Sometimes the Best Business Idea is Someone Else’s

February 28, 2014

Could copying successful business models and launching in emerging markets be the next big thing? So many technology giants and Silicon Valley legends are known for creating something out of nothing and carving ideas into companies. A new generation of startups in emerging markets seems perfectly content to copy, at least in part, the business models of existing companies and launch them in new parts of the world where they might succeed. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t re-invent it?

A recent article in the New York Times offered a really interesting glimpse in to the idea of copycat business models. The general idea has always been around, but the article points to some interesting ways in which it is getting a bit more large scale. One company the article focused on, Rocket Internet, seems to be taking this to another level and works to assemble team financial people, tech people and funding specifically to create businesses that mimic existing successful business models.

rocket internet
Rocket Internet has created over 100 companies in 50+ countries, including some of the ventures in this screenshot from their website.

From what we gathered the company seemed to be really good at moving really fast with smart people and lots of money in new parts of the world. Think this: get an MBA guy, a Wall Street guy, give them a few million dollars and send them to Denmark to make the next Fresh Direct, or send them to Berlin to create the next Airbnb. If the company can show some profitability and signs of life within 6 months or so, then keep growing. If they don’t, maybe re-evaluate all together or just give up on that one and try again. The companies that do make it keep growing into money making ventures, potential acquisition targets or even future IPO candidates.

Our New York Web Design team at Van West Media thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the websites mentioned in the NYT article and see exactly how similar they appeared to the companies they were emulating. Most of the websites we looked at were from Rocket Internet, the company mentioned in the New York Times article.

First Impressions:
WOW there is a lot of companies. Judging from the logos alone listed on the ventures page there are more than 50 different companies. After looking at a few of the websites it became clear that really comparing them side by side to the companies they were emulating would take a little time – particularly since Van West Media is a New York marketing agency. Most of the websites were native to countries outside the U.S. and in a different language. While many had similar design elements, there weren’t any that immediately appeared to be a straight up duplicate design or total rip-off. For the most part we were comparing home page to home page and a lot of the websites might have different internal pages once accounts are created. In short, there were similarities in some aspects of design, but for the most part it seemed like the focus was more on a business model being deployed in a new part of the world that had proven to already work somewhere else, perhaps with a few local twists or tweaks.

It’s hard to tell what to think about this concept of mimicking existing successful business models and launching them in new places. On the one hand, the core idea of many e-commerce websites is to provide goods and services to a certain population and has more to do with providing than innovating. If a player like Rocket Internet can get somewhere faster and setup quicker than competitors that might be a kind of skill on its own merits. On the other hand, there are companies that have invested a lot of time and energy to create a business that gets copied and monetized by others without compensation. Maybe they can leverage their existing reputation when they do grow to new locations or simply acquire other companies rather than grow them.

Your Website Needs To Do More Than Look Good

February 24, 2014

Your website can do more than you think. Most people think the most important part of their website is how it looks. A good looking website is mandatory these days, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. The harder part is making sure it performs well. If you aren’t sure what that means then it might be time to call your website person and ask them. If they don’t know how the website is performing on the back end, then it might be time to find a new website team. New York City website design by Van West Media relies on years of agency experience to deliver premium websites and web marketing strategies.

At Van West Media we talk with business owners all the time that don’t have any idea how effective their website is in terms of performance. An effective website should contribute to your businesses bottom line. This means different things to different people depending on the type of business you have. For example, a Manhattan restaurant will have different website goals than a new residential development in Brooklyn Heights.

Van West Media is a NYC Digital Marketing Agency that helps clients to market their goods and services. All business have different goals but creating a successful strategy has some common components.

Create a Compelling Website
Websites that look good perform better. This sounds simple enough but translating an idea into a website is not easy. Take 5 minutes to Google your competitors or some of the other businesses in your vertical and take a quick look at each of their websites homepage. Right away you should be able to tell which sites are done well and which sites have room for improvement. How does your own site look when compared to your competitors?

Get People to See Your Website
What good is a beautiful website if nobody sees it? There are hundreds of millions of websites out there and getting your site noticed can be challenging – especially in a competitive market like New York City. There are a number of ways to get people to visit your site. Optimizing for search engines and web rankings is as complicated as ever and it takes someone with knowledge of the industry to do it right.

Turn Site Visitors into Customers
A business website should be a tool that drives business. As obvious as this may sound, it’s something that a lot of companies overlook. Building a nice website and generating traffic and visits doesn’t do any good if it doesn’t help generate business.

