Six Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Employees

In the spirit of National Employee Appreciation Day, I’d like to share this article about some of the ways I show appreciation to employees. Over my years of managing people and teams, I’ve learned that when you show people appreciation, you get back the same in return. Simple acts of kindness will boost employee moral and create positive energy in the workplace – which improves productivity, employee retention and ultimately better products and happy customers.

290320_10150380830827265_289686517_oOn Fortune’s list of the 100 best companies to work for in 2013, Google has claimed the #1 spot over the last four years and is the undisputed king of employee perks. For managers who do not have the budget of an Internet giant, there are many ways to show employees they are valuable. For starters, trust your employees, reward your team and empower them to GSD or Get Sh*t Done.

263997_10150322705472265_7964752_nIn my opinion nothing builds mutual respect more than granting employees autonomy built on a solid foundation of trust. Reward your team and regularly host company events, like the Shotguns & Chardonnay event I have hosted the last 4 years. I’m a firm believer in professional development and try every day to learn new things to improve our team at Wanderful Media.

What are you doing to show your employees you appreciate them?

Read full article: Six Ways to Show Love to Your Employees | Business 2 Community

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Love the Ones You’re With. Why Startup Success Depends on Relationships | SiliconANGLE

Ben and Doug at DisneyI recently wrote this post with Doug Kilponen, COO at Wanderful Media. Having worked together on two different startups over the course of several years, it has become clear to us that loyalty is the secret ingredient for success. The media tends to credit startups with being built by a few key people, but the reality is your business, and your future, depends much more on whom you take along for the ride and how you share the adventure together.

In the early startup days, it’s you and your team against the world, fired up by passion and chasing a shared idea. That faith in each other moves you from one line of code to the next, one venture pitch to another. As your startup begins to mature, the strengths of your team are vigorously tested. Success can lead people to the difficult choice of staying with the same team or possibly a more amicable separation, with the possibility of working together in the future.

DSC_1547For example, look at what’s happened to alumni from Odeo who went on to found Twitter, or Topix who are now finding great success with Blekko. Our team at Wanderful includes talented people we worked with at MerchantCircle and CodeGear. The teams that have formed, reformed, gone onto different opportunities but continued throughout to nurture the loyalty and friendships that were built in the early days are thriving.

When starting a company, choosing the right team is the one decision that will truly impact your success and your future career. You won’t succeed unless you choose to work with people who have integrity, a sense of shared purpose and a desire to create something meaningful. Once you find great people, be good to them!

Read the full article: Love the Ones You’re With. Why Startup Success Depends on Relationships | SiliconANGLE

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Pinterest – Pinning Down Its Value For Retail | MediaPost

This is a great piece I wrote with Ron Adams, VP of National Sales at Wanderful Media. The Wanderful team is focused on connecting local retailers with consumers, and we see a huge opportunity for retailers to capitalize on areas that Pinterest and other social networks are missing – ability to track local sales, allow you to create shopping lists or interact with your friends about shopping in a meaningful way.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 11.59.30 AMPinterest has quickly built a large audience, but can it deliver real value for retailers? There has been some early success with brands on Pinterest, but more from a branding approach. While there’s value in brand awareness, retailers are more interested in the influence that drives consumers into stores, a value directly proportionate to sales and revenues. Pinterest’s focus is on “discovery” and not shopping.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 12.05.42 PMPinterest can spark imagination, inspiration, word of mouth and potentially purchases, but it’s not a shopping marketplace. Their goal has been to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” The social network promotes the experience of discovering and sharing ideas, but it was not built with the consumer-retail relationship in mind. Nor was it designed to guide customers throughout the shopping journey – discovery, decision and execution.

via MediaPost: Pinterest – Pinning Down Its Value For Retail

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Retail is not dying… just transforming.

By Seema Sud and Ben T. Smith, IV

VHS was going to be the cinema killer in the late ‘70s; and yet, 30 “DVR, Blue ray and big screen TV” years later, cinema is more popular than ever and the box office keeps growing, helped by multiplexes, 3D movies and well … buttered popcorn.

When radio was considered just about dead outside the car, Pandora, Sirius and Spotify brought it back with a bang. More social, more personal and available from more sources.

