Izberg Marketplace Turns Any Website Into An E-Commerce Marketplace

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Meet Izberg Marketplace, a French startup that has been flying under the radar for a while. The company recently grabbed $1.7 million from Alven Capital (€1.5 million) — and it’s already profitable. Izberg provides one of the most flexible e-commerce solutions available, and it finds the right balance between customizability and complexity.

“We can add an e-commerce dimension to any existing website,” co-founder and head of sales Benoit Feron told me. For instance, with Izberg, a successful fashion media website doesn’t have to launch a separate website to create a store under its brand. It can tweak its existing website to let people seamlessly order stuff from the main website without ever leaving it.

Many specialized e-commerce retailers already work with Izberg Marketplace, such as France’s leading pet-focused online store Chabadog, or online drug store Powersanté.

“We provide a solution that relies entirely on APIs,” co-founder and CTO Florian Poullin told me. “Our goal is really just to be an API and add an e-commerce brick on top of any website.”

There are many components behind Izberg. The company provides four different ways to handle all the back office and import product inventories. You can manually input data using custom forms for small websites. You can also put all your products into an XML or CSV file so that Izberg can parse them — you can send these files as email attachments or host them somewhere. Finally, for existing e-commerce websites, you can either connect it to your existing e-commerce solution, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, PrestaShop or Magento, or you can connect Izberg to your e-commerce feed management solution, such as Lengow.

With all these solutions, marketplaces can seamlessly work with many different vendors and focus on getting clients. And you could leverage Izberg’s tools for service marketplace as well. For some websites, such as Chabadog, the company also handles the front-end website.

Overall, Izberg feels like an e-commerce swiss army knife that makes it much easier to launch an e-commerce website. I’m sure I only scratched the surface of what’s possible to do with Izberg by talking to the team for an hour. For now, it doesn’t scale perfectly well as the company has to do a lot of manual work to implement their solution on their clients’ websites. But the team plans to cover as many edge cases as possible so that web agencies and third-party developers can simply look at the documentation and play with the API to start using Izberg.

There are two key advantages behind Izberg’s business. In addition to charging a setup fee, as Izberg is a software-as-a-service solution, the company also charges a monthly fee — the more products or services you sell using Izberg, the more you have to pay every month.

Second, given that many companies that want to run a marketplace don’t have the developing team to do it in house, they often hire web agencies to help them. These web agencies act as sales people for Izberg, as many agencies in Paris already tell their clients that they want to use Izberg to develop their marketplaces.

A few potential features could make it even easier to launch a marketplace. For example, the company could aggregate vendors for each vertical. There are already a few fashion marketplaces that use the same vendors, so the company should be able to suggest vendors for the next fashion marketplace.

I see Izberg as the next generation of e-commerce solutions, a sort of Stripe for e-commerce. When you pay online using PayPal, you’re redirected to PayPal’s website and you see PayPal’s branding. But chances are that you already used Stripe and didn’t notice, because Stripe doesn’t redirect you to its website — it just provides a developer API so that any developer can add a credit card form to their website.

“Our client experience is much more neutral than any other solution,” co-founder and COO-CMO Luc Falempin told me. “You can’t recreate this experience with anything else.”

Innovate and Lead: Pakistani startups with brilliant ideas

25 prominent, local business leaders mentor over 40 teams that attended the event.
25 prominent, local business leaders mentor over 40 teams that attended the event.

“Having a career is a 21st century fad. There is so much more you can do. You can be the odd one out, the Mad Hatter, you can be curious, you can fix a problem your ‘very’ own way, and you can afford to care less about the status quo,” says Rizwan Chand, CTO/ co-founder at VIVID Technologies, a UK based Pakistani startup that has qualified for Blackbox Connect 2014 and has secured 30 million rupees seed funding from UK investors.

Blackbox Connect is an initiative by ‘Google for Entrepreneurs’. It’s a two week program, where startups from outside the US are brought to Silicon Valley and given a chance to interact with like-minded entrepreneurs, executives and investors through intensive workshops and meetings. Another Pakistani startup named ‘SMSall’ has also been selected for the spring 2014 session. Eyedeus Labs (the LUMS graduates behind the famous Groopic app) and TunaCode (data encryption, imaging and computer vision experts) were amongst the eight startups selected last year.

