A New Home, Best Friend, Resto-bar and Dream

A renowned investor pointed at the fact that I haven’t written anything here for a while, so this morning I decided to take a few minutes and put out an update! It’s been about 2 years since my last update so a lot has changed!

A New Home

I moved back to Waterloo, Ontario a couple of years ago (though kept some roots in Austin). I loved my home office in Austin so I designed a new home office here as well.

GSD RoomI call it the G.S.D. room because that’s what it’s all about – Getting *ahem* Stuff Done!

A New Best Friend

After moving back to Waterloo I felt I needed a someone who could grow to be the future Chief Dog Officer of my new company. He’s now almost 2 years old I’m proud to say he’s grown into becoming an amazingly gentle and loving Golden.

Bentley GT

I couldn’t have asked for a better best friend.

A New Resto-bar

My friend Rami had the idea to launch a restaurant/bar/lounge into a retro-gaming bar so I offered to help with funding and take on co-ownership. It’s called Patent Social.

I’m proud to say that today it is one of the highest rated resto-bars in Kitchener-Waterloo today according to Google! It recently celebrated its 1-year anniversary.

Patent Social

Rami did all the heavy lifting while I have been focused on my own company, so I can’t take much of the credit for its success. He’s a great dude.

A New Dream

Data is the reason why Amazon is able to create better shopper experiences and outprice other retailers. The ability to report upon and segment shopper data is already out there today, but are independent retailers acting upon that data? Well, the answer is most aren’t.

Data is the new retail advantage.

That’s why I created Fera.ai (which I originally launched as Banana Stand). Fera makes it easy for independent eCommerce merchants to use the data in their store that result in better, higher converting shopper experiences. 

Fera does things as obvious as remembering your clothing size as you move from product to product, or showing you promotions only when it believes they’re relevant to YOU.

Real-time Personalization for Shopify and BigCommerce - Fera.ai 2019-08-14 09-25-56

The future of retail sales is in A.I and data. Retail is moving online at a rapid pace and humans increasingly prefer to interact with digital devices rather than other humans.

I want Fera to be the last retail salesperson a store owner will ever need. We still have a lot to go before we hit that point, but we’re headed in the right direction!

Starting Something New

I’ve moved back to Canada to work on my new business (announcement TBA!) and a few other things I’ve been investing my time (and money) into.

I will forever be grateful for the opportunity BigCommerce and the other wonderful people in Austin, Texas gave me over the years. Things I’ll be missing, in order are:

  1. The amazing people of Austin that allowed me to have such a great time while I was there
  2. The wonderful weather that let me wear shorts 11 months of the year
  3. The delicious food that made eating out to places an easy decision every time

Magecredit was just Acquired!

The popular eCommerce store credit system I built that worked for the Magento eCommerce platform called Magecredit was just acquired by a German consulting company.

I’d rather not disclose the acquisition amount but I can say that I am very happy with the result.

The acquirer does have technical expertise so I’m confident they will continue work for the current Magecredit clients to improve and grow the product with new features. I will remain available for the next 6 months on an “on-call” basis.

PHP Foreach Preserves Last Item

I thought I’d blog this because it’s something that comes as a surprise to me, so it may come as a surprise to you. Let’s consider this code: http://pastebin.com/mxsjMdij

The second time the loop runs it actually preserves the value of the “$app” variable, and thus triggers the if statement’s isset() function to true.

This issue caught me for a loop for a while, but I guess now I know…. interesting PHP….

It’s more than a Magento store credit extension…

Last week I announced my latest obsession: Magecredit. Magecredit is a store credit extension for Magento. It all started a few months ago when I decided to tackle the problem that eCommerce stores experience a large amount of refunds in their lifetime. For some stores, this kills their performance. In fact, analysts have seen eCommerce store return rates of up to 25%¹, especially in the clothing industry.  That’s a 1/4 of all sales!