2012 was the year full of predictions about retail industry. Everyone has been talking about how showrooming will impact retail and the rise of ecommerce. Mobile is disrupting the traditional retail sales funnel in a big way. What has been referred to by some as retailers’ worst nightmare, smartphones are bringing the power of the Internet right into brick-and-mortar stores, arming consumers with the pricing power that was once reserved for the confines of their home or work online shopping experience.

In a recent interview with Pando Daily, Marc Andreessen predicted the death of traditional retail:

“Retail guys are going to go out of business and ecommerce will become the place everyone buys. You are not going to have a choice. We’re still pre-death of retail… 

“…Retail chains are a fundamentally implausible economic structure if there’s a viable alternative. You combine the fixed cost of real estate with inventory, and it puts every retailer in a highly leveraged position. Few can survive a decline of 20 to 30 percent in revenues. It just doesn’t make any sense for all this stuff to sit on shelves. There is fundamentally a better model.

“…I’d bet on the pure plays in ecommerce. Software eats retail.”

Let’s put things in perspective here….

What this means is that a 4.5 trillion industry that grew by 28% in the past decade will die in the next 10 years to be replaced by ecommerce – and the current share of which is not even 10%?  (Per BI Intelligence estimates.)

busy mall

Granted that ecommerce is growing at a really fast rate but this doesn’t seem to add up…

We, the digital world, talk about amount of time users are spending on various ecommerce or other online shopping related sites all the time. Compare that with total time spent in Fry’s Electronics, Macy’s or Wal-Mart, the number may just astound you!

We agree retail industry is undergoing a major change. The competition from ecommerce is real. The reduction in margins is considerable.

When a strong competition emerges from a new medium, one of the two outcomes can happen. The incumbent can either come out stronger than ever as examples above or die the Blockbuster death. The retail industry has to rise to the challenge provided by its online competitors. Some new models of inventory management have to emerge.

Here are some changes that are happening in the retail as we speak:

  • Focus on Personalization – Just as their online competitors, retailers are connecting with their users more and more for personalized offers and deals. Safeway’s just for u is a great example.
  • Pre-shopping experience – Many online service providers are emerging to facilitate the process of discovery in early stages of purchase funnel such as online catalogues and circulars, comparison-shopping and purchasing wish lists.
  • In-Store Experience – A lot is happening on improving the in-store buying experience with mobile POS solutions, acceptance of digital payments/coupons and in store only promotions.
  • More and more stores are supporting ‘bricks and clicks’ – order online to pick up from the store.

And let’s not forget the role the friendly salesman…the ‘buttered popcorn’ of retail. The role of an intelligent, friendly human cannot be undermined. It can make purchasing from a chore to a fun social experience. Something, that is close to impossible for online counterparts to match.

Retail is going through a transformation in which ultimately the consumer will benefit. More fun, better service and, I guess, good prices.

Two key points Ben made in a previous blog post are truer than ever:

  • Shopping is supposed to be fun and all about discovery not price comparison and search.
  • Mobile changes everything, and a tablet on your couch is an even bigger deal.

Anyone who has been to an Apple store at this past holiday season, would not ever think or believe retail is anywhere close to death. The hubbub of lively shopping malls, the food courts, hanging out with friends, window shopping and sometimes just loitering, are all signs of healthy life.

Online retailers are doing everything they can to bring that fun and discovery into shopping on desktops, tablets and mobile phones. They will have a bigger share of the pie of the retail market.

So…  The brick-and-mortars will survive and the fancy malls will remain. And shoppers will continue going to the malls for Black Friday midnight shopping parties – probably more than ever.

[Image courtesy of Flickr user ceratosaurrr]

Seema Sud is the Mobile Products Lead at Wanderful Media, a startup focused on reinventing online discovery shopping with a social experience. You can follow Seema on Twitter @seemasud.

Ben T. Smith, IV is CEO of Wanderful Media. He is also a Venture Partner at Accelerator Ventures and co-founder of and You can follow Ben on Twitter @bentsmithfour.

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Wanderful Media raises $5 million in new funding round

Wanderful - logo (Small)It’s been an incredible year for the retail and e-commerce industries, especially when it comes to discovery shopping. For Wanderful Media, 2012 will be defined as a year of building, and the theme for this year will be delivering. We’ve been moving quickly since the company launch and are well on our way to hitting many important goals in Q1.