This annual opportunity was initiated when Blackbox Connect signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Plan9, a Pakistani tech incubator initiative.

Plan9 has helped shape 32 startups of various scales so far. It has a comprehensive 9-tier incubation process. This includes provision of office facilities, monthly stipend for six months, financial and soft skill trainings, a board of advisors, a technical board, legal advisors, one-on-one mentorship meetings, mock pitches, and networking opportunities with angel investors and venture capitalists.

“Since tech startups are a recent phenomenon in Pakistan, there are many brilliant yet untapped ideas. Entrepreneurs should stop chasing the press, focus on their product and let the work speak for itself,” comments Hafsa Shorish, Marketing and PR Manager at Plan9, when asked about the biggest advantage of starting a business in Pakistan.

Business incubators have been around for quite a while now, but what makes tech incubators so dynamic is the global nature of the resultant products. A small team with a great idea, given the necessary business, networking and marketing support, could become an international success in a matter of months.

Another great arena for young entrepreneurs to showcase their idea is the P@sha LaunchPad, organised every year by Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) for the IT and ITES sectors, to find the best technology ideas/start-ups and bring them in front of experts. The platform not only highlights new products, services and ideas, but also provides instant gratification through the winning product/service’s marketing as well as a cash prize of 200,000 rupees for the following categories:

  • Innovate idea for an ICT product/service
  • Startup with an innovative ICT product/service
  • Innovative idea which uses ICT for social impact

The idea is not just to host a competition, but also a networking opportunity for growing businesses to connect with industry leaders and trendsetters.

Pakistan startup survey

I surveyed entrepreneurs from some of the most dynamic tech startups in Pakistan, regarding their experiences, challenges and advice for starting up in Pakistan. The results were diverse and lead to an interesting mix of information.

When asked about how they got started and what their first moment of clarity was, most entrepreneurs said they were simply ‘crazy’ and wanted to change the world. Some said their on-the-side development produced such a good business that they were inspired to pursue it full time. The key word, though, was ‘courage’, and some found it in the most unexpected places.

Muhammad Arif, founder of Bounty Studio, a thriving mobile application and gaming software house, shared his experience, he says, “I was working in a top software house in Pakistan. Eventually I found myself to be too involved in the routine and missing excitement. I wanted to innovate, but was scared to take the first step. The turning point was when I joined the mentorship program at The Citizens Foundation. Interacting with young underprivileged students, who worked tirelessly to support their families, really put things in perspective for me. They gave me the courage to follow my dream and start something I could call my own.”

Another question thrown at entrepreneurs was regarding their transition plans. Most of them find parallel implementation as the best option. They advised upcoming entrepreneurs to start freelancing, individually or as a team, while holding on to day jobs. They believe that such collaborations lead to great learning opportunities, especially if you collaborate with friends from other companies and markets. For example, working with someone who develops games or social apps, when you are working in a banking software house, could change your entire perspective. They also suggest reading relevant news, attending meet-ups and interacting with people who are already ‘living the dream’.

On the other hand, some people I questioned were so passionate that they don’t even fear failure. “I think the plan becomes fairly straightforward once you have failed a company earlier. I have failed one before. But this time around, I left the job with a certain goal in mind, considering my past professional and personal challenges. The plan was already laid out before I resigned from my job, with technical and financial goals defined for the next six months. On reaching that landmark, we had achieved 90 per cent of the targets. There’s no looking back now,” tells Syed Talha Izhar, founder of iTap Studio.

Taking a business from a plan to reality is no easy task. So what percentage of plans do actually materialise? Entrepreneurs rated the concept-reality transition between 50 to 100 per cent, with a majority rating it around 70 per cent. Fifty per cent materialisation from concept to reality is certainly not bad. It is not a negative reflection of the skill or passion involved, rather the volatile nature of something that people have never attempted before.

In case you are wondering about the business and personal expenses in the first year, it is eight to ten lacs on average. This quoted range is quite low when compared to non-tech businesses. Since most tech startups manage clients remotely and already have their own individual workstations, they can start off with a minimum budget. Most of the expense is related to product development and at times hardware/software purchases, such as buying a separate smartphone for app testing etcetera. Also many small real-time company expenses like lunch meetings, presentation equipment rentals are paid from the pocket, rather than being charged to the new company.