So what are merchants doing right now to combat this issue? Well, they’re basically giving customers back their money and hoping that the customer decides to chose another product… In my calculations I’d consider this a lost customer unless you can find a way to keep the money in your store. From an accounting stance, returns look ugly as well (especially with the credit memo system native to Magento).

Magecredit helps solve these issues. If you can create credit memos and returns that go directly to store credit, you can incentivize customers not only to continue to shop at your store, but to also potentially increase their purchase size (as suggested by Tony Hsieh of Zappos in Delivering Happiness).

The first step of this journey to retaining customer value is to build the store credit extension for Magento. I’m focusing on Magento store owners simply because I know the Magento ecosystem very well and I can keep close to the merchants using store credit in their store so I can learn and adapt the system to be the best that it can be for merchants. Later I’m going to look at implementing the system for Shopify and BigCommerce, and even some of the larger platforms like Demandware.

So you see see, it’s much more than a Magento module to me. Magecredit is about increasing customer happiness and loyalty. I’m excited to see merchants succeed with it on their side.


¹ Old school vs shiny new technology

Smart Habits

I always recommend that people read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book has taught me a lot. If you don’t have time to read it or at least read the lesson summaries on the Wikipedia page for the book.

Someone brought up the issue that if you practice the principles discussed in the book in real life it may make you seem fake or forced. This is absolutely true! (See video above). The fact is, it’s really, really hard to pretend to like someone. So how do we solve this?

The answer is to create habits out of the good practices taught. A habit is something you do without a conscious awareness of doing it. If you create a habit out of never criticizing people, then the next time they say something really, really stupid, you’ll look less like you’re holding in a fart resisting correcting them and more like a naturally nice person.

I recommend you read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is an excellent read after you read How to Win Friends. It talks a lot about the creation of habits and how we can use habits to improve ourselves.

Putting 20Alpha.com On Pause While I Complete My MBA

I’ve been running the store 20Alpha.com on the side for the last few weeks. I learned a lot from the experience, but as I’m starting my MBA at Ivey in London, Ontario, I know I wont be able to dedicate the time that the website needs to provide a great service to my customers. For that reason, I’m putting the store on hold and no longer taking any orders. For those who are curious, here were my key take-aways:

1. It’s easy to sell, hard to profit.

It didn’t take long before I got my first sale, and I didn’t even have to spam my friend base on Facebook or Twitter. The profit margins were thin, and I imagine, unless you’re making your own clothing, it’s pretty hard to get a higher than 60% profit margin. For $20 shirts, that’s not much profit per sale.

2. One-time sales are hard

Having built my previous company with a SaaS (Software as a Service) pricing model, I can see the immediate disadvantages of running a one-time sale operation. Not only do clothing need-not regular replenishment, but they’re typically not purchased more than once in a long while. Add that to my point #1, and it’s a very big problem. Maybe there’s a market for subscription clothing? So you’d pay like $2.5/mo for 12 months for a year…. who knows…

3. Branding is Boss

All it took was thinking ‘outside of the box’ for the branding. Look at what other sites do and do it differently, how you think it should be. This allowed me to make a lasting brand pretty quickly.

4. Cater to your market. Nobody else.

I focused my marketing around the ‘Bro’ demographic that I believe is being underserved. This I feel was the reason people purchased from 20Alpha. People want to buy things from their friends (or ‘bros’ in my case).

5. You can test the waters with very little funding, however funding is needed to grow.

I didn’t invest any money into marketing, but it really limited my growth. It did validate my hypothesis  that there is a very unservered market however. Given a few thousand in financing, I believe I could have made some decent Facebook marketing and business development.

6. First customers are awesome.

My first customers were so responsive over email that I actually felt like we were becoming friends quickly through our convos. They gave me honest feedback and asked me questions about my products that shaped the store to be better for them, and as a result, better for me.   Hope this info helps anyone out there hoping to launch their own store!

Stepping Down as CEO of Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth was my first company to make a significant impact in the world: used by 4,000 businesses across 15 different countries, rewarded millions of people, oversaw billions $$ in transactions, raised 2.3m in venture financing, built an all-star team and much more – all in less than 4 years. This made it an extremely difficult decision to step down as CEO of the company, but I believe it was the right one.

I will remain on the board of directors of the company and shareholder, and I will always be happy to connect to any merchants and partners any time to help. I will be spending my time in Toronto for the time being, but I’ll be in Waterloo every so often. None of my contact info has changed.

Sweet Tooth is Still Growing and Doing Well

The first thing you should know is that Sweet Tooth is still growing profitably. The #1 priority is still helping Sweet Tooth merchants succeed. Sweet Tooth will continue to grow and innovate, improve and adapt. Not much will change in the short term.

Sweet Tooth Logo

Why I Stepped Down

I love bringing in the energy, launching new products, helping people succeed and leading a team to the top. I’m a risk-taker, anyone who has worked with me will know that, but at this stage of growth Sweet Tooth needs someone who will carefully observe the fine details and build insightful conclusions out of the data over time. Mike is better suited to take over those responsibilities.

When I recruited Mike it was because I knew he was extremely intelligent, would/could learn any new skill in any field, he loved solving problems and was a fantastic leader. We were classmates and he was the first friend I made in the Engineering program I attended at UW. I’m glad I’ve been able to leave the company in the hands of someone so capable.

What’s Next for Me?

I’m still working with Sweet Tooth and I may continue doing so, but I recently launched websites for my two new projects: Coincart and Share To Give.

Coincart is an anonymous bitcoin eCommerce platform.

Coincart Logo

Share To Give is a social rewards app that helps merchants gain social referrals and sales by giving to charity. 

Share To Give logo

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat! I can usually be found at the new Google office building at 111 Richmond St West in Toronto.

The quickest way to send someone bitcoins for the first time.

Alright, bitcoin has a lot to go in terms of ease of use before it will be used by anyone other than early adopters. The benefits are obvious, but I was a bit disappointed since the amount of PR this tech gets is way ahead of the tools and documentation that currently exist to help “non-nerds” send and receive bitcoins.

Luckily I am a nerd, and I like to blog. Here is the fastest way I could find to send bitcoins to another person (in Canada):

Bitcoin graphic (credit bitcoin-square.com)

How To Send Bitcoins To Someone Quickly

  1. Sign-up for Coinbase. Even though it kind of defeats the purpose to use a web service for bitcoin, trust me, this is way better than getting started with the Bitcoin QT that you would need to download and update.
  2. Copy your Bitcoin ID. It should be a long string of characters and numbers. You might find it in the My Account section of Coinbase. It should look something like this: 16PW58mQstaBdWFsdmaDLRT4j4QFD1168Q
  3. Familiarize yourself with the conversion rate. Check it out, XE.com even recognizes bitcoin now.
  4. Buy bitcoins at Tinkercoin. When it asks you for your bitcoin ID enter in the ID you got from Coinbase in step #2.
      Note 1: Tinkercoin is the fastest way I could find to buy bitcoins with a credit card so you don’t have to wait for your bank account to get validated. Their fees are well worth the convenience IMO.
      Note 2: Keep in mind you can only currently buy 1 bitcoin at a time and no fractions. One of the founders (Ross Robinson) said they’re going to be implementing that soon, so keep an eye out.
  5. Wait for the transaction to get validated. You should see the bitcoins reach your account in Coinbase almost instantly, but they need to get validated before you can use them. This generally takes an hour or so.
  6. Use Coinbase to send the bitcoins to your recipient. It should be pretty obvious how to do this in Coinbase if you have the recipient’s bitcoin ID.

The whole process takes about 2-3 hours the first time you do it and probably 1-2 hours the second time you do it. The biggest time sink is waiting for the sent bitcoins to be validated across the network. If it didn’t take so long to validate you could probably send bitcoins within 5 minutes every time after setting it all up.

Feel free to discuss your bitcoin challenges in the comments below or suggest more tools that make it easier to send/receive bitcoins!