Bringing SMBs from E-commerce to F-commerce. Local Startup Spotlight #33: OneWay Commerce

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LSS #33 OneWay Commerce (14 min)

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OneWay CommerceA new social commerce application for Facebook fan pages called OneWay Commerce is breaking into the SMB market this summer in collaboration with Intuit.

Born from the mind of Minnesota tech entrepreneur Joe Dwyer, this bootstrapped startup initially came onto the radar a few weeks ago when interviewing semi-finalists at a Minnesota Cup event.

At the time, it was easy draw some correlations between OneWay Commerce’s model and the rise of ’09’s winner, now called 8thBridge; both operate in the arena of social commerce, specifically designed to enable e-commerce F-commerce transactions via Facebook.  In contrast, what Dwyer has created is a clear emphasis on empowering individuals, small and medium businesses with a quick, easy and affordable means of launching their own commerce app via their Facebook fan page.

“Our software is fully functional and we’ve got dozens of customers generating revenue,” says Dwyer, noting “the application  is ideal for venders who offer a relatively small product line, even as little as one item.”

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Born Again Tech Entrepreneur Launches B2B Collaboration Platform. Local Startup Spotlight #32: Nitch

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LSS #32 Nitch (14 min)

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Nitch

A new Minnesota startup has launched an online community for vertically segmented, or Nitch, Business-to-business interactions.


The premise is that small business owners can create bids to find new vendors, band together to receive volume discounts on goods / services, and connect with similar businesses.   The platform is built on five pillars — search, commerce, advertising, collaboration, applications — and is free for customers to use.

Created in response to a proprietors daily pains of “wearing too many hats”, the technology has been in development for nearly a year and quietly gone to market over the past few months.  Co founder and CEO Michael Noble reports having both users and facilitating transactions while preparing to release third party developer API this summer.

“As a platform play, our goal is to carve out the B2B area of the web to solve immediate problems. Facebook is more of a place for individuals consumers, but where does mom and pop go to solve their immediate needs in one stop?” he posits.

In our 32nd Local Startup Spotlight podcast, Noble reflects about his east coast technology background, elaborates on the specifics of the new endeavor and shares what it’s been like to start something from scratch in Minnesota.

“With the way that technology works today, you need to find a way to build something on your own.  Trying to go out and raise capital too early can be the death knell of your company. Ideas evolve over time, and in my experience, every company we’ve built has turned out vastly different than how we originally pictured it.” — Michael Noble, Nitch co founder and CEO.

Local Entrepreneur Seizes Second Chance and Launches new Tech Startup. LSS #31: WinningCause

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LSS #31 - WinningCause (19 min)

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WinningCause

When Steve Wasnick’s wholesale picture framing company went belly-up after 15 years of business, he returned to the entrepreneurial drawing board and crafted a new product, passion and purpose.

Originally known as Mill City Auctions, the game plan was a transition into niche online auctions.   In collaboration with lifelong business partner Andrew Mattila, Wasnick envisioned cultivating a user base through iterative development and brand building by offering the nascent service free-of-charge to nonprofits.  While the sights were ultimately set on the larger and more diverse market for online auctions, a unique ‘second chance’ contest forced a refined focus exclusively on the nonprofit market.

Now re-branded/launched as WinningCause, the service replaces the traditional silent auction approach (pen and paper) with a real time web-based auction experience.  Nonprofits are able to use WinningCause to raise more money at their fundraising auctions through preliminary social media exposure, seamless transition into the actual event, smart-phone compatibility, and most importantly – by retaining 100% of the price paid for a given item.

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Meet Two (Real) Entrepreneurs That Defied Risk and Took the Plunge. LSS #30: Contour Innovations

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LSS #30 - Contour Innovations (25 min)

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Contour Innovations

Somewhere between their basements and the lake, entrepreneurs Matt Johnson and Mike Lauenstein have been camped out for the past two years — researching, designing and developing a hardware/software platform brought to market under the name Contour Innovations.

They’ve been deliberately hiding this whole time…until we scooped them out of natural habitat to bring you the story.

The duo invented the ‘CI Device’ — a portable tool that uses raw depth finder data correlated with sonar, GPS, weather conditions and other relevant information — to form an online centralized lake database repository. Recreational fishermen, fishing guides, research groups, and geo-spacial experts can generate precision maps of contoured water bodies, which in turn, form media that can be published to an online store. Ultimately, ‘CI Guides’ enables customers to purchase custom trips, track any species or find and follow a guides activity in real time.  The product has been in private beta for the past year and official launch is expected within the next two months.