New entrepreneurs were also asked about the challenges they face in Pakistan. They labelled lack of heroes (Pakistan based global brands that inspire young hopefuls towards innovation) as the biggest issue, besides the lack of funding sources.

Most entrepreneurs expressed their concerns about the lack of resources and an ecosystem where new business can flourish, and third-world issues like internet instability, load shedding and unavailability of a 3G network for reliable connectivity. They must, however, be commended for their resilience and for sustaining the local market.

“One of the biggest issues is keeping up with the country’s law and order situation. Considering the bigger picture, the resultant brain drain has a bigger effect on the market than simply losing a few good resources,” says Syed Ammar Yasir, Manager Projects and Operations at Pi Labs, a multi-platform smartphone development company.

Keeping all the problems aside, does starting a business in Pakistan have any advantage? The young entrepreneurs highlight numerous advantages they see here. The say that the biggest advantage probably is the support system that’s in our culture. Most of us are living in joint families, with an ample supply of support and shared responsibilities in terms of bills and expenses.

Mustafa Haroon, founder at Active Make says, “Pakistan has no shortage of talent. Despite the lack of material resources, the biggest resource is the availability of talented people that you can actually trust.”

Financially, though, there were different opinions. Some comment that cheaper resources cannot be counted as a win, except for foreign funded businesses, while others say that there are some services that would cost a fortune abroad. Abbas Ali Ismail, founder and COO at E2Z Solutions believes that “Accessibility, cheaper equipment and cheaper HR are the biggest advantages of working in Pakistan.”

When I sought some advice for promising entrepreneurs, most of the people I spoke to agree on self-belief, overcoming fear and relentless hard work as the key factors. “There is nothing romantic about hard work; you don’t get to cherish success until you truly earn it. Look at the bigger picture, be practical, be flexible and always try to add value to what you do,” says Syed Ammar Yasir.

Some speak of humility, Rizwan Chand, CTO/ co-founder at VIVID Technologies advises upcoming talent to “Be okay with uncertainty and not knowing. Understand that all phenomena, all ideas, all products, all works of art can be reduced to the most basic truth about humanity. Start with that truth, honesty, and the rest will follow. Somewhere along the way, you’ll learn to be open and humble and honest; let it come to you – until then, be arrogant!”

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

By all counts and measures, Bradley Smith is an unequivocal business success. He’s CEO of Rescue One Financial, an Irvine, California-based financial services company that had sales of nearly $32 million last year. Smith’s company has grown some 1,400 percent in the last three years, landing it at No. 310 on this year’s Inc. 500. So you might never guess that just five years ago, Smith was on the brink of financial ruin–and mental collapse.

Back in 2008, Smith was working long hours counseling nervous clients about getting out of debt. But his calm demeanor masked a secret: He shared their fears. Like them, Smith was sinking deeper and deeper into debt. He had driven himself far into the red starting–of all things–a debt-settlement company. “I was hearing how depressed and strung out my clients were, but in the back of my mind I was thinking to myself, I’ve got twice as much debt as you do,” Smith recalls.

He had cashed in his 401(k) and maxed out a $60,000 line of credit. He had sold the Rolex he bought with his first-ever paycheck during an earlier career as a stockbroker. And he had humbled himself before his father–the man who raised him on maxims such as “money doesn’t grow on trees” and “never do business with family”–by asking for $10,000, which he received at 5 percent interest after signing a promissory note.

Smith projected optimism to his co-founders and 10 employees, but his nerves were shot. “My wife and I would share a bottle of $5 wine for dinner and just kind of look at each other,” Smith says. “We knew we were close to the edge.” Then the pressure got worse: The couple learned they were expecting their first child. “There were sleepless nights, staring at the ceiling,” Smith recalls. “I’d wake up at 4 in the morning with my mind racing, thinking about this and that, not being able to shut it off, wondering, When is this thing going to turn?” After eight months of constant anxiety, Smith’s company finally began making money.

Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks. And we celebrate the blazingly fast growth of the Inc. 500 companies. But many of those entrepreneurs, like Smith, harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble.

“It’s like a man riding a lion. People think, ‘This guy’s brave.’ And he’s thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?”

