I am looking for a VA that can help with customer support, adding new members to my membership site using Dreamweaver, dealing with member queries and posting blogs on WordPress, then adding links on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc.
Category: Admin Support > Customer Service
Type and Budget: Hourly ($10 – $15 / hr)
Time Left: 14 d, 18 h (Ends Jun 7, 2013 02:21 am ET)
Start Date: May 23, 2013
Proposals: 9 (High $15 / hr, Low $10 / hr, Avg $9 / hr)
Client Info: 8 jobs posted, 50% awarded, $241 total purchased, Payment Method Verified
Client Location: , United Kingdom
Preferred Job Location: Anywhere
Desired Skills: Admin Assistant Calendaring Virtual Assistant
Job ID: 41889330
Whom do the idols idolize?
Lei Jun, the CEO of Android handset and OS maker Xiaomi, is arguably the face of tech entrepreneurship in China as a long-time angel investor and serial entrepreneur behind companies like Amazon-acquired Joyo.cn and the recently IPO’d YY.
He’s been called the “Steve Jobs of China” in the sense that Xiaomi is an integrated hardware and software maker that has altered Android for Chinese tastes. They sell high-end Android phones at or slightly above the cost of materials and profit through accessories and eventually, software and services. While the country has been known for lower-end hardware makers, Xiaomi is pushing the idea that world-class products can be both made and designed in China.
The company has its own fanboys to prove it. Just two years after launching their first device, Xiaomi plans to sell 15 million devices this year, bringing the company $4.5 billion in revenue. Last year, they sold 7 million phones. Sales in batches of 200K to 300K phones on their website regularly sell out — sometimes in less than an hour.
But Xiaomi also has incredibly high expectations to realize; the company’s valuation is not just predicated on raw hardware sales, but also on the idea that Xiaomi will eventually be able to monetize software services — something it has yet to prove against giants like Alibaba and Tencent in the ridiculously competitive Chinese market.
While founding the company three years ago, Jun thought about the history of Chinese business and entrepreneurship to find role models.
“What kind of company in China can last for a century?” he asked at the GMIC conference in Beijing this week.
He said he ultimately looked up to two companies: a 340-year-old traditional Chinese medicine company called Tongrentang and hot pot chain Hai Di Lao.
He said Tongrentang’s mission taught him two things — never produce lower-quality products for the sake of cost and never spare any effort in creating the best quality products.
Hai Di Lao, which is indeed a delicious hot pot chain (yes, I’ve tried it), taught him about the value of customer service. In a separate interview, co-founder and president Lin Bin suggested that I order items not on the menu or even praise the dishware in the restaurant.
“They take customer feedback very, very seriously and always leave you with a surprise,” Bin said.
In a way, Jun is critical of the prevailing business culture in China. “There’s a big problem with integrity in China,” he said. “People sell pigs but you’re not eating pork,” he added on-stage, alluding to recent health scares where rat meat has been marked as lamb.
Paired with this focus on high-quality parts is a marketing model that’s unusual for any handset maker globally.
Xiaomi sold 72 percent of its phones directly through its online store last year, bypassing the costly logistical headache of dealing with brick-and-mortar retailers. Right now, they have two models: one that retails for 1999 renminbi ($326) and a more basic version that goes for 1499 renminbi ($245).
They can do this because the company has cultivated a unique participatory model of designing phones. Every week, the company releases a new version of its customized Android experience: the miUI.
Of their millions of customers, there are a few hundred thousand “hardcore” fans who do the teardowns, scrutinize every spec and offer suggestions on how to change the phone.
“Chinese consumers are actually very critical in the sense that they compare not just the build and look and feel of phones, but also everything that goes inside — the CPU, memory, speed, the specs,” Bin said. “They are pretty savvy about the money they pay for these phones.”
Jun uses Weibo, the public Chinese social networking platform that sometimes draws comparisons to Twitter, to solicit advice and communicate with Xiaomi fans. He’s offered different levels of hard drive storage based on user feedback. He said they even added a sound recording app at the behest of a reporter.
“We co-develop the phone,” Jun said in another interview. “I’ve used more than 70 phones in the last couple years. I have lots of suggestions, but will they change their phone? Even Nokia? Most likely not. So I created a model where I’ve invited all of my fans to be involved in designing the phone. It’s one of the most exciting things for them.”
He says this is a key part of why Xiaomi spends less than its peers on marketing.
“If you invented a feature in the Xiaomi phone, will you tell your classmates and friends that you invented a feature? Most likely you will.”
Their approach ties into a big trend that is fueling a hardware Renaissance globally: the ability to feel out product-market fit through social media before a capital-intensive manufacturing process — be it through Twitter, Weibo or a Kickstarter campaign.
Through that feedback and Xiaomi’s own in-house engineers and designers, miUI includes improvements over the standard flavor of Android. Jun says that they’ve tweaked how applications run in the background so that a Xiaomi phone can go up to six or seven days without a recharge. (I’ve been carrying an older Xiaomi around and it has held up for a few days at a time, unlike my iPhone, which needs to be recharged every day.) There are also lots of UI flourishes that are, frankly, Apple-like.
