It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since we launched Half.com. (Unless you watch the video of Half.com's launch on the Today Show -- in which case you'll see how much I've aged since then)
One of the things that’s surprised me the most over the last decade is how little transformative innovation has occurred in ecommerce. eBay looks pretty much the same as it did a decade ago. Amazon looks pretty much the same as it did a decade ago. While the top 10 sites on the Internet have changed dramatically over the last decade, the top 10 online shopping sites on the Internet have not. The traditional catalog/cart shopping model remains pretty much unchanged. I’m not sure of the reasons why so little innovation has occurred – perhaps it is because of Google. Specifically, the fact that online retailers had a scalable, measurable, and predictable source of customer traffic (through both SEO and Adwords) might have reduced the external pressures to innovate.
However, the online shopping paradigm is finally changing. Indeed, I think we’ve seen more innovation in the last 10 months than in the last 10 years. We’ve seen an explosion of interesting technologies and opportunities that seek to change online shopping, such as:
- SNO (Social Network Optimization)
- User Generated Content
- Private Sale Shopping Sites
- Virtual Goods
- Behavioral Data Augmentation
- Game Dynamics
- Demand Aggregation
- Real Time Marketing and Messaging
- API's that allow for syndicated shopping
- Alternative Payment Technologies
At First Round Capital we haven’t been bashful about investing in these spaces. In fact, we currently have over a dozen companies in our portfolio that seek to transform online shopping. And tonight we put those companies on display at our first ever First Round Capital eCommerce Summit. Like our previous one-day events for our advertising-focused and entertainment-focused companies, the goal of this summit was to give our portfolio companies a forum to make brief (6 minute) presentations to their target customers. So we were really excited that we were able to attract over 100 attendees from the country’s leading eCommerce sites, brands, tool providers, analysts and influencers – including representatives from Alibris, Apple, CafePress, eBags, eBay, Fandango, Forrester, Gap.com, Google, GSI, Ice.com, Intuit, Magento, Omniture, Open Table, P&G, ProFlowers, QVC, Red Envelope, Safeway.com, Shopping.com, Shopzilla, Shutterfly, StubHub, Urban Outfitters, Williams Sonoma, Ylighting and Zappos.
I left the day really proud of our portfolio – and excited about the future of eCommerce!