Lessons Learned From An E-Commerce Adventure

It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all; and even more important to learn from your mistakes.

That is what I keep telling myself after having invested the time and cash equivalent to a Harvard MBA in an e-commerce start-up that has stalled and is winding down. Not a happy prospect in light of all the media pre-occupation with e-commerce success stories and the young millionaires watching their IPOs rocket into cyberspace. But the headlines ignore the more frequent stories of new e-commerce businesses that do not hit the stock market jackpot. Many of them either settle into a low-key niche or exhaust their resources and fold.

This is the story of an Internet venture that did not make the headlines, but offers some useful insights for entrepreneurs evaluating their own initiatives. The lessons learned are applicable to your own new venture or to an investment in someone else’s.

In mid-1998 we launched a new company called nxtNet (www.nxtnet.com) with the slogan … “taking you to the next level on the Internet”.

My partner and I both had prior successful entrepreneurial experience in computer products and wanted to start a new venture together. We decided to develop a business that would catch the next wave of e-commerce services for mid-sized companies seeking to do business on the Internet. After long discussions, searches for a unique service offering, and many draft business plans, we developed a market strategy and then chose Intershop Communications as our software development platform. This product had the advantages of being suitable for single or multiple online storefronts, and offered a flexible, economic and comprehensive solution. We committed to the product, staffing, facilities and equipment to start training and development immediately. The two of us provided the time and cash required to get started.

By October 1998, we had an initial product with application as an online storefront for an associated computer business. At the same time, we realized that the application had wide appeal to other computer dealers and could be sold as a multi-user database service and e-commerce resource. We had developed a consolidated catalogue of 85,000 computer products from multiple distributor product databases that allowed rapid search and comparison for product information, pricing, and current sources. Users could access the catalogue from the Internet and find a product by manufacturer, category, and part number, key word or price range and immediately see the alternate sources and prices with links to more technical information, preferred dealer pricing and actual stock levels. Additional features allowed the catalogue to be customized so that any computer reseller could present the database as his own online storefront. This option offered all the search and product information features to his customers, but showed only retail pricing and enabled the online ordering process.

The product offering quickly received positive feedback and strong indications of support from all the participants – resellers, distributors, and manufacturers. It was a comprehensive, powerful, and effective tool for buying and selling at all levels within the Canadian computer distribution channel. Resellers recognized the value in an online resource to save time and effort. Distributors and manufacturers saw the opportunity to promote their products, and major publishers in the industry wanted to offer complementary online services to their subscribers and advertisers. How could we fail with all this enthusiasm and support?

While the potential for success clearly existed, everybody had the same questions and reservations – “Who is there now?” “How many are using it?” and “I don’t want to pay until it’s bigger”.

Reasonable objections we thought, so we added features and content for free. We promoted the product with free trials and low cost subscriptions for reseller access. Then we coaxed, persuaded, sold hard, and made deals. The “contra” became the standard for obtaining press coverage, free ads, mailing lists and promotion in exchange for free participation and future consideration. Activity on the Web site and catalogue grew to 3000 visitors per month with over 800 subscribers and the distributor list increased from three to twelve.

But revenue remained near zero as most reseller subscribers declined to pay for the service. Reasons were “it should be free – let the advertisers pay”, “I don’t use it enough”, “there are lower cost options”, or “we built our own solution”. The audience did not grow fast enough even after we offered it for free, to satisfy the advertisers and content providers. Without persistent and conspicuous sales and marketing efforts, all the participants quickly lost interest. Meanwhile the costs of database maintenance, ongoing development, site hosting, Internet access, sales, marketing, and administration were increasing.

Clearly the old entrepreneurial model of controlling costs and growing revenue was not going to apply. We had to realign our profile to show how zero revenue and high initial costs could still lead to significant investment returns like other well-known Internet ventures. So from early 1999 we started an aggressive search for financing, estimating our requirements at $500,000 to $1,500,000 over the next two years before achieving positive cash flow. More business plans, spreadsheets, and glossy presentations to demonstrate future valuations up to $20 million, even $40 million.

We knocked on many doors, from banks to government agencies, from angel investors to venture capital, from stock promoters to business consultants, and again received lots of encouragement, but no financing. So the founding partners were faced with a continuing cash drain, no relief in sight, and the limits of their own resources rapidly approaching. It was time to put the project on hold. Strategic partners or investors might still be developed to proceed with the project, but the ongoing expenditures were stopped in late 1999.