While Xiaomi has done well at positioning itself as much more than a commodity hardware maker, one of its next challenges will be to prove that it can make money off software and services. Because it sells phones at or near the cost of the build of materials, Xiaomi will rely on accessories and services to boost its margins.
Jun is reluctant to say whether Xiaomi is at heart more of a software or hardware company (a question that has also perplexed analysts of Apple).
“We positioned ourselves as triathlon athletes,” Jun said. “We do software, hardware and Internet services, so if you would ask which part of the three is stronger, my answer is: would you ask a triathlon athlete whether they are best at running, swimming or cycling?”
They’ve shared some vanity stats showing traction, although it’s hard to understand what they mean. Xiaomi’s app store sees 3.5 million app downloads a day, 3.5 million photos uploaded to its cloud service a day and has seen 2 billion messages uploaded cumulatively. Its messaging app MiTalk is way behind Tencent’s WeChat, which is the other big China tech story of the year with 190 million active users.
There are some promising metrics, though. Bin says Xiaomi’s customers are twice as active on the mobile web as those of other manufacturers. That sort of engagement could lend itself to interesting revenue opportunities down the line in gaming and e-commerce, although the company declined to share specifics.
Two other growth areas for Xiaomi are international markets and in other types of hardware. The company is expanding to greater China — or Taiwan and Hong Kong. Bin is reluctant to talk about even more international markets, saying that the company just wants to prove itself in these two areas first.
There are unique challenges. For one, these markets rely on more of the subsidized model that’s common in the West where carriers lower the list price through post-paid plans. In China, many consumers pay for the full cost of the phone upfront. They also don’t know whether the marketing model where they heavily engage a core set of fans will work outside of mainland China.
The other growth area is with Xiaomi’s new set-top boxes. It was a rocky start with the initial sales of the set-top boxes blocked by Chinese regulations around TV content. But they re-launched two months ago. Bin and Jun declined to share figures on sales so far, except to say that Jun has seen second-hand models show up on eBay and Taobao for $90 (which is about twice the list price of 299 renminbi).
Bin is hesitant to share too many targets, because he claims that Xiaomi doesn’t really even have that many internally. Even the goal to get to 15 million handsets is to produce that many, not necessarily to sell that many (although they invariably sell out).
“We don’t have any KPIs (key performance indicators) — not even internally,” Bin said. “Our KPI is to get handsets to everyone who can place an order online and make a full payment.”
Groupon just reported its earnings for its first financial quarter of 2013. The company, which is still looking for a new CEO after the ouster of Andrew Mason in February, posted a $0.01 loss per share but says its non-GAAP EPS, excluding stock-based compensations, was $0.03. Its revenue was significantly higher than expected with $601.4 million in sales, compared to $0.02 earnings per share (EPS) on $559.3 million of revenue in the year-ago quarter.
Wall Street clearly likes these numbers. The stock is already up over 11 percent and currently trading around $6.23.
The expectation among financial analysts was that the company would report a year-over-year sales growth of 5.3 percent and an EPS of $0.03 on revenue of $588.92 million for this quarter (with a very optimistic high estimate of $618.5).
Last quarter, Groupon reported $638.8 million revenue, buoyed by a strong holiday season, but the company still posted an operating loss of $19.9 million and a loss per share of $0.12.
“We are encouraged by our results, as our local revenues accelerated and our margins improved over the prior quarter,” said Eric Lefkofsky, Chairman and co-CEO of Groupon. “We had record mobile performance as 45 percent of our North American transactions came from mobile in March, and more than 7 million people downloaded our apps in the quarter.”
One of the main indicators for Groupon’s health has long been gross billings – a reflection of how much money the company has collected from its customers for Groupons it has sold. Last quarter, gross billings increased 24 percent to $1.52 billion. Gross billing for this quarter was $1.41 billion, and the company says it has $1.2 billion in cash and cash equivalents.
In the last quarter, Groupon also reported that it had 41 million active customers, up 22 percent quarter-over-quarter and that it was handling about 37,000 active deals at any given time. In the last quarter, Groupon says the number of active customers grew to 41.7 million – a 13 percent year-over-year growth but just a minor increase from the last quarter.
Groupon has obviously been through a somewhat tumultuous time recently. The company’s ouster of CEO Andrew Mason after a number of disappointing quarters, however, seems to have brought some stability back to the company. Its share price remains low, though it’s up from its all-time low of $2.60. Currently, the stock is trading at around $5.60.
After Mason’s exit, Lefkofsky and vice chairman Ted Loensis were appointed to the company’s newly created Office of the Chief Executive as interim CEOs. The company has yet to announce a permanent replacement for Mason.
From the release:
First Quarter Operating Highlights
- Global units: Consolidated units, defined as vouchers and products ordered before cancellations and refunds, increased 4% year-over-year to 45 million. North America units increased 37%, and International units decreased 18%.
- Active deals: As of March 31, 2013, the number of active deals in North America increased to nearly 40,000, compared with nearly 37,000 at the end of the fourth quarter 2012.
- Active customers: Active customers, or customers that have purchased a Groupon within the last twelve months, grew 13% year-over-year, to 41.7 million as of March 31, 2013, comprising 18.2 million in North America, and 23.5 million in International.
- Customer spend: Trailing twelve month billings per average active customer decreased to $138 from $144 in the fourth quarter 2012, related primarily to seasonal strength in the fourth quarter holiday period.
- Mobile: In March 2013, 45% of North American transactions were completed on mobile devices, compared with nearly 30% in March 2012. In the first quarter 2013, more than 7 million people downloaded Groupon mobile apps worldwide.
- Marketplace: The rollout of Groupon’s marketplace (”Pull”) continued to gain momentum, as email accounted for less than 45% of North American transactions in the first quarter 2013.
Here is the original post: Groupon’s Q1 Results: Beats With $601.4 Million In Revenue, Stock Up 11% In After-Hours Trading
There are an abundance of startups trying to solve the problem of how to “try on” clothes online, with a range of different approaches and technology — a competition we’ve previously likened to a space race where nobody has yet landed on the moon. Today, Virtusize launches its virtual fitting solution in the UK via a partnership with ASOS. After a successful six month trial, the “Fit Vitualiser” button is initially being rolled out on the product pages of over 2,000 of the online fashion retailer’s own brand clothes.
Shunning Fits.me’s 3D modeled approach which uses robots
After launching out of TechStars Boston back in 2011, Cambridge-based real estate marketing platform Placester has raised $2.5 million in seed financing in a round led by new Boston seed fund, Romulus Capital, with participation from other angel investors. Founded in 2009 by a former real estate agent, Matt Barba, the service helps realtors launch their own websites.
During TechStars, the startup was originally designed to help realtors with online advertising, but that soon changed. “Helping real estate professionals promote their listings online through syndication was our initial focus,” explains Barba. “However, we quickly learned that the vast majority of real estate professionals don’t have anything to promote,” he says. “Essentially, they didn’t have a website. We learned there was a much more fundamental problem to be solved: Helping real estate professionals establish themselves online.”
Barba understood first-hand the difficulties realtors faced in putting their data online, including data access fees, paperwork, technical challenges, and more, because of his own background in real estate. Realtors have to pull their data from MLS (Multiple Listing Service – the regional entity where real estate professionals enter and store homes that are available for sale or rent), then pay for an IDX integration allowing customers to search their listings. This can be expensive because there are 900 U.S. MLS’s, and the information retrieval methods for these are not standardized.
“This difference is one of the main contributing factors to the cost of creating a platform that allows real estate professionals to establish an online presence,” Barba says. “Additionally, most MLS’s charge fees to help offset the cost of purchasing the MLS software from third party vendors, and to provide additional services to the MLS’s agent membership. These fee’s aren’t overly burdensome to large brokerages, but can often be in the hundreds of dollars, which can be overwhelming for individual agents who are just starting to invest online,” he adds.
These challenges lead to customers finding that a lot of realtors’ websites had out-of-date listings, which is a poor experience. Meanwhile, the existing website providers often caused problems of their own: they were slow to deliver, or used out-of-date technology, for example.
Built alongside co-founder Frederick Townes, formerly the CTO at Mashable.com, Placester addresses these problems by offering a platform where realtors can create their own maintenance-free websites in around five minutes. The sites are based on WordPress, optimized for SEO, and are mobile and tablet-friendly.
For individual real estate agents, a single package includes set up, hosting, and MLS fees. Instead of relying on a third-party solution, Placester built its own technology to retrieve and update the MLS data on the fly, which helps keep the websites current.
Offered as a freemium service, paid users ($45/month) also have access to the MLS search capability, search-indexed listing pages, premium themes, customer support (phone and email), and more. Today, the company covers around 85 percent of the MLS’s across the U.S., and is expanding. There are “tens of thousands” of realtors on Placester, Barba says, but declined to provide exact figures. Hundreds have converted to the paid product launched around five months ago, and user growth is 20 percent month-over-month.
Also participating in the financing round were David Anderson, David Cohen, Angel Street Capital, Adam Berrey, Bob Mason, Josh Summers, Jennifer Lum, TechStars, and other Boston investors. The round was raised in three tranches with $800,000 closed right after TechStars, $650,000 about six months later, and another $1 million closed today.
Now a sixteen-person team, the company plans to use the additional funding to add more themes as well as grow its MLS coverage to 95 percent. Also in the works is a formal partner program, which will open up the platform for others to build on.
See the original post here: TechStars Boston Alum Placester Raises $2.5 Million For Its Professional Website Builder For Realtors