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The Point Archive
I first met Andrew Mason about two years ago when he launched his social activism site, The Point. Since then Andrew has used the system behind The Point to build group buying service Groupon. It’s like everything old really is new again as I remember the massive number of group buying sites back in the late ’90s. I even purchased my first DVD player from one of them although I can’t seem to locate the receipt to figure out the name of the company.
The basic idea behind Groupon is that there is one item or service for sale each day in each city. Unlike the olden days of the early Web, Groupon uses the power of social media to spread the word about each day’s deal. There’s a catch to Groupon. Just like the DVD player deal I participated in a decade ago, the “deal” has to be fully subscribed to become active. In looking around a few cities, most of the deals have been over subscribed which is awesome – this means that the people on the deal will receive their goods.
As you can see in the image below, today’s deal in NYC is waxing services for half-off. The most recent deals are all for services including: FreshDirect, Handman services, Pilates classes, mani-pedis and a variety of food items. To see the deals, you are required to signup for their daily newsletter. Of course if you plan to use this method of shopping, it makes sense to receive the newsletter so you learn about each day’s deal.
They are “opening cities” around the U.S. and today have announced the opening of Groupon in Cleveland, Ohio.
Groupon has raised just over $35 million in venture capital funding and is based in Chicago. The company reports that over 1.3 orders have been placed and that the total savings has been over $64million.
This morning I had breakfast at my favorite diner with The Point Founder Andrew Mason and Communications Director Jeremy Pepper. The Point is one of the most interesting sites I have come across in quite a while.
The Point is a social activism site in the way I describe it. It’s simple to use as it’s most basic level: You setup a "cause" and a tipping point for that cause and then get people to join the cause. Once the tipping point is reached, the action is taken.
An example might be an office team that wants to buy a new coffee machine. Instead of going around collecting money and then giving it back if you don’t get enough, you can use The Point to ask people to join the cause of buying a new coffee machine. Assuming the machine costs $500, each person is responsible for $25. Once the cause has been satisfied, that is 20 people have agreed to put in $25 each, The Point then converts the agreements to a real concern and charges the credit cards of the members who have agreed to participate.
Campaigns live on forever unless a deadline is set by the creator. They have also setup a Wiki with about 150,000 companies so that users can track the supply chain for a product. An example would be a campaign against Lowe’s or Home Depot to stop selling a product vs. going after the manufacturer further up the supply chain.
Here are a couple live campaigns:
- At&t WM6 Upgrade for BlackJack
- Kroger must label food with country of origin
They have a widget for embedding which is a smart idea along with a Facebook share. They are working on a full Facebook application for launch in the near future.
Andrew noted that one of the big uses of the site will be for social events. A party planner can setup a campaign to see if there is interest in a networking event or party and then if X people signup, the party will happen, otherwise not. I see value there, but the site doesn’t make me "feel" like it’s for that use. Would I want my party cause to sit next to some child labor cause?
The team is approximately 12 people, developed in Ruby and is based in Chicago. Their monetization plan will come in the form of highly targeted ads and premium options.
What we discussed at length is that The Point needs the tipping point for it to be successful. I also think that the term "tipping point" might not be something common in the mainstream and might keep people away from the tool. Since the site is a destination site, they have got to draw in very large crowds. If I come to the site and see 100 campaigns, each with only a few people on them, I will be more inclined to leave. If they can get the masses to come, The Point could be very successful. I would also suggest adding a live rotating widget on their home page instead of the mock one shown currently.