Amazon’s new twist on the order fulfillment business

Amazon continues to amaze as it innovates on taking products, services and processes that have already made it good money, and throws it out in the marketplace for other businesses and entrepreneurs to use.

The latest in its cache of outsourced products and services is a new API that is designed for its "Fulfillment by Amazon" pack and ship service that was introduced in 2006.

This is how it works.  A business physically ships its inventory to Amazon to store.  When a product is sold, the seller notifies Amazon where the product gets packaged and shipped to the customer.  This is clearly a win-win strategy.  The small-business owner outsources his warehousing and shipping (and some cost, of course) while Amazon gets a client into their ecosystem where they can cross sell everything from pay-per-click advertising to its storefront related services.

Fulfillment by Amazon API allows businesses to automate the order processing through Amazon

According to Amazon handling fees start at $0.50 per item plus $0.40 per pound with a storage fee of $0.45 per cubic feet per month and saves sellers the time and money needed to store, pick, pack, ship and provide customer service for the products sold online.

The new Fulfillment by Amazon API allows businesses to automate the order processing through Amazon. Order labeling, shipping and tracking and can now be followed with minimal  human intervention.

SimplyShe raises $600k in financing

image Agility Capital recently closed a $600,000 financing to SimplyShe, Inc.  The debt facility is in the form of a growth capital loan.

Located in San Francisco, California, SimplyShe, Inc.  is a branded consumer products company providing fashion-based merchandise to the mass market. SimplyShe™ has multiple business units including: women’s apparel and accessories, children’s apparel image and accessories, pet apparel and accessories, publishing and entertainment. The Company’s brands include: SimplyShe™, SimplyWee™, SimplyDog™, Lulu Pink™, Max-A-Million™, Big Paws™ and SimplySingle™. The Company is on a rapid growth path reporting over $20 million in sales in 2007.

Agility Capital provides innovative debt solutions to Venture Capital backed private companies and Small Cap public companies in the technology/ communications/ medical device and branded consumer products markets in the Western United States.

Robert Scoble and the secret Microsoft killer product

We know that Microsoft is going to unveil a revolutionary product. We think it is coming out March 3rd. We don’t know what it is. We know a lot about what it isn’t.

The hoopla started when Scobleizer Robert Scoble broke the story that he was shown a Microsoft product which was so moving that it made him cry.

Microsoft researchers make me cry

It’s not often that I see software that really changes my world. It’s even rarer that I see software that I know will change the world my sons live in. I can count those times pretty easily. The first time I saw an Apple II in 1977. When Richard Cameron showed me Apple’s Hypercard. And something called Photoshop, all in his West Valley Community College classroom. Later when I saw Marc Andreessen’s Netscape running the WWW.

I think we have all been there. Seen an invention that you knew was going to change the world.

So it was when I saw the first web browser. It was Mosaic (the mother of all browsers), beautiful, even in its first version. I tried to tell others what I had beheld. "It had graphics, hot links that you click on to go to yet another page, you book mark things you like….". But it was like speaking a language no one understood. If all you had encountered were Bitnet, Decnet and ATDT (remember?) there is no way you would have the vocabulary to understand how revolutionary the first graphic web browser experience is.

So I understand Robert Scoble, and his need to write about what he had seen, even if he cannot divulge the details yet.

Techcrunch has spent some time speculating about what this is. Scoble has replied on his blog with what the new product isn’t - ie everything that Techcrunch is speculating about. According to Robert it is not operating systems, productivity apps, data centers or databases, video game consoles. And no, it is not the touch table top pc either. What is seems to be is a clever, small application that two (presumably very smart) people built.

So then Valleywag gets into the fray. They scold Scoble for starting hype about a product before he is released from an embargo regarding divulging information!

From Valleywag: Unsolicited advice, Robby: If you have an embargoed piece of information, don’t talk about it until you can talk about it. You’re not building buzz, you’re killing it in advance by sending people’s imaginations soaring in the wrong directions

Excuse me! There is no great product that has needed buzz before it was released, to be successful (think Facebook, Google, Ebay). Nor has any product been killed simply by hype.

image For those who are pointing to the Segue as a prime example of high expectations generated due to too much buzz, lets just be honest. The product did not get killed because of buzz. It faded away because it looked dorky! Steve Jobs thought so, and a focus group of a few teenagers would have come to the same conclusion if the designers had let anyone have a peek at the product while it was being built!

Meanwhile - yay for Microsoft! We are all ready for them to totally wow us with their next app!

Intrade: Fantasy markets making real money

intrade fantasy market According to the WSJ’s fantasy political market, today’s top pick for president is Barrack Obama (trading at the highest price), followed John McCain and Hillary Clinton. The most active trading is for Mike Huckabee (largest volume of shares traded).





























































Fantasy betting has risen considerably in popularity in recent times, with web sites devoted to picking winners in every sport from football to fly fishing. The built in social network of most sites allows users to participate in fantasy betting with friends and family.

 BetFair as the front runners in the prediction markets game. 

BetFair is aimed at the European market and charges commissions on winnings (there is no charge for a net loss). Betfair was founded in 1999 and claims to process 15 million trades a day.

Intrade powers WSJs fantasy political market. Trading on the prediction market is simple. For example, if you think the likelihood of Hillary Clinton becoming president is more than 17% (see table above for Ask price) you buy contracts. If you think the probability is less, you sell a contract. The site charges 5c per trade. Members buy and sell contracts against each other. Intrade charges 5c per matched trade.

The big question is - other than being quite entertaining, are fantasy markets able to predict the outcome of events in a reliable fashion? Given that the betting is probability based, one can infer that with a suitable, unbiased population size, the predictions should be at least as good as those of the experts - similar to the financial markets where the success of the expert predictions of, say, the level of the S&P index in the future, has been no higher than those of the lay person. In a market where the collective thought process actually influence the outcome, it is very likely that the aggregate forecasting ability of the masses will actually provide a more accurate representation of reality.

Earlier we looked at crowdcasting and polling as ways of harvesting collective wisdom. Predictive markets are like 4 dimensional polls in that they have a time component folded in. Like true financial markets, they reflect the quicksilver nature of changing sentiments.

By the way, is the US in recession in 2008? According to Intrade, 65% think so!

Intrade us economy recession

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