What the hell is Jeff Barson doing?

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This is the blog of Jeff Barson. I'm currently running HireVue Labs, former Director at Sendside, founder of Surface Medical, Nimble, Medspa MD, Freelance MD, Frontdesk, Uncommon, and Wild Blue... angel investor and startup advisor. Oh, and I'm a artist. More >>


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    "Everyone wants to kill the king. But the prince, he just sails along telling all the ladies, 'One day I'm gonna be king.'" ~
    Vince Chase, Entourage

    jetBlue Just Blew It

    jetBlue just tripped over a dollar to pick up a dime.

    Here's the deal. I'm flying to Boston next month. While there are a bunch of other airlines that offer direct flights to Boston and have a much shorter actual 'trip time', I bought a ticket on jetBlue. You see, I used to fiy to NY all the time on jetBlue where their hub is and flying on jetBlue feels something like the home team.

    I just got off of the phone with jetBlue customer service. It was an example of complete mistrust and obfuscation which surprised me more than a little. You see, I loved jetBlue...

    But I'm not loving jetBlue right now.

    You see, when I booked my flight last night I used their online system (good) and made a mistake in booking the date for my return (bad). I'm going to Boston for the weekend and accidently booked by return flight a month later in August instead of the 4 days I was looking for.

    Of course their site has a lot of bookings and almost no one makes an error like this. But any UI designer who looks at their site could see that it's absolutly possible since the length of the trip is never revealed except for the flight dates. (I"m arguing that they could put in a little fading header that tells you how long your trip is for.) If' I'd see anywhere that my trip was scheduled for 35 days I'd have immediately know there was an issue. (I could make a simple change to the jetBlue UI that would solve this problem for everyone within a day.)

    Today when I looked at my emailed itinerary I immediately spotted the problem and went online to change my ticket. They have a $100 change fee which I paid thinking I'd give them a call and that surely they'd waive that. After all, it wasn't a change I was asking for, it was the ticket I wanted in the first place. It was less than 24 hours and the flight wasn't for a month.

    But no.

    In speaking to the customer service rep who 'called' a manager. I was informed that I had only a 4 hour window to make any changes and that after that, there was nothing anyone could do. You see, no one at jetBlue customer service has the 'authority' to refuse this fee. It was company policy that they couldn't actually do anything.

    What kind of a company has a customer service department that can't service customers?

    I was instructed that my 'only recourse' was to submit feedback on their web site. That's it. Evidently they wouldn't even be entering it as a note. I couldn't even talk to the manager. I was just informed what she supposedly said.

    Look, I run customer service for Sendside and deal with customers all of the time. I know unreasonable when I hear it. But asking for a change fee to be waived when it's obvious you made a mistake is not unreasonable.

    Evidently jetBlue doesn't trust their own employees enough to make any decisions, at least until you get somewhere past the 'Manager' level. That's sad, and indicative of a company that doesn't really value customer service. Customer service should allow the people in the trenches making decisions. jetBlue just became another airline in my view.

    I'll cease to sing the jetBlue song. I won't book with them if there's a shorter trip. And I won't give them any preference at all when having all of our corporate travel booked.

    So jetBlue will make an additional $100 from me, but they're losing so much more.


    Boom Startup's First 10

    Boom Startup's chosen the first 10 statups to include in their mentoring program.

    It's not Techstars yet for sure... a number of these guys don't have websites yet so you know it's pretty early.

    Orem, Utah – May 10, 2010 – BoomStartup, a seed capital and mentor-focused investment program for web and software start-ups, today announced it has selected 10 companies to participate in its inaugural three-month program. The companies in the Class of 2010 include 3PointData, Bazari, Case Rover, Fashion Genome Project, IActionable, Khumbu, MashWorx, No Ink Publishing, O-Codes, and Voycit.

    Each selected company will receive up to $15,000 in seed capital, free office resources, professional services and mentoring from a group of seasoned and successful entrepreneurs. Companies will be paired with one of the investor-mentors, who will guide each start-up and connect them with people in their networks to help them get their businesses off on the right foot.

    “Utah has a proven track record of creating and supporting great technology companies, and we’re confident that these 10 start-ups will be among the growing list of innovative companies to come out of our state,” said Robb Kunz, co-founder and co-Managing Partner of BoomStartup. “These companies have great ideas and technologies that will push their individual markets to new heights due to their innovation and the mentoring that they will receive from our group of successful investor-mentors.”

    The selected companies are as follows:

    3PointData solves the decision maker’s data problem by creating real-time data streams to make better decisions, better products, and more money. 3PointData delivers weather, stock, geo IP, zip code, sales tax, traffic, and much more, right to a spreadsheet, database or custom application.

    Bazari is a text message-based platform that provides the benefits of ecommerce to markets without internet access. Through the platform, customers can browse for products, purchase the specified product, make the payment, and have the product delivered similar to shopping on eBay or Amazon.

    Case Rover is a software-as-a service (SaaS) platform targeted at the multi-billion dollar U.S. litigation support and compliance markets.

    The Fashion Genome Project is the next big thing in online clothes shopping, utilizing revolutionary technology to eliminate the pain points and unpredictable results that usually come in the process.

    IActionable is a SaaS-based application that helps sites and services attract new users, retain existing users, and increase desirable actions by providing customizable achievement and points systems. IActionable enables any site to define and automatically award public badges and points to their users when specific actions are performed.

    Khumbu is helping consumers simplify their wallet while creating affinity programs for vendors, by offering virtual loyalty cards for mobile devices. Khumbu weaves affinity tracking with social media. Khumbu’s clearinghouse allows consumers to trade, redeem, and consolidate partially used loyalty cards, while also providing intuitive offers and promotions for related vendors.

    MashWorx creates permission-based applications designed to help companies better serve their customers beyond the limits of a single site. MashWorx’s apps, or mashups, enable people to choose their own web experience.

    No Ink Publishing provides an online authoring system for do-it-yourself mobile publishing, with an initial focus on interactive, animated children’s books for the Apple iPad.

    O-Codes creates small text codes that appear in offline media (magazines, newspapers, brochures, billboards, TV, movie trailers, coupons, catalogs, business cards, etc). Consumers can “bookmark” the offline content they like, share that content (to Facebook, Twitter, and Evernote), and even make purchases using simple text messages, and without using a computer.

    Voycit is a political, social website where citizens can come to get informed on political issues, current events, legislation, voting histories, and candidate platforms, get involved by voting on current legislation, completing polls and organizing for action, and hold elected officials accountable. In turn, Lawmakers can engage with their constituents, get real feedback on legislation and clarify positions and voting.

    All companies will be headquartered at the Canyon Park Technology Center, Building J (1401 N. Research Way, Orem, Utah). In addition to providing companies with seed capital and free resources, the companies will complete an education curriculum designed to teach each entrepreneur the fundamentals that will help them become successful as they grow their companies.

    The three-month program will conclude with an Investor Day in September hosted by BoomStartup that allows interested investors to meet with each company.



    4 Years. Go.


    This Land

    This video was shot by my good friend Chia, a headshot photographer in  NYC.


    Paul Allen: CEOs Who Code

    I was reading tonight a Paul Allen post about CEO's who code.

    I tried to leave a comment but I think I was unsuccessful. At least I didn't get the 'moderation' confirmation that's common on Wordpress blogs.

    Paul's post was dead-on with this.

    There’s an amazing feeling of satisfaction when you build something that works – and better yet, something that is used by thousands of people.

    Now, I'm not a coder by any means. In fact, any mention of coding by those are not immersed in C+ or Java or Ruby on Rails or whatever is probably too much.

    For myself, I've had to learn a little CSS, HTML, SEO and enough of other stuff that I can often cut and paste real code to get things to work the way I need them to.

    The first 'application' that I created was cobbled together from some off the shelf shopping cart software and, what was then, newly discovered RSS feeds... but it worked. (Way before Groupon I might add.)

    As soon as you have the title of CEO (and it's a real company) it's irresponsible to be coding. A CEO is responsible for the direction fo the entire organization, and that requires that a CEO's head be above the trench line and not down in the Java.

    That being said, CEO's who understand how code is developed, structured and what's possible are a huge asset to a technology company. Before you can create something new you must understand what's possible and the shortest, most efficient way to get there.


    Through Channel Sales Managment SaaS

    A video oveview of Senside's sales channel communication management SaaS offering.

    Sendside's a perfect solution for companies that sell through the channel with VARs, resellers and channel partners. They now have visibility not only into their channel partners, but through their partners to the end buyer with real time reporting and analytics that offer awesome new insights into exactly what content is being opened, read, and what messages are resulting in sales.

    And it doesn't stop there. Towards the end of the video you'll see that there are a host of other capabilites around content dissemination and control that give sales channel companies control they never dreamed of.



    Companies are catching on to the fact that bloggers can provide an effective way to create buzz about their brands. We've seen several efforts that explicitly recognise that fact, such as TasteCasting for restaurants and YokmoK's free travel giveaways. Bringing the notion into the world of new consumer products is Swagapalooza, an invitation-only event that gives influential bloggers free samples of new products.

    Created by Bay Area startup Launch Hear, Swagapalooza aims to give entrepreneurs a way to get their producs in front of the most-followed bloggers and tweeters from across the United States. The first event was held in New York in September last year. At it, brands including Surprise Industries, Idea Paint and Switch2Health—which, coincidentally, we just covered—had the chance to make presentations to the select audience of 100 bloggers, 20 Twitterers and 5 Redditors. In exchange for their participation, the audience members were entitled to free samples of any of the products being presented. A detailed review of the event is available on AdAge.

    Swagapalooza's next event will occur in March in San Francisco, and Launch Hear is currently seeking both bloggers and companies with new products to show off. One to try out in your next promotional campaign? Or how about launching something similar elsewhere? (Related: Blogger helps connect consumers and brandsFood blogger turned intermediary & purveyor.)

    Website: www.swagapalooza.com
    Contact: alex@swagapalooza.com

    from Springwise


    Can't Buy Happiness Past $60k

    $60K a year can make you happy

    Psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman says millions of dollars won't buy you happiness, but a job that pays $60,000 a year might help.

    Happiness levels increase up to the $60K mark, but "above that it's a flat line," he said.

    "Money does not buy you experiential happiness but lack of money certainly buys you misery," he said. But the real trick, Kahneman said, is to spend time with people you like.


    Engage. Convert. Retain.

    Sendside.net, our corporate site, has a new look that focus on four selling propositions that point out where we really shine; lead conversion, channel communications, security and compliance, and customer retention.

    To be honest, the old site was to busy, a byproduct of too many cooks in the kitchen.

    This new site is svelt, and while the top menus have some depth, the homepage has only for main points of focus.

    One of the most significant changes is that we've implemented Capture, the worlds-first and only intelligent lead response engine that allows us to perform any action when a web form is submitted; Send a Package, assign a lead to a specific rep in a CRM, trigger a email notification, just about anything else you'd want to do. And, of course, you can do them all together.

    If you've never seen an example of how inteligent lead response works, you can see it in action here.


    The Cove

    The Cove has won about every documentary award available.

    I've been anxious to see it. First because it's obviously a really good film, and secondly, because it's equally obvious that it's emotionally charged.

    It was.

    If your family hasn't seen The Cove, which is probable, rent it and watch it as a family. There are some important questions and answers to be had.



    Products scale quite nicely than you.
    Services? Not so much.

    While I'm beating the bushes 24/7 at Sendside, I've got some systems in place around launching products that's working quite well, and it's all built on the premise that incremental value is scalable only around products, not services.

    I think I know something about this. After all, I was a painter for about 20 years. Artists have perhaps the poorest business model there is. Painting is a huge time investment and you'll need some serious inventory with no assurance that what you're doing will sell. At least to start.

    One of my epiphanies came when I entered the limited edition print market. Suddenly I was painting a single painting, but selling it thousands of times. (Incedentally this does drive up the price of the original which is also nice.)

    But before I wax too philosophic, let me come back to my point. Products scale. So my crack team organized under my medical spa site at Medical Spa MD is busy creating value by leveraging our expertise to take specific products to market.

    Last year we launched a new site that ships wholesale Botox worldwide. In the next month we're launching three new services: Teeth whitening, medical outsourcing, and do it yourself SEO. There are about eight other products, services, and partherships lined up behind those. And that's just for Medical Spa MD.