So what are the lessons learned? We already knew that nothing ventured, nothing gained. We now also knew that big successes in the new economy require big investments. Entrepreneurs may start small, but large investments will be required from new sources to achieve significant success. And no one will put significant money into a venture unless it is the only remaining requirement.

The concept, product, development, marketing and staffing all have to be in place before an investor will provide the final ingredient – his cash. Exceptions are likely only where the management team has already succeeded in the same arena, or the investor himself can deliver the missing elements, such as customers or management skills. No investor is going to take the chance that the entrepreneur with a good concept or product will also be able to deliver the required management and marketing skills to succeed, after he has the cash.

Next time we will know better. And there are side benefits from this expensive learning experience. I can now admit that with the knowledge gained through our association with Intershop Communications, I was confident enough to make an investment in their stock on the German Neue Markt at 65 Euros last year. It went over 400 Euros last month and is still rising with their rapid growth and the prospect of a NASDAQ listing this year. Almost enough to recover my investment in nxtNet.

So the most important lesson is that education in the new economy is essential, and not free, but it can lead to success outside the original plan. Learn, be aware, and be aggressively opportunistic.

Investing in Your Mental Well-Being

Hmm … where did I leave those keys? What did I come in here for? What was I going to say? Or in my case – 'you just asked me that question dad', to which I think, I do not remember getting an answer, in fact, I do not even remember asking the question.

Being mentally responsive and perceptive is something a lot of people take for granted and does not give a second thought to. Unfortunately, your memory is a precious thing that needs to be taken care of and kept 'in shape'. Believe it or not, we do not realize how valuable our memory really is until it is taken from us as we get older, or for some, when stricken with health issues.

Taking care of your mind means you will need to invest in things that keep it sharp and responsive. Believe it or not, it is as easy as having regular sleep patterns, uninterrupted rest, exercise, less stress and mental challenges. All of which, can cause a loss of mental alertness when ignored.

Investing in yourself is a foreign concept, especially for those with busy schedules and families to tend to. For example, mothers are unselfish and unwavering when it comes to their children. When a new mothers will tend to their babies while everyone else is eating. If she is lucky she will eat with the babies still in her arms or after everyone has gone to bed.

Improving your concentration and focus should be something you work at every day. If you do it consistently, it will definitely prove rewarding. Experts suggest that investing in certain food and brain fitness items will go a long way to sharpening your mind. Brain fitness is an actual term that means "the capacity of a person to meet the various cognitive demands of life."

To get your brain fit again, try:

  • Word searches
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Mind teasers
  • Sudoku
  • Scrabble
  • Taking a course in something new
  • Reading books that make you think

When I read the part about taking a course in something new, I suddenly understood why my children used to come home from school saying that their heads hurt. Learning a lot of new things is taxing and tiring, but education is an investment in their mental capacity, and should not be ignored. Teaching others is also something that keeps your mind sharp and thinking. Teaching a new college the ways of the office, walking a volunteer through what you do on a daily basis or helping your children with their math homework. All of these are good for you and should be thought of as investing in yourself.

In addition to brain exercises, physical fitness helps you maintain mental stability and focus. Studies have shown, and I have personal experiences that prove, that aerobic exercising several times a week will improve your self-esteem. Regular exercise clears your mind of everything else that was there and allows you to focus on the tasks at hand. Investing in a pair of running shoes and tackling a new and challenging sport will certainly pay off in more ways than one.

The phrase, you are what you eat, certainly applies when it comes to investing in your mental wellbeing. A deficiency in Vitamin B and Omega 3 Fatty Acids can lead to poor cognitive functions.

There are certain foods, seeds and natural health alternatives that have been linked to mental stamina. It is well worth looking into these items and investing in them. Some include:

  • Green tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Flaxseed

Antioxidant-rich foods are not only tasty, they're also good for mental stamina. They include:

  • Fruit: black plums, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, sweet cherries, avocado, oranges, grapefruits and grapes
  • Vegetables: dark green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, spinach and kale

In the end, investing in your mental health will not only result in a sound mind and body, it will also make a happier you. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Concentration is the secret of strength." Go ahead, invest in your mental wellness for a sharper more efficient you.

Lingerie Shopping for Men

Lingerie shopping for men may sound really strange, although you would be surprised to know that lingerie shopping has really become a common practice for men.

Men love to shop for exquisite and sexy lingerie for their beloved. Now, this can be a really tedious task as shopping for something as intimate and complicated as lingerie is not an easy job.

