Getting Started and Moving On

This is my first week running my new company, Cereblitz. So far, it has gone wonderfully. I’ve already had a couple of meetings with clients, and my ecommerce platform is close to launching.

If you haven’t already done so, please remember to sign up for our email list, follow @Cereblitz on Twitter, and like the Cereblitz page on Facebook.

Decorative Scales Of Justice In The Courtroom

One of the side-effects of this, of course, is that I have left legal practice behind. I started law school ten years ago, and started my first legal job exactly seven years ago today. And now, I am not practicing law at all. It’s a little surreal. On the other hand, I have been programming almost my entire life (since I was learning to read), and I was running a software development company before law school, so this is not really a second career. It’s more like a return to my first career.

Anyway, thanks for joining me on this thrilling, crazy ride. Please remember to sign up for my newsletter so I can keep you up to date on everything!

Cereblitz Cart is Coming: A Shopping Cart for Customizable Products

I am very excited to announce the formation of Cereblitz LLC and, with it, the upcoming launch of Cereblitz Cart!

Cereblitz makes the first fully-customizable cart for customizable products

Cereblitz Cart is the First Cart Available to the Public that Supports Truly Customizable Products

Cereblitz Cart is a completely new take on the traditional ecommerce model: you can sell absolutely anything with it.

Traditional carts limit you to items with a few choices – maybe a few colors or sizes – and are basically one-size-fits-all. If that doesn’t actually fit your needs because your products are complex, tough luck.

Cereblitz Cart is different. It is a completely customizable shopping cart, and it supports completely customizable products. With it, you can sell anything, no matter how complex. Need to allow customization, like a custom image or imprint? No problem. Option A is incompatible with Option Q? No problem. Need to allow more than one way to customize the product, price customized products differently, give all the many possibilities their own product codes, and do it all instantly and online? No problem.

Cereblitz Cart is All-Purpose

Obviously, many stores sell customizable products. There are lots of imprintable t-shirt stores, print-your-own-card stores, and so on. Here’s the catch: those are all one-off solutions. They are typically developed in-house, often at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and completely out of reach for small business.

Cereblitz Cart is different. It can handle everything from mom-and-pops to selling a passenger aircraft, and from selling stock items off the shelf to custom web design packages. Really, the only limit to what you can sell on this platform is your own imagination.

And. It’s. Awesome.

We’ve worked hard on this. In fact, creating Cereblitz Cart cost at least $200,000 worth of developer time.

Before working on this software, I’d spent 15 years developing solutions for customers who have unique products: customizable products with countless variations, special limitations, multiple pricing schemes with discounts and add-on fees, and so on. I’ve even owned and run a business that specialized in selling such products. This cart reflects all of that knowledge from the trenches. And we’re committed to making it better all the time.

The result is, frankly, an awesome product that supports:

  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited customization
  • Special fees and discounts by product, product group, customization, customer, and more
  • Gift cards
  • Easy-to-use themes – use a pre-packaged one or roll your own!
  • An easy-to-use plugin system
  • Internationalization – support as many languages as you like, and handle different date and currency formats automatically!
  • Flexible sales/use/VAT taxes – collect whatever you have to collect, however you need to do it!
  • Built-in split testing (a/k/a A/B or multivariate testing)
  • Lightning-fast load times (most requests load in 1/20 of a second on a very basic server)
  • Secure transactions – security has been a priority from day one
  • Unlimited flexibility
  • And, most importantly, it supports your business, whatever that may be.

You are going to be able to license all of that for pennies on the dollar.

Interested?

Now, it’s not quite ready. Some lucky customers are using it in a private beta, so we can make sure it’s 100% ready to knock your socks off in the next few weeks.

But, if you sign up for our mailing list now, you will be eligible for an exclusive discount when we go live. (We won’t spam you, I promise.)

So, go check out cereblitz.com and get ready for the revolution in flexible ecommerce software that meets your business’s needs!

Shifting Gears: Are entrepreneurs crazy idiots?

My Entrepreneurship seminar instructor asks, “Are entrepreneurs crazy idiots?” His answer is, “Not necessarily, but some of them are.” It’s basically a risk vs. rewards calculus – if you have little to lose and much to gain, you probably should take the plunge, but if that’s not you, you probably should not. I think that sounds right – I co-founded two businesses after college, and it was the right time – I had little debt and few expenses, so an abject failure was not likely to upend my life too badly. Fortunately, Topsail Consulting is still alive, after more than 5.5 years, and Safe At Hand turns four this month. I may not own or be involved in either, anymore, but it’s nice to know they didn’t fail out of the gate. The point, however, is this: there’s a right time for such efforts and a wrong time; be sure you know which time it is, and act accordingly.

Have you started your social network yet?

Or rather, 230,000 of them? That’s the promise (and achievement) of Ning, the latest effort by serial entrepreneur Marc Andreessen. The principle is simple: let people create their own social networks, for whomever and whatever reason. The results are amazing: the site is growing at 0.4% per day and aiming to host 4 million networks by the end of 2010, with billions of daily page views. That is a lot of users and a fortune in potential revenue.

Now, this is all information you could get elsewhere, like this excellent article from Fast Company. Andreessen is arguably the greatest entrepreneur of our generation, maybe of the entire Information Age to date (John Rodkin, my Business of Entrepreneurship for Lawyers seminar lecturer, thinks so). He is not the richest, of course, but Andreessen has a remarkable string of entrepreneurial successes. He co-founded Netscape (with Jim Clark, one of the founders of Silicon Graphics), which went public and was later purchased by AOL for $4.2 billion. He then founded the web hosting services company Loudcloud, which went public, sold a division, and was acquired for approximately $1.6 billion. That’s quite the record. Ning now has a valuation over half a billion dollars. Taking that into account, Andreessen has a simply amazing record.

Part of the reason for Andreessen’s success is his use of “viral expansion loops” (like viral marketing, but on crack). From the Fast Company article:

Here’s something you probably don’t know about the Internet: Simply by designing your product the right way, you can build a billion-dollar business from scratch. No advertising or marketing budget, no need for a sales force, and venture capitalists will kill for the chance to throw money at you.

The secret is what’s called a “viral expansion loop,” a concept little known outside of Silicon Valley (go ahead, Google it — you won’t find much). It’s a type of engineering alchemy that, done right, almost guarantees a self-replicating, borglike growth: One user becomes two, then four, eight, to a million and beyond. It’s not unlike taking a penny and doubling it daily for 30 days. By the end of a week, you’d have 64 cents; within two weeks, $81.92; by day 30, about $5.4 million.

Viral loops have emerged as perhaps the most significant business accelerant to hit Silicon Valley since the search engine. They power many of the icons of Web 2.0, including Google, PayPal, YouTube, eBay, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Flickr. But don’t confuse a viral loop with viral advertising or videos such as Saturday Night Live’s “Lazy Sunday” or the Mentos-Diet Coke Bellagio fountain. Viral advertising can’t be replicated; by definition, a viral loop must be.

Ning takes this a step further with “double viral loops;” a social network, by definition, is a kind of viral loop (think Facebook, MySpace, etc.), while a network of (or platform for) social networks gives each user the opportunity to create their own viral loop. Thus, the double viral loop, perhaps the most fiendishly clever marketing device yet thought of, is born.

Andreessen is probably as good a model as the enterprising web geek could want. If this is interesting to you, I strongly recommend checking out Andreessen’s blog and soaking it all in. Meanwhile, think you can build a community around your obscure hobbies? Ning has you covered.