Web Design (Downgraf)
This article gives a comprehensive list of mobile web design resources, tools and plugins. Many only cost a few dollars to use:

  • 320 and Up: HTML5 starter kit
  • 960 Grid on jQuery Mobile: Scaling plugin
  • Foldy960: Responsive web aid
  • JQTouch: Swipe technology
  • jQuery Mobile: Website creation tool

Check out the full article for more helpful tips.

The Smartphone War Is Down To Two Players (Gartner via All Things Digital)
Apple shipped 36.2% more smartphones in the third quarter of 2012 than it did in the same quarter a year earlier, but that wasn’t enough to protect its market share from an unceasing Android onslaught. Apple’s share of the global mobile OS market slipped to 13.9% from 15% in the third quarter, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, Android’s market share rose to 72.4% from 52.5% a year earlier. Remarkable that Apple can increase iPhone sales by a full third year over year and still lose traction to Google’s mobile platform. Android is a juggernaut. And the rest of industry? Floundering in the market’s shallows, but here’s the race to be third.

Is Apple’s iMessage Killing Texting After All? (Read Write Mobile)
We recently reported that texting was on the decline. In the third quarter of this year, the number of text messages people sent to one another in the U.S. dropped by about 2%. That may not sound like much, but considering how fast texting had been growing, the fact that the number declined at all is significant. It’s not that people are any less connected or firing off any fewer messages. They’re just doing it in different ways. One of the biggest culprits is indeed iMessage, which operates exactly as text messages do, but bypasses the carrier entirely for Apple to Apple communications. Another culprit is Facebook’s Messenger app. It turns Facebook’s desktop IM feature into a very SMS-like communication method, again without having to route messages through the mobile provider.


chart of the day, sms/month/user, november 2012

Mobile Healthcare Faces The Future (Read Write Mobile)
One industry has been surprisingly slow to embrace the benefits of mobile: healthcare. That said, we are starting to see progress in mHealth adoption. According to researchers, 62% of doctors use a tablet in some shape or form and 71% of nurses use a smartphone at work. The mHealth industry is forecast to be a $11.8 billion market by 2018. Mobile healthcare is about more than just how doctors and nurses operate on a day-to-day basis. Mobile technology promises to contribute to wellness, preventive care, personal health records, communication with physicians, diet tracking, prescription reminders and many other health-related improvements. For instance, 30% of smartphone users are expected to use wellness apps in one form or another by 2015. By that year, analysts predict there will be nearly two billion smartphone users on the planet. You do the math.

mobile healthcare

via BII MOBILE INSIGHTS: 50 Million Shoppers To Use Smartphones This Holiday – Business Insider.

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Jet Skiing + Surfing = Jet Surfing

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Just when you think you’ve seen it all. Hello Jetsurfing

Now this is a sport I need to try. These dream machines from the company Jet Surf are manufactured in the Czeck Republic in 3 different models: one for beginners, intermediates, and experts.They are only distributed in France, Brazil, Russia, Ibiza (Spain), and Dubai.

Who wants to bring these to America with me? Pretty sure they’ll be on The Fancy available for global purchasing soon enough…

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How Europe is Kicking America’s Ass

Kid Programmer

What a BOSS

Guess who’s winning the brains race, with 100% of first graders learning to code? Estonia announced today that it is implementing a new education program that will have 100 percent of publicly educated students learning to write code.

Called ProgeTiiger, the new initiative aims to turn children from avid consumers of technology (which they naturally are; try giving a 5-year-old an iPad sometime) into developers of technology (which they are not; see downward-spiraling computer science university degree program enrollment stats).

ProgreTiiger education will start with students in the first grade (which starts around the age of 7 or 8 for Estonians) and will continue through a student’s final years of public school (around age 16). Teachers are being trained on the new skills, and private sector IT companies are also getting involved (since they will likely end up being the long-term beneficiaries of a technologically literate populace).

The ProgreTiiger program is launching at a few pilot schools and will soon be rolling out to all general education schools in Estonia.

By contrast, the U.S. public education system has been described as “running on empty” when it comes to tech literacy, leaving young adults unprepared to compete in a digitally driven economy.

In 2009 and 2010, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) conducted a joint study and found that most public schools in the U.S. focus only on the consumer aspects of using computers.

Rather than truly teaching kids about computers, we’re teaching them to see the machines and programs as mysterious tools, offering little or no instruction about “the conceptual aspects of computer science that lay the foundation for innovation and deeper study in the field (for example, develop an understanding of an algorithm,” the report’s findings state.

Already, in hacking competitions around the world, Eastern European programmers are often leading the pack. Estonia’s new bid for comp-sci dominance has increased the odds of that occurrence and will likely help Estonia in the international competition for jobs, capital, and talent in a growing tech economy.

Top image courtesy of Kiselev Andrey Valerevich, Shutterstock

via VentureBeat.

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