For Matt and Mike, the prospect of entrepreneurship was simply too big and exciting for them to ignore. They boldly stepped away from what would otherwise be an ideal situation for many: safe and secure employment in a high paying line of work.

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Local Entrepreneur Commercializes Tech Transfer Software From U of M. LSS #29 – CaSTT

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LSS #20 - CaSTT (23 min)

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CaSTT CaSTT (Commerce and Search for Technology Transfer) is a SaaS e-commerce engine and marketing platform which enables universities, R & D Labs and hospitals that conduct research to efficiently package and license their intellectual property (IP) over the web.

Industry can search for, gather information about and actually license technologies without the need for human intervention, phone calls, or negotiation. And it’s well timed for a nation that’s struggling with the challenges of bringing IP to market faster.

The technology was extracted from its University of Minnesota Office of Technology and Commercialization (U of M OTC) origins last August and is currently being refined  as GovDelivery Director of Finance Darren Gerke settles in as  co founder while investor Tom Kieffer assumes the board chair.  Check out our Local Startup Spotlight (LSS) podcast with co founder and Chief Evangelist Darren Cox to hear the CaSTT story in all it’s glory!

Silicon Valley Vets Launch New Minnesota Startup. LSS #28: SocialSamba

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LSS #28: SocialSamba (22 min)

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SocialSamba

If your Facebook friends are relatively boring, you’re not alone.

New Minnesota startup SocialSamba sets out to bring big name characters from TV, movies, books, sports and brands to life through a robust Facebook application based on ‘scripted social networks.’ The technology enables fans to friend characters in a story and experience what it is like to be part of a social network with entertaining (yet imaginary) friends.

Fans use the application to access and participate in a professionally written scripted experience for a limited time (usually 2-6 weeks), experiencing a story with the characters of choice, say for example: Lady Gaga, George Costanza or Homer Simpson.  The posts in the scripted social network playback in real-time and the story unfolds like real life in Facebook — a ‘choose your own adventure’ of sorts.

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When Bootstrapping Pays Off – Local Startup Spotlight #27: OptiMine Software

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LSS # 27 - OptiMine Software (17 min)

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Optimine Software Data Analytics and Bid OptimizationOptiMine Software is a Chanhassen-based data mining and intelligence startup applied in the advertising and media optimization space.

The company’s current product, OptiMine Paid Search Bid Management, forecasts the daily performance of online paid search ad placement and automatically sets optimal future bids. “Everyday the software fires up, it pulls in all the data through yesterday and basically simulates tomorrow,” says CTO & Co-founder Rob Cooley.

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Want to raise VC? Stand out in a hot market! LSS #26: Alvenda

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LSS #26: Alvenda (36 min)

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Alvenda InterviewThere’s no disputing the ripple effect that just one new startup company can have on a community, city, or even an entire state.*

And for those seeking of a vote of confidence in the future of Minnesota tech (or some milestones to emulate) — look no further than Alvenda.  Digging deeper, hear how Co-founding CEO Wade Gerten played off his Retek roots to identify and build the team behind an ambitious idea that would “make history” in July 2009 by bringing retail to Facebook  for the first time.

Tune in for the details around how this startup was coronated the Minnesota Cup Grand Prize Winner in September 2009 and leveraged that momentum to raise $5m series A from Minnesota Venture Capital firm Split Rock Partners just two months later.   Fast forward to August 2010 and hear Wade describe how Alvenda would further distinguish itself through another first:  enabling air travelers to book flights through Facebook. What’s next?

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New SaaS Startup Launches To Help Underserved Businesses Manage Credit Risk. LSS #25: Argos Risk

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LSS #25: Argos Risk (22 min)

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Argos Risk

With 15 years of collective input and two years of development behind it, Minneapolis-based Argos Risk has officially launched.

At the core, Argos Risk exists to provide businesses of all sizes an easy and affordable tool to assess and monitor the ongoing financial health and potential business credit risk associated with key strategic relationships — whether that be a business’ customers, suppliers or even competitors.

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ClickWrite launches to streamline brand communications. Local Startup Spotlight #24: LoudClick

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LSS #24: LoudClick (33min)

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Loudclick releases ClickWrite

St.Paul-based LoudClick recently announced the official release of their  ClickWrite Microsite Platform.

Some three years after LoudClick was initially funded to the tune of 600k (off a napkin), this seven person team has crafted, refined and released an enterprise level SaaS product which enables large brands to seamlessly create and manage a limitless amount of niche web properties — from the few to the 1,000’s.

Ideal for a variety of applications — from agencies to franchises — ClickWrite addresses many of the typical challenges faced by organizations managing a relatively large network of sites, including:  relevancy, automation, content syndication, SEO, social integration and scalability.

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