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The Phone as an Extension

Square: an attachable payments mechanism. PayPal's Square competitor.

The Mophie: a removable juice pack that fits atop the iPhone like an ordinary sleeve. It's a must have for travelers (and got a great TechCrunch write up).

iCache's Geode: an attachable, secure wallet for your iPhone. Remarkably cool.

What's the similarity here? There is a great innovation occurring both at the app level and, more recently, at the device / peripheral level. It's yet another reminder that the future of the web consumption is mobile and companies are racing to improve the phone itself (ie battery) or extend its definition (ie square into a register / payment terminal and Geode into a wallet).

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Why It's Easier to Start Up Today... Than Ever Before.

Forbes spotlighted LegalZoom earlier in the week: "Silicon Valley Sees Gold In Internet Legal Services" (a Polaris Ventures backed company). It got me thinking about the earliest days of and what it took to get the company off the ground... before beginning the real work. And that obviously got me thinking about how much things have changed since I started the company in my dorm room in late 1999:

- I payed $1,000s to incorporate the company (and it took weeks). In fact, this was the single biggest expenditure of the first year. - Signed a 2 year merchant account to to accept credit cards (which included a physical credit card processor and "we accept Visa / Mastercard" decals....!) - Signed a similar hosting agreement for web service... which we outgrew quickly. - Worked hard convince a proper bank to support us (also expensive and out of date). - And received reams of paperwork and contracts and monthly account summaries.

Companies like LegalZoom and Amazon have totally changed that process.

Just think about Dogpatch Labs as an example: - founders walk in with nothing more than (usually) a Macbook Air. - They hook into our wifi (no such thing as a server room). - They run atop of Amazon web services. - They can accept payments almost immediately with services like PayPal, Square, or even set up recurring billing with Recurly (also a Polaris company) - They can announce their launch with companies like Sendgrid, Constant Contact, etc. - And they can look to Facebook, Twitter, etc to find pools of users.

I get asked all the time about why so many companies are starting these days. The most important factor is because it is easier to start today than ever before. And it is easier to attract users today than it has every been.

That doesn't mean it's easier to build a lasting business... but it does mean that you can start working on the business and product faster. And you'll get user feedback on product / market fit faster. And you'll succeed, fail and/or pivot faster.

PayPal, LivingSocial, Causes, Starbucks Use Brand / Community to Support Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief.

Yesterday, TechCrunch covered the $1m that eBay / PayPal had raised for Japan earthquake and tsunami relief. It's been heartwarming to see such big brands and platforms leverage their communities - and their scale - to promote giving. From PayPal (who is in a position to promote spending) to LivingSocial (who is matching donations) to Causes (who has the perfect community & brand) to Starbucks (who promotes giving as soon as access the web via their network)

It's terrific. A few screenshots below. This is not meant to overlook promotions by others - feel free to mention them in comments below.

PayPal homepage:




Those "In-time for Christmas" Shipping Emails Keep Coming

As I posted earlier today, this is the last chance to order gifts online and have them delivered before Christmas... which means that e-commerce sites everywhere are sending emails to make sure you know the clock is ticking.... which means that my inbox is particularly crowded today. Here are just a *few* emails received since this morning's post went live:

... and the messaging is on the storefronts / landing pages as well:

Amazon PayPhrase: Incentivizing Growth with 5% Cashback to Use

PayPhrase is an attempt to easily enable off-Amazon merchants to easily integrate Amazon identity, purchasing and shipping; and, it is clear that Amazon considers PayPhrase a strategic priority. Perhaps PayPhrase is a foward-thinking response to Facebook Connect and the much anticipated Facebook payments platform (whatever it initially and ultimately looks like). Perhaps it is the next wave of growth (ala PayPal). What is Amazon PayPhrase?

PayPhrase is an easy-to-remember shortcut to shipping and payment information in your account. Use it for Express Checkout at and across the web.

Why Should I Use a PayPhrase?

Privacy: Shop securely across the web without sharing your credit card. Express Checkout: Speed through checkout without having to sign in. Parental controls: Let teens shop online within limits you set.

On Amazon, PayPhrase is being heavily promoted - both in traditional ad placements and as an appetizing "special offer" of 5% cashback:

amazon payphrase Off Amazon, PayPhrase has even bigger discounts. Below is a 10% off on purchased made with PayPhrase on, Jockey, DKNY, Patagonia and other major merchants also enabled PayPhrase in time for holiday shopping:

amazon payphrase on cartoys

jockey amazon payphrase