Raise-MoneyWanderful Media came out running in 2013, and are in an advantageous position, with strong retail and newspaper partnerships, as well as being backed by some of the most powerful media brands in the world. We recently announced raising an additional $5 million from our current investors. This new capital brings to bear $27 million in cumulative funding to help Wanderful Media make discovery shopping engaging, fun and social for consumers, wherever they are and however they shop – tablet, mobile or web.

Read more here: Online circular provider Wanderful Media raises $5 million via Internet Retailer.

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2012: A Year of Building

If you think about it, every year takes on a character, or theme, of its own depending upon goals we’ve set, decisions we’ve made and unplanned events that take place along the way.  2011 was driven by a few great endings, my son leaving high school and getting into Arizona State Computer Science, selling MerchantCircle in a successful exit. As I look back on 2012, this past year was all about building.

54050cadf862fd00250f6a7067005e48First of all, no year-end review of mine would be complete without a discussion of my college football exploits. After selling MerchantCircle to Reply! in 2011, I saw about 12 games in 2011, ending with an Alabama National Championship and seeing Stanford barely lose the Fiesta Bowl.  While my 2012 game attendance decreased a bit, I managed to see some phenomenal games. The year started with going to watch Alabama beat Michigan in the new Cowboys stadium in Texas; included being there to see my son’s new college, ASU beat Navy in a bowl game in San Francisco; and ended with going to see Stanford win its first Rose Bowl since ’72 and of course seeing Alabama beat Notre Dame in the National Championship.  I’m now looking forward to another Alabama National Championship in Pasadena with them playing Stanford in 2013 for the National Championship.


On the subject of building…In early 2012, I started working with Accelerator Ventures founded by my partner Alex Lloyd to invest in and coach early-stage technology companies. In April, I came on board as Wanderful Media’s CEO to change the local discovery shopping landscape. It’s been rewarding and exciting to see both new ventures take off and we’ve made a lot of progress on both fronts. There’s nothing better than the act of creation and the satisfaction of seeing something come to life.

With Accelerator Ventures, Alex and I worked with numerous start-ups – companies like QuickPay, Influitive, Roqbot, and Well – that are largely consumer-facing and/or eCommerce businesses, helping them move to the next level.

198525_183824811752824_1786699678_nWanderful Media officially launched on September 25th and we celebrated with 150+ guests and partners at our 4th Annual Shotguns & Chardonnay Event. Don’t worry if you missed it. A 5th Shotguns & Chardonnay Event is definitely on the calendar for 2013!

Since then, we’ve been moving quickly, working toward a Spring 2013 product launch. We acquired iCircular from the AP in October, which helped us to broaden our products for mobile devices and tablets. And since November, a functional prototype of our new web-based product, which we’ve been previewing with key partners, has been available.

Wanderful - logo (Small)We’ve built a solid team at both the executive and staff levels with Doug Kilponen, COO; Steve Trefethen, CTO; Dave Thomsen, EVP of Product & Design and Grace Chan, VP Product Management at the lead. Wanderful has also gotten some great press as the industry watches what we’re up to. And, we’re literally building as well.  New office space in Chico, CA is under renovation, complementing our Los Gatos, CA headquarters.  Our move-in date is February.

1722.1-325-BROADWAY-RENDERING-SMOOTH-night-shot-850x325I already know what 2013’s theme will be – Delivering.  We’re gearing up for the launch of Wanderful Media’s web, tablet and mobile products in April. There’s a lot that we need to do between now and then, but we’re well on our way and couldn’t be more excited.

Thanks to all of our employees, partners and friends for making 2012 a great year. Can’t wait for 2013 – It’s going to be a good year !  It is all about fishing not catching, so I looking forward to enjoying the year with all of you.

Posted in Investments, Personal, Silicon Valley, Startups, Wanderful Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Smartphones & Tablets, Reshaping The Overall Shopping Experience!

The explosion of mobile devices that connect anywhere has blurred the line between online and in-store shopping. Shopping behaviors continue to change, as new options are regularly being introduced to consumers. It’s because of these behaviors that Wanderful Media is designing products that easily and seamlessly move through the entire shopping journey from discovery through purchase with a strong focus on mobile.

Wanderful - logo (Small)Wanderful Media recently conducted a survey to look at how mobile and online shopping is impacting the overall shopping experience. The goal of our survey was to gather current data about consumer shopping behavior in stores and online, and to uncover how mobile and online technologies have changed the shopping experience.

