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  • Steven Woda

Daily Roundup for 2008-01-15

Bob Greene, co-founder of Contour Venture Partners in New York, wants you to know that venture capitalists aren’t half as tough as their reputations would have you believe. "A lot of entrepreneurs think VCs are haughty or arrogant," says Greene, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School in 1982. "All the VCs I know, we do it because we love it. We want to see entrepreneurs succeed. If the wrong impressions get cast, it’s because we get inundated with requests for review and capital."

The most important advice Jeff Fluhr, W’96, Eng’96, got as a young entrepreneur was to go with his gut. Fluhr, founder of online ticket sales website StubHub, says he had to stay focused on his vision for the business even while others who became involved in the business advised differently. “I learned that it’s important to listen to what others have to say,” said Fluhr. “But you have an obligation to do what you think is right.” Fluhr co-founded StubHub in March of 2000 and was responsible for setting the overall strategic direction. As CEO, he led the company to its position as the fan’s top choice when looking for a safe and trusted way to purchase or sell event tickets online, attracting A-list investors and advisors including major league sports teams, NCAA universities and top performing artists. StubHub was sold to eBay in early 2007., a Web site that still displays a banner from McAfee’s ScanAlert certifying that it is “Hacker Safe,” on Friday sent a letter to customers saying that it was hacked last month. “Genica dba (‘Genica’) recently discovered on December 5, 2007 that customer information, including Visa credit card information, may have been compromised,” said a letter posted on The Consumerist from Jerry L. Harken, Genica’s chief of security, to an undisclosed number customers.

To many people, e-mail feels like a relic of the early years of the Internet. Messages show up in a user’s in-box sorted chronologically, not by relevance; users need to categorize messages on their own; and in most cases, e-mail content–from contact information to data embedded in messages–is difficult to use outside of the e-mail program.

Hillcrest Labs announced today that it has closed an additional $25 million round of funding, led by new investor AllianceBernstein. Existing investors including New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Columbia Capital and Grotech Capital Group also participated in this latest round of funding. Hillcrest Labs will use the funds to further extend its pointer-based application creation platform and pointing technology to a wide range of devices that control and display digital media.

Single-purpose marketing applications, such as widgets and rich media, and other Web 2.0 technology will become increasingly popular e-commerce tools in 2008, according to Performance Communications Group.

Although the number of online buyers is increasing, web buyers still prefer to shop in traditional offline stores, according to a new study from Forrester Research Inc. During a three-month period last year, web buyers spent on average $511 at retail stores, compared with $313 spent online, according to the study. In addition, two-thirds of online buyers ranked retail stores as their preferred shopping channel, outpacing the 31% who turn first to the web for shopping needs. 54% of web buyers make purchases at a retail store at least weekly, while only 16% buy over the web on a weekly basis.

Telephone lead generation guru and friend of mine Travis Eakes wrote a great piece on the importance of using neurolinguistics when leaving a voice mail. Here are his thoughts: Leaving a voicemail is one of the most common tasks salespeople perform. However, very few leave an effective message that motivates the recipient to return their call. The biggest mistake is leaving a message based on “1-way communication,” which the customer perceives to be a canned sales pitch. The reason this happens is because most salespeople use the same cold call script over and over again. They view leaving voice-mail messages as playing a numbers game. Of course, the prospect realizes their doing this too.

If an e-retailer is not faring well on search engine results rankings, the problem could be links: not enough outside links pointing to the site, or perhaps not enough of the right kind of links. As a result, listings from competitors that may be equally well optimized on-page but that have more and better links from outside are moving to the top of search results.

LinkShare Corp., a provider of pay-per-action affiliate, search and lead-generation marketing campaigns, has introduced Flex Links, code that is embedded in advertising content that automatically converts links into tracking links. The code can be used in advertising content in vehicles ranging from banner ads to online video to web page widgets.

Gilbert Strang is a quiet man with a rare talent: helping others understand linear algebra. He has written a half-dozen popular college textbooks, and for years a few hundred students at the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been privileged to take his course. Recently, with the growth of computer science, demand to understand linear algebra has surged. But so has the number of students Strang can teach. An MIT initiative called “OpenCourseWare” makes virtually all the school’s courses available online for free — lecture notes, readings, tests and often video lectures. Strang’s Math 18.06 course is among the most popular, with visitors downloading his lectures more than 1.3 million times since June alone.

Online shoe retailer Inc. sees 2008 as the year it will join the $1 billion web sales club.

Back links (links from another website back to yours) are still currently the backbone, holy grail and Grand Poo-bah of increasing Page Rank, Search Engine Results Positioning (SERP) and traffic. You have to have a good solid strategy for building links from other sites back to yours or else you can pretty much kiss climbing the SERPs “bye bye.” Here are a few of the strategies in an SEO expert’s toolbox for building quality backlinks.

Ah, the holidays—that most wonderful time of year when the Web is aflutter with e-mailed season’s greetings, online shopping offers…and cyber criminals. The scams run the gamut, from fraudulent e-mails purporting to be alerts about online transactions to scam gift offers. “There is always an effort by the criminal underground to separate victims from their money this time of year,” says Paul Ferguson, an advanced threat researcher with Trend Micro, a security software provider.

Computer and electronics retailer and direct marketer Systemax Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire CompUSA’s brand, e-commerce business and up to 16 retail stores. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008.

Panasonic‘s web site beat the sites of four other top consumer electronics brands in brand image presentation in a recent Forrester Research report, scoring six out of a possible 12 points, the highest score given. But none of the sites received a passing score on delivering an online experience that lets consumers meet their goals in Forrester’s “Best and worst of brand building web sites.”

Consumers flocked to comparison shopping sites in the week before Christmas, looking for the best prices on last-minute holiday gifts, according to data from web measurement firm Hitwise. Comparison site gained 34% in market share among the top 100 e-commerce sites in the week ending Dec. 22, while gained 17%, Yahoo Shopping 4% and Shopzilla 3%. The retail web sites of Macy’s, Dell and Best Buy also made strong gains over the previous week.

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