Every woman is different and have different tastes. Here, it is difficult to figure out what kind of lingerie would please your loved one, as a gift. You may like her to wear something as hot as thongs but she may prefer something elegant and lacy. Here, it is extremely necessary to keep in mind what she likes and dislikes.

Buying sexy lingerie for your sweetheart can make her swoon with delight. This would be extremely romantic. Now, this does not mean that sexy lingerie is just a gift for your lover. It would be a gift for you as well. Giving lingerie to your lover would show that you really love her and care for her deeply.

Now, here are some important things you need to consider prior to purchasing lingerie for your loved one. First of all, you need to do some research on the type of lingerie available in the market and also keep in mind the person who is going to wear it. Think of the style that she usually prefers wearing and then decide on a specific style.

In case, you want to experiment on your purchase, you can consider purchasing something lacy with a stretchy mesh. This would make her love wear it.

Remember that women's sizes vary by manufacturer and material. Stretchy materials and meshes tend to fit every woman, with a slight guess.

In case you want to find out what she actually likes, you can try paying attention to her comments when watching movies or commercials. If she does point out a certain style or look, it is quite straightforward to find something similar. But make sure it is similar, try not to get carried away and chose whatever the cutest model is wearing ….

Quality need not cost the earth, as there are lots of great designs at affordable prices. You should really consider purchasing lingerie online. This would offer you privacy and also ensure you are not rushed into a buying decision. You can compare lots of different styles online, and above all, just take your time over it.

Digital Options Trading Strategy

Successful binary trading and binary options strategies go hand in hand. A trading strategy is a plan on why, when and for how long a trader will take and keep a position. These trading strategies should use derivatives to accomplish initiating risk and are more commonly found in the binary options market. The options market allows a trader to take multiple asset classes to initiate risk for a particular view. The most commonly used binary options strategies are collar, covered call, market conditions, money management, defensive put and straddle.Try them out for yourself and choose the best binary options strategy for your needs, also are you not limited to use just one of These strategies, feel free to combine them for even better trading results!

Collar A collar or a risk reversal is when an investor buys a call and sells a put or vice versa. The main goal of this binary options strategy is to offset the cost of premium for the option that you purchasing by selling another option. If the investor completely offsets the premium from the option purchased, the collar is referred to as a costless collar. A collar is a profitable strategy and benefits the investor in that he does not have to pay out a lot of money on premium and also the risk on implied liability is greatly reduced.

Covered Call A covered call strategy or a call writing binary options strategy is when an investor or trader sells a call option with a view to enhance his portfolio earnings or to mitigate the portfolios risk profile. It is also defined as a call sold on an instrument that is currently owned by the investor. This binary options strategy is used for three main reasons

( 1 ) the investor will benefit by receiving income from the premium of a sold option

( 2 ) a portfolio will be protected from a market falling, and

( 3 ) to mitigate the downside risk of the market. This option also gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy the undering instrument at a specific price on or before a specific date.

Market Conditions The markets can be trending, range-bound or volatile and evaluating the particular market condition can be the difference between a successful trade and a losing trade. A trending market moves in a one direction over a period of time and the trends are classified as secular ( for long term time frames ), primary ( for mid-term periods ) and secondary trends ( for short-term periods ).

If the financial instrument is trending higher, the market is called a bull market trend and if trending lower, a bear market trend. A range bound market on the other hand is when a financial instruments moves up and down in a narrow range. The range bound market occurs when supply and demand for a financial instrument is equal. A volatile market occurs when a financial market moves quickly in one direction.

Traders look at the VIX (volatility index) to measure if the market is volatile or is going to be volatile. Bull trending markets have low volatility while bear trend markets have high volatility levels. A trader should examine the type of market a financial instrument is currently experiencing to determine the type of position to take.

Money Management The ability to manage risk appropriately is one of the most important tools of successful trading. Money management is a defensive concept that keeps you trading daily. It uses two concepts trade size and stop placement. A stop placement does not address the question of how much capital should be allocated to a position. This strategy allows merchants to form an alternative method to protect their investments.

Protective Put Protective Put allows the investor a full hedging coverage. The investor is protected from a breakeven point down to zero. The buyer has privileges of owning several stock holdings. He can also sell his stock on strike value before its expiration date. In this strategy, the investor is the option buyer.

Straddle This is an investment where the trader buys both a put and a call at the same strike level, with the hopes that the straddle will make up for the premium invested. Overall, investors who are interested to learn about the binary options strategies find it very easy to trade because they can predict if you are right or wrong, when you will have a bull or a bear market and if you can trade multiple times with the same Asset.