ProductDiscoveryOur survey revealed that the Internet is driving consumers into stores. 91 percent of the people surveyed say they have made an in-store purchase based on an online experience. The findings show that a growing integration between online and offline has created a more fluid shopping experience, where consumers move through the process of shopping in a non-traditional way using technology to allow them freedom of location, device and even activities.

Devices-OnlineShoppingAdditionally mobile phones and tablets are providing the freedom to discover, research or see what your friends are buying, regardless of where you are and many consumers easily switch between devices depending on the task. Consumers are browsing, discovering new products, reading product reviews, researching a purchase, checking with friends or experts about what to buy, asking the retailer questions about a product, purchasing a product, returning a product, sharing details of a purchase on social media, and so on. An interesting finding was the fact that consumers because of mobile technology now have more time to shop as they are no longer limited to the geographic restrictions of a personal computer. The other surprise is that people still like to go to a retail store. E-commerce is growing but consumers still want a relationship with their local retailer!

Read more here: Technology Blurs The Line Of Online vs. In-Store Shopping

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Wanderful Media Adds Former Microsoft & Yahoo! Talent to Growing Management Team | Marketwire

I am proud to announce that Wanderful Media has recently added two Silicon Valley veterans to our growing management team. We have appointed Steve Trefethen as chief technology officer and Grace Chan will serve as our vice president of product management.

MOD-113213__Steve3015Steve Trefethen brings 20 years of high-tech experience. He previously held roles as vice president of technology at Reply!, and as senior member of technical staff at MerchantCircle. Steve also held senior engineering roles at Borland, CodeGear, Microsoft and Falafel Software.

MOD-113212__Grace3011Grace Chan is an accomplished veteran of Silicon Valley. She was previously the director of merchant monetization at MerchantCircle, where she was responsible for all activities around merchant revenue growth. Prior to MerchantCircle, Grace held various positions at Yahoo! and Intel.

Both Steve and Grace were former colleagues at MerchantCircle (acquired by Reply!), and I am thrilled to be working with them again at Wanderful Media. As we focus on reinventing local discovery shopping, their past experience will be key to the future growth of our company. Wanderful Media has already made a huge splash in the digital media industry, and is now better positioned for a success in 2013.

via Wanderful Media Taps Former Microsoft and Yahoo! Talent Through Two New Management Hires

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Coming in 2013: Greater Retail Industry Shifts

It’s been an incredible year for the retail and e-commerce industries, especially when it comes to local discovery shopping. 2012 was marked by new company introductions, market consolidation, growing social media influence and evolved retail tactics to drive consumers from online to in-store shopping.

findnsaveAnd, based on conversations I’ve been having with media partners, industry experts, and customers, even greater shifts can be expected in 2013. Once the dust settles, new business models and retail leaders will emerge, driven by technology trends like mobile and social networking as well as cultural trends. High-touch shopping and local customer engagement will also be making a comeback.

At the encouragement of the Wanderful team, I’ve captured some of my office ramblings into a list of predictions. Hopefully, this will be start of a very interesting conversation.

What’s in Store for 2013

Amazon will launch retail stores: As part of its mission to become the world’s one-stop shop, Amazon is rolling out local and specialized channels and offers such as same-day delivery at its local merchandise pick-up locations. The next logical step will be opening actual retail stores.

Same-day delivery from e-commerce sites and retail stores will become commonplace in major metros: This way, online shoppers can have the best of both worlds: lower prices and bigger selection as well as same-day receipt of purchase.

eBay will emerge as an important local retail company: eBay is turning its focus on regional shoppers. In 2013, eBay will not only continue that strategy, but also offer customers discounts to local merchants based on what’s purchased online.

Commercial real estate will face its own mortgage-like crisis: Predictions indicate that there will be 30 percent (or more) excess retail square footage over the next few years, potentially creating a commercial real estate crisis similar to the 2008 mortgage crisis.

More big retailers will have chain-specific bar codes to combat the ‘showrooming’ effect: Retailers are attempting to thwart lost sales due to showrooming by replacing standard bar codes with innovative chain-specific codes that can’t be scanned by smart phones.

“Daily Deals” will emerge from the penalty box as a viable business model: Daily deals will evolve as a profitable business model, squashing Wall Street concerns by demonstrating an ability to expand sales and profits.

via Marketwire: Growing Commercial Real Estate Crisis, Retailers Fighting Back Against ‘Showrooming’ and More Same-Day Delivery Expected in 2013

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Wanderful Acquires iCircular to Enhance Local Discovery Shopping

Yesterday Wanderful Media ™ announced the acquisition of iCircular from TheAssociated Press. iCircular is the mobile-phone equivalent of the stacks of coupons and other promotions inserted into print editions of weekend newspapers. We’re making a bet on mobile and tablets because we know these are the preferred technologies for shoppers today, and iCircular was a natural fit for our broader product offering which includes the Find n Save brand currently in over 275 markets.

The Associated Press has a long history of driving innovation in the industry and helping advance the mission of member newspapers. The iCircular pilot was launched by AP to bridge the digital gap by delivering the traditional weekly circular on mobile devices within trusted local news sources’ applications and mobile websites. The successful pilot included more than 180 publications and 21 nationwide retailers, and has produced important insights into consumer engagement and interest in mobile circulars.

Wanderful is building a new market approach, one that simply and seamlessly connects advertisers with millions of motivated buyers, and taps into social and mobile technologies to support the experience of discovery shopping from awareness to execution.  We would like to thank AP for their innovation and their contribution to furthering the goals of the industry. Wanderful is looking forward to serving the needs of our media and retail partners by building a 50 million strong consumer audience who are engaged in an exciting shopping experience, and most importantly enabling consumers to actively discover and purchase products and services in their own backyards.

I’d like to personally thank the following individuals from The Associated Press and iCircular: Jessica Bruce, Vice President AP, Laurie Morris, AP Deputy Director Corporate Communications, Paul Colford, AP Director of Media Relations, David Saabye, iCircular Head of Sales and Marketing, Jeff Litvack, iCircular GM/COO, and Abdulla Elnatour, iCircular Director of Product Development.

Some interesting press resulted from the announcement of the acquisition:

Wanderful Acquires AP’s iCircular as Media Companies Separate Digital Shopping From News

Rick Edmonds delivers an insightful look at the media industry in its pursuit of digital shopping revenue and Wanderful Media’s plan to change the dynamics in local digital discovery shopping.

“I also think Wanderful marks a change in the industry’s thinking about digital advertising.  For years companies have tried to develop effective ads on news websites with modest success at best. And as smart phone use and views of mobile news on those devices has soared over the last several years, advertising has not followed.

Wanderful, by contrast, can build on an existing base of big newspaper advertisers and be promoted from their existing and well-trafficked local web sites (or smart-phone and tablet versions). But it won’t suppose that there are many readers eager to toggle back and forth between news and shopping.” – via Poynter Media

Wanderful Media, Backed by Major Media Companies, Acquires iCircular from the Associated Press

A dissenting perspective…

“It appears that many newspaper companies are content to outsource their digital circulars business just as they did their classified recruitment and automotive business – getting marginal revenue boosts from digital while losing all of their print classified revenues. It is a dangerous strategy and one that could bring in huge profits for start-ups, while decreasing the same for the media partners.” via Talking New Media

Wanderful Media Acquires Mobile Newspaper Shopping Ads Platform iCircular From the AP

Leena Rao provides an accurate and brief overview of the iCircular acquisition.

“The idea behind the iCircular acquisition is to broaden Wanderful’s products for mobile devices and tablets. While the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Wanderful says the acquisition was less than eight figures.” – via TechCrunch

Wanderful Buys Up iCircular From the Associated Press

Good discussion of Wanderful Media’s product philosophy and direction by Steven Loeb.

“I think that everyone hates newspaper circulars. You know, those fliers that fall out of the newspaper, and are just page after page of coupons? Yeah, some of them are useful, and every once in a while you’ll see one for something you absolutely need right now. But going through all of those pages, and then keeping track of the clipped coupons, is a major pain, and usually not worth it.

Now, two products designed to digitize those annoying circulars are coming together.” via Vator News

AP Sells iCircular to Wanderful Media

AP played an innovative role for the industry in developing iCircular.

“The AP had always planned to sell iCircular, said Jessica Bruce, an AP vice president. The plan, she said, was to incubate and test the product on behalf of the industry to see if there was interest among newspapers, retailers and customers.” – via The Associated Press

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