Web Awards 2000: Innovation
Sumerset Custom Houseboats (See " Web Awards 2000: General Excellence.")
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Company: Lûcrum Inc.
Web address: www.lucruminc.com
Why it won: Its cutting-edge multimedia keep visitors coming back for more.
Company revenues: $19 million
Site-launch cost: $10,000
Judge's view: "Nice, nongratuitous use of audio media to create, inform, and maintain [its] customer base." --Jordan Ayan
Ben Franklin's knowing gaze presides over the home page of Lûcrum Inc., an E-business services company in Cincinnati. Those who are well endowed of wallet will recognize the image from the $100 bill. It's an appropriate image for the business's site, given the company's name, which evokes the idea of lucre (money, to the uninitiated). Lûcrum president, CEO, and founder John Bostick explains that the logo and the name are part and parcel of the company's motto: "Digital strategies that improve your bottom line." Bostick's dry sense of humor belies the seriousness of that message: he almost named his software-development shop Vandelay Industries, after the nonexistent company that George Costanza of TV's Seinfeld claimed to work for.
Although there wasn't anything wrong with that, Bostick, 41, decided to stick with the existing name, Client Server Associates. In recent years the company has caught the Internet wave and refocused on E-business. The new name -- and the Web site -- were launched this year. Lûcrum's site is particularly innovative in its use of multimedia. For example, the company's customers -- and others who want to stay in the know -- tune in every week to Lûcrum Radio, a weekly Webcast on such timely E-business topics as customer-relationship management. Users have the choice of tuning in live, listening to an archived version, or picking from more than 40 archived titles and creating a customized CD. "Customers can throw their desired content on a CD and play it in the car on the way to work," says Bostick. For an investment of 8 to 12 minutes per subject, Lûcrum's customers can get up to speed on all the latest trends.
The site also features a collection of video clips and a media digest of pertinent articles on such topics as E-commerce patents and digital-supply-chain issues. Lûcrum pushes hot content to its customers in a weekly E-mail blast. The idea is to give users a quick overview of what's going on in business through a mix of media. The site gets between 2,500 and 3,500 unique visitors a month, and users stay an average of four to seven minutes per visit. Lûcrum's sales team garners at least two good leads a week from the site.
That all sounds pretty good, but Lûcrum director of marketing Stephen Smith is never satisfied. Smith and Web-content manager Chuck Fields plan to change the site's navigation to emphasize content first rather than the glitzy (and slow) Flash intro. Says Bostick, "Above all, we want our site to be functional."
Judge Omar Wasow applauded that move. Said Wasow, "Function [must go] before form on the Web." --Lauren Gibbons Paul
Company: Dandelion Moving & Storage Inc.
Web address: www.dickerabid.com
Why it won: The site offers a clever way to exploit a new market by matching small moving companies with price-conscious individuals.
Company revenues: $1.8 million
Site-launch cost: $15,000
Judge's view: "An innovative application of the Internet-bidding concept in a different market." --Jordan Ayan
Bret Lamperes, owner and CEO of Dandelion Moving & Storage Inc., in Fort Collins, Colo., is a true veteran of the schlepping biz. He was in the third grade when his mother and stepfather launched the company with one small truck. He grew up in the family business and bought it at age 25. Lamperes understands a particular truth about trucking: in prosperous times, people move a lot of freight and business is good. But a slowdown can hit suddenly and create cash-flow crunches for small movers.
At the end of 1999, says Lamperes, "everyone was moving a ton of freight because they were worried that Y2K would shut everything down." But in January 2000, demand crashed and fuel prices jumped. Dandelion lost $100,000 to the freight feast-or-famine syndrome.
But Lamperes was not the kind of entrepreneur who sinks all his hopes and fortunes into one venture. He had already started an express courier service (from which he later extricated himself) and a ministorage business. And he had a new plan, too: a kind of reverse auction for people who need movers, in which small moving companies could bid on jobs. Typically, the lowest price would win (although some customers choose movers based on their availability on moving dates).
Lamperes hooked up with Web designer Erik Madsen, who was between contracts last fall. Madsen wanted to make some quick cash before the holidays, so he cut Lamperes a deal: $8,000 to design, build, and launch the site. By March, Madsen had a working model for the site, called DickerABid.com. Then came a snafu: the company that had agreed to process credit-card transactions on the site backed out. Lamperes scrambled for a replacement, and in June he launched the site with minimal marketing. He used his existing site, Dandelionmoving.com, to direct traffic to the new site, and he registered DickerABid with search engines.
Customers who came upon the site posted their moving jobs, and Dandelion and four other companies began bidding on them. At press time, the site, with one employee working on it full time, had packed in an extra $14,000 in business for Dandelion. Lamperes is looking for financing to build DickerABid into a force to be reckoned with. He'd like to expand his base of movers to 20, and he envisions the advertising potential for moving-related companies, such as those that sell blinds or furniture. In the works: a mapping module that will help movers route their trucks for maximum return. "If you have room in your truck, you can pick up a job for $200 or $400 on the way, and that pays for your fuel," says the CEO.
Our judges liked Lamperes's line of thinking. "This site builds a market where one never existed, and does so elegantly and with a commitment to integrity and quality that all sites would do well to heed," said Omar Wasow. --Jill Hecht Maxwell
Conversation with Guy Kawasaki
"I have learned that basketball is a window onto a person's soul," says Guy Kawasaki, CEO of Garage.com, a venture-capital investment bank based in Palo Alto, Calif., that serves high-tech start-ups. "Someone who hogs the ball on the court will not be a team player in a company. Someone who doesn't hustle on the court won't hustle in business. Someone who cheats -- well, you get the picture."
So, too, is a Web site a window onto a person's or a company's soul, he says. "When you see a clean, fast Web site, you can assume that the company is pragmatic and useful. When you see a Web site that takes 15 minutes to boot with all kinds of video, music, and multimedia clogging things up, it's a warning that the company is more flash than cash," he says.
Kawasaki's roots with the digerati run deep: He spent six years at Apple Computer, leading the charge that put the Macintosh on the map. Yet despite his self-admitted bias toward pie-in-the-sky product development, Kawasaki has a decidedly retro take on Web-site innovation. "You may find this hard to believe," he says, "but I'm not sure that innovation is the key factor for a Web site. Factors like usability, elegance, and speed are more important."
The sites he chose as winners, he says, merge creativity with pragmatism to facilitate rather than merely dress up business transactions. "The sites that I liked didn't look as if they were intended to win awards. They looked like they were built to serve customers." --Thea Singer
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