Measure, Monitor & Improve
Once a website is published and getting visitors, knowing what works and what doesn’t work can make the difference between a good site and a great site. Data on each and every individual visit can be recorded and analyzed to help show how effective the website is in helping to generate business. Some of the important pieces of data collected on websites designed by Van West Media include:

  • Most/Least visited web pages
  • Search Queries & Keywords used to find site
  • Geographic information on site visitors
  • Social Media mentions
  • Traffic patterns throughout the day
Not sure where to start on your next website design in New York City? Contact Van West Media


The $19 Billion Dollar App You’ve Never Heard Of

February 20, 2014

Mobile messaging app WhatsApp has $19 billion reasons to celebrate after Facebook recently announced that it had reached a deal to acquire the company for $19 billion in cash and stock. This is the largest acquisition in the history of Facebook and you can be sure that the $19 billion dollar number made headlines across the tech world and beyond. The initial reaction by many was that Facebook might have paid too much for a company with less than 60 employees, but other analyst point to a lot of upside – if nothing else to avoid competitors from getting the app first. One thing is certain – WhatsApp cofounders Jan Koum and Brian Acton are the Silicon Valley’s newest billionaires.

What Facebook Paid – $19B acquisition details
Even in today’s speculative tech market, $19B is a huge chunk of change. Here are some of the details on the cash side of the WhatsApp acquisition:

  • $4B Cash, $12B worth of shares, $3B restricted stock = $19B
  • Largest acquisition in the history of Facebook
  • Costs close to 10% of Facebook’s Net Worth
  • Nineteen times the price of 2012 Instagram acquisition

What Facebook gets for $19 Billion?
Is this company really worth this kind of cash? It is to Mark Zuckerberg and at the end of the day that’s all that matters. Here’s some of what he gets in this deal:

  • A company with 450 million users (think double what Twitter has)
  • A company growing by 1 million plus users daily
  • The only app that has grown faster than Facebook ever did
  • Younger user base, mostly outside North America
  • Expanded presence in Mobile

WhatsApp…? Never heard of it
You’re not alone if you haven’t heard of WhatsApp prior to this announcement. Despite being a Mountain View based company, a large part of the user growth is in Latin America, Europe, India and other developing markets. In other words, a lot of places that Facebook wants to be. This means huge potential growth in terms of user base for Facebook, and may be part of the reason Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were willing to pay so much.

With a market cap close to $200 Billion, Facebook needs to continue to convince shareholders it can keep performing in a landscape that continues to innovate and change. In acquiring WhatsApp, the company gains a big chunk of young users in new regions. It also prevents it from being acquired by competitors (read: Google).

How does WhatsApp work?
WhatsApp is cross-platform messaging app that lets users exchange messages without paying the SMS charges many carriers apply. Basically it found a way to exchange messages via the internet using the same data plan your phone uses for email or web. It also allows for images, video and audio messages and group functionality. This appeals to many users globally and the app is available across iPhone, Blackberry, NokiaS40, Symbian and Windows platforms. Feel free to contact VWM for more info on Mobile App Development

Off the cuff:
Snapchat might be feeling pretty good right now. The company turned down a $3 Billion dollar offer from Facebook not too long ago, and now might be looking more valuable in the eyes of Google or well positioned for a potential IPO sometime in the future. Instagram on the other hand might be feeling a little jealous.

Some of the sources referenced in researching this article: 2/14/2014

Forbes here and here

New York Times

The Guardian

Martin Varsavsky

Win $1.5 Million with Esurance Post-Superbowl Commercial

February 3, 2014

With pricey commercials during the Superbowl, Esurance used their savvy saving skills by grabbing the first commercial slot after the Superbowl. They not only saved $1.5 million by purchasing this commercial instead of one during the game, but they spread the word about it to their viewers.

The tactic was carefully planned and worked out accordingly by starting with a celebrity spokesperson. Many know John Krasinski as “Jim Halpert” from the popular NBC television series The Office and because of this, Esurance hired him to capture your attention. From there, they started to deliver their message.

By using their savings, Esurance encouraged viewers to help promote the company with by tweeting with the hashag #EsuranceSave30 to win the money they saved from placing their commercial after the Superbowl. By incorporating social media and giving their viewers incentive to participate, Esurance became a trending topic almost instantly. What added to this was how they made each tweet with the hashtag another entry to win the $1.5 million. This helped achieve constant promotion rather than a one time deal so that Esurance would remain a trending topic until Wednesday night, when they would announce the winner on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel.

The marketing doesn’t even stop there. Insurance companies are there to help you “save money” and Esurance also correlated this with their tactic of promoting their company. Many viewers don’t fully understand or realize that they were informed of Esurance and their insurance savings, but it has been engrained in their minds. Not only has the thought of saving been engrained, but the name Esurance has as well and that name will stay in their minds until the winning announcement Wednesday night.

By giving people incentive to promote for your company through social media, which is the fastest marketing tool, Esurance became the buzz everywhere since the Superbowl ended last night. This trending topic will remain trending and be constantly spread through all friends and family for the next 3 days. This makes Esurance the most influential Superbowl commercial this year (even though it was played after) because with $1.5 million to win, who wouldn’t want to join in on this promotional deal? Don’t miss out and start hashtagging #EsuranceSave30 today!