Until recently, admitting such sentiments was taboo. Rather than showing vulnerability, business leaders have practiced what social psychiatrists call impression management–also known as “fake it till you make it.” Toby Thomas, CEO of EnSite Solutions (No. 188 on the Inc. 500), explains the phenomenon with his favorite analogy: a man riding a lion. “People look at him and think, This guy’s really got it together! He’s brave!” says Thomas. “And the man riding the lion is thinking, How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?”

Not everyone who walks through darkness makes it out. In January, well-known founder Jody Sherman, 47, of the e-commerce site Ecomom took his own life. His death shook the start-up community. It also reignited a discussion about entrepreneurship and mental health that began two years earlier after the suicide of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of Diaspora, a social networking site.

Lately, more entrepreneurs have begun speaking out about their internal struggles in an attempt to combat the stigma on depression and anxiety that makes it hard for sufferers to seek help. In a deeply personal post called “When Death Feels Like a Good Option,” Ben Huh, the CEO of the Cheezburger Network humor websites, wrote about his suicidal thoughts following a failed start-up in 2001. Sean Percival, a former MySpace vice president and co-founder of the children’s clothing start-up Wittlebee, penned a piece called “When It’s Not All Good, Ask for Help” on his website. “I was to the edge and back a few times this past year with my business and own depression,” he wrote. “If you’re about to lose it, please contact me.”

Brad Feld, a managing director of the Foundry Group, started blogging in October about his latest episode of depression. The problem wasn’t new–the prominent venture capitalist had struggled with mood disorders throughout his adult life–and he didn’t expect much of a response. But then came the emails. Hundreds of them. Many were from entrepreneurs who had also wrestled with anxiety and despair. (For more of Feld’s thoughts on depression, see his column, “Surviving the Dark Nights of the Soul,” in Inc.’s July/August issue.)”If you saw the list of names, it would surprise you a great deal,” says Feld. “They are very successful people, very visible, very charismatic-;yet they’ve struggled with this silently. There’s a sense that they can’t talk about it, that it’s a weakness or a shame or something. They feel like they’re hiding, which makes the whole thing worse.”

If you run a business, that probably all sounds familiar. It’s a stressful job that can create emotional turbulence. For starters, there’s the high risk of failure. Three out of four venture-backed start-ups fail, according to research by Shikhar Ghosh, a Harvard Business School lecturer. Ghosh also found that more than 95 percent of start-ups fall short of their initial projections.

Entrepreneurs often juggle many roles and face countless setbacks–lost customers, disputes with partners, increased competition, staffing problems–all while struggling to make payroll. “There are traumatic events all the way along the line,” says psychiatrist and former entrepreneur Michael A. Freeman, who is researching mental health and entrepreneurship.

Complicating matters, new entrepreneurs often make themselves less resilient by neglecting their health. They eat too much or too little. They don’t get enough sleep. They fail to exercise. “You can get into a start-up mode, where you push yourself and abuse your body,” Freeman says. “That can trigger mood vulnerability.”

So it should come as little surprise that entrepreneurs experience more anxiety than employees. In the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 34 percent of entrepreneurs–4 percentage points more than other workers–reported they were worried. And 45 percent of entrepreneurs said they were stressed, 3 percentage points more than other workers.

But it may be more than a stressful job that pushes some founders over the edge. According to researchers, many entrepreneurs share innate character traits that make them more vulnerable to mood swings. “People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states,” says Freeman. Those states may include depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation, and suicidal thinking.

Call it the downside of being up. The same passionate dispositions that drive founders heedlessly toward success can sometimes consume them. Business owners are “vulnerable to the dark side of obsession,” suggest researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. They conducted interviews with founders for a study about entrepreneurial passion. The researchers found that many subjects displayed signs of clinical obsession, including strong feelings of distress and anxiety, which have “the potential to lead to impaired functioning,” they wrote in a paper published in the Entrepreneurship Research Journal in April.

Reinforcing that message is John Gartner, a practicing psychologist who teaches at Johns Hopkins University Medical School. In his book The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America, Gartner argues that an often-overlooked temperament–hypomania–may be responsible for some entrepreneurs’ strengths as well as their flaws.

A milder version of mania, hypomania often occurs in the relatives of manic-depressives and affects an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of Americans. “If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus,” says Gartner. “If you’re hypomanic, you think you’re God’s gift to technology investing. We’re talking about different levels of grandiosity but the same symptoms.”

Gartner theorizes that there are so many hypomanics–and so many entrepreneurs–in the U.S. because our country’s national character rose on waves of immigration. “We’re a self-selected population,” he says. “Immigrants have unusual ambition, energy, drive, and risk tolerance, which lets them take a chance on moving for a better opportunity. These are biologically based temperament traits. If you seed an entire continent with them, you’re going to get a nation of entrepreneurs.”

Though driven and innovative, hypomanics are at much higher risk for depression than the general population, notes Gartner. Failure can spark these depressive episodes, of course, but so can anything that slows a hypomanic’s momentum. “They’re like border collies–they have to run,” says Gartner. “If you keep them inside, they chew up the furniture. They go crazy; they just pace around. That’s what hypomanics do. They need to be busy, active, overworking.”

“Entrepreneurs have struggled silently. There’s a sense that they can’t talk about it, that it’s a weakness.”

No matter what your psychological makeup, big setbacks in your business can knock you flat. Even experienced entrepreneurs have had the rug pulled out from under them. Mark Woeppel launched Pinnacle Strategies, a management consulting firm, in 1992. In 2009, his phone stopped ringing.

Caught in the global financial crisis, his customers were suddenly more concerned with survival than with boosting their output. Sales plummeted 75 percent. Woeppel laid off his half-dozen employees. Before long, he had exhausted his assets: cars, jewelry, anything that could go. His supply of confidence was dwindling, too. “As CEO, you have this self-image–you’re the master of the universe,” he says. “Then all of a sudden, you are not.”

Woeppel stopped leaving his house. Anxious and low on self-esteem, he started eating too much–and put on 50 pounds. Sometimes he sought temporary relief in an old addiction: playing the guitar. Locked in a room, he practiced solos by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Chet Atkins. “It was something I could do just for the love of doing it,” he recalls. “Then there was nothing but me, the guitar, and the peace.”

Through it all, he kept working to develop new services. He just hoped his company would hang on long enough to sell them. In 2010, customers started to return. Pinnacle scored its biggest-ever contract, with an aerospace manufacturer, on the basis of a white paper Woeppel had written during the downturn. Last year, Pinnacle’s revenue hit $7 million. Sales are up more than 5,000 percent since 2009, earning the company a spot at No. 57 on this year’s Inc. 500.

Woeppel says he’s more resilient now, tempered by tough times. “I used to be like, ‘My work is me,’ ” he says. “Then you fail. And you find out that your kids still love you. Your wife still loves you. Your dog still loves you.”

But for many entrepreneurs, the battle wounds never fully heal. That was the case for John Pope, CEO of WellDog, a Laramie, Wyoming-based energy technology firm. On Dec. 11, 2002, Pope had exactly $8.42 in the bank. He was 90 days late on his car payment. He was 75 days behind on the mortgage. The IRS had filed a lien against him. His home phone, cell phone, and cable TV had all been turned off. In less than a week, the natural-gas company was scheduled to suspend service to the house he shared with his wife and daughters. Then there would be no heat. His company was expecting a wire transfer from the oil company Shell, a strategic investor, after months of negotiations had ended with a signed 380-page contract. So Pope waited.

The wire arrived the next day. Pope–along with his company–was saved. Afterward, he made a list of all the ways in which he had financially overreached. “I’m going to remember this,” he recalls thinking. “It’s the farthest I’m willing to go.”

Since then, WellDog has taken off: In the past three years, sales grew more than 3,700 percent, to $8 million, making the company No. 89 on the Inc. 500. But emotional residue from the years of tumult still lingers. “There’s always that feeling of being overextended, of never being able to relax,” says Pope. “You end up with a serious confidence problem. You feel like every time you build up security, something happens to take it away.”

Pope sometimes catches himself emotionally overreacting to small things. It’s a behavior pattern that reminds him of posttraumatic stress disorder. “Something happens, and you freak out about it,” he says. “But the scale of the problem is a lot less than the scale of your emotional reaction. That just comes with the scar tissue of going through these things.”

“If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus. If you’re hypomanic, you think you’re God’s gift to technology investing.”John Gartner

Though launching a company will always be a wild ride, full of ups and downs, there are things entrepreneurs can do to help keep their lives from spiraling out of control, say experts. Most important, make time for your loved ones, suggests Freeman. “Don’t let your business squeeze out your connections with human beings,” he says. When it comes to fighting off depression, relationships with friends and family can be powerful weapons. And don’t be afraid to ask for help–see a mental health professional if you are experiencing symptoms of significant anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, or depression.

Freeman also advises that entrepreneurs limit their financial exposure. When it comes to assessing risk, entrepreneurs’ blind spots are often big enough to drive a Mack truck through, he says. The consequences can rock not only your bank account but also your stress levels. So set a limit for how much of your own money you’re prepared to invest. And don’t let friends and family kick in more than they can afford to lose.

Cardiovascular exercise, a healthful diet, and adequate sleep all help, too. So does cultivating an identity apart from your company. “Build a life centered on the belief that self-worth is not the same as net worth,” says Freeman. “Other dimensions of your life should be part of your identity.” Whether you’re raising a family, sitting on the board of a local charity, building model rockets in the backyard, or going swing dancing on weekends, it’s important to feel successful in areas unrelated to work.

The ability to reframe failure and loss can also help leaders maintain good mental health. “Instead of telling yourself, ‘I failed, the business failed, I’m a loser,’ ” says Freeman, “look at the data from a different perspective: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Life is a constant process of trial and error. Don’t exaggerate the experience.”

Last, be open about your feelings–don’t mask your emotions, even at the office, suggests Brad Feld. When you are willing to be emotionally honest, he says, you can connect more deeply with the people around you. “When you deny yourself and you deny what you’re about, people can see through that,” says Feld. “Willingness to be vulnerable is very powerful for a leader.”

-Courtesy: Inc.com

Facebook co-founder joins online grocery store RedMart’s $5.4m funding round

Redmart funding

RedMart, a Singapore-based online grocery service, today announced the closing of its oversubscribed $5.4 million bridge round led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, PropertyGuru founders Steve Melhuish and Jani Rautianen, JFDI co-founder Meng Weng Wong, restaurateur Wee Teng Wen, and Lion Rock Capital.

The investment, a precursor to a larger Series B round which it is already raising money for and is slated to close within five months, will be spent on fulfillment technology and infrastructure. This latest round brings RedMart’s fundraising total to about $10 million. Past investors include Skype co-founder Toivo Annus, games publisher Garena, Singapore-based investment firms East Ventures and Golden Gate Ventures, and angel investor John Tan.

Saverin, on why he invested in RedMart, says: “Time-starved consumers will increasingly value convenience in purchasing their daily essentials. The logistics and technology platform the RedMart team is building extends far beyond selling groceries in Singapore.”

RedMart co-founder and CEO Roger Egan adds the company will be delivery fresh foods, which customers have been asking for, within the next six months. As such, they are looking to ramp up their delivery infrastructure.

“Whereas we’d previously head to the customer’s house once a month, we now want to do it once a week or once every two weeks. The demand for fresh food from customers is driving us to increase our delivery frequency,” he says.

“Online groceries is probably the most difficult type of e-commerce there is. Whereas other stores handle only a few items per basket, we sometimes have to deal with 25 or 26 items per order. That’s why packing automation technology and efficiency is much more important for us.”

RedMart has been growing steadily since its inception. According to a TechCrunch report last July, it made $5 million in annual revenue with 10,000 registered users who can choose from 8,000 products on the site. It now has over 105 employees with the majority of them working in its 60,000 square feet warehouse. The startup has hired executives from companies like eBay, Webvan, and Viki, and will add another 36,000 square feet of warehouse space next month.

Egan says that online groceries is a $5.9 billion industry in Singapore. While RedMart has chosen to focus on the tiny local market for now, groceries are products with “sufficient volume and ordering density for the unit economics to work out”.

E-commerce startups, and online retail operations in particular, are popular among investors looking at Asia, making up a majority of investments into new internet companies last year. This could be due to their predictability and ability to generate tangible revenue in short notice.

However, such businesses have low margins (often in single-digit percentages) and high costs from logistics and fulfillment, which means substantial funding is needed for online retail companies to reach scale and become profitable.

-Courtesy: Techinasia

Killer Productivity ‘Hacks’ From Entrepreneurs Like Richard Branson (Infographic)

We all wish we had more hours in the day. The most successful entrepreneurs have developed their own ways for getting the most out of the business day — which can sometimes extend to 4:00 a.m., at least for 85 Broads Business Leader Sallie Krawcheck.

LinkedIn has collected some of the best productivity hacks of their most influential users, from Richard Branson’s advice about cell phone usage — “manage your mobile, don’t let your mobile manage you” — to how to save money on business travel (CBS News’ travel detective Peter Greenberg says to purchase your tickets at 1 a.m. on Wednesdays for best buys).

The infographic below highlights some of the best tips that were shared.

Try putting some of these to the test, and let us know in the comments what strategies you use to get your best work done.

Killer Productivity 'Hacks' From Entrepreneurs Like Richard Branson (Infographic) 

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

SF Approves Tech Bus Pilot Program Despite Public Dissent

Today the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved a controversial pilot program that will see some 200 area bus stops made available to private shuttles that ferry corporate tech workers to campuses outside of the city.

Despite impassioned, and occasionally coherent, commentary — not to mention more than a handful of Google talking points — the agency’s final deliberation was quick and to the point: Yes.

The shuttles, often referred to as ‘Google Buses,’ have become frontline in an increasingly bitter argument between the younger, newer and wealthier technology workers that call San Francisco home, and long-time residents concerned about the balkanization of the city’s less well off. Toss in a still weak job market for most sectors, spiraling rent costs, and tax incentives to wealthy tech firms to stay local, and the miasma begins to boil.

Shuttling employees south instead of forcing them to commute has ecological benefits: Fewer cars means less congestion and a lowered carbon footprint. But for private companies to use public spaces in flagrant violation of the law has many up in arms. The meeting room was packed.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 4.57.36 PM

Also, the proposed one-dollar-per-stop fee that Google et al will pay is viewed by many as little more than a perfunctory donation, given that the folk of the city pay more for a bus ride inside the confines of their own area code.

Frankly, tech companies have played their hands poorly: Instead of apologizing, offering to pay a fee for past transgressions, and a more reasonable tax per stop, they have offered little and placated no one. Still, they got their pilot program, so they won.

The cleaving of San Francisco into two camps — those who think that Google is a public benefactor, and those that view it as a public menace — is not healthy for our little community. But then again as an Uber taking, young tech-related bastard, I’m probably biased.

Whatever the case, the shuttles will continue to run. The pilot will proceed, and following something more permanent will take its place. That’s where we are now.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

‘Copying Is How We Learn’: The Evolution of Leadership

Innovation is not about something-out-of-nothing creation; it’s about novel combinations of existing stuff. Should your leadership style be any different?
“The people at my organization would describe my leadership style as a combination of ____________ mixed with _____________.”

An innocuous little ice breaker that leads off most Build live events, this question is like the final pages of James Patterson novel -; it reveals a hell of a lot very quickly. When a total stranger proclaims herself a mash-up of Jon Stewart and Martha Stewart, or a hybrid of John Wooden and John F. Kennedy, well it’s not difficult to conjure an immediate impression of working with her every day. (The above we’re mostly OK with, but that Julius Caesar + Steve Jobs guy we’re not inviting back.)

What’s perhaps most interesting about this exercise, however, is the fact that everyone eagerly participates. Not one CEO has said, “Nope. Sorry, guys. My leadership style is not like anyone else’s -; ever.”

Some experts may attribute that to the peer pressure or compulsive rule-following at a live event, but Kirby Ferguson is not one of them. The creator of a four-part video series titled “Everything Is a Remix”, Ferguson uses popular-culture references galore to make the point that innovation is not about something-out-of-nothing creation; it’s about creative combination. He notes that 74 of the 100 highest grossing films of the last decade are either sequels, remakes, or adaptations of existing work. He even trods on hallowed ground to remark that “Star Wars endures as a work of impressive imagination, but many of its individual components are as recognizable as the samples in a remix.”

“George Lucas collected materials. He combined them. He transformed them,” Ferguson says. “Without the films that preceded it, there could be no ‘Star Wars.’ Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remake of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.”

If, then, every new thing is a mish-mash of favorite things not so new, then it stands to reason that each business leader reading this article is a hybrid of CEOs, coaches, professors, and even parents who came before. More to the point, if your leadership style is the engine that drives your company’s growth strategy, then shouldn’t it mimic the styles of successful leaders who have driven similar growth in the past? Shouldn’t it remix the best?

-Courtesy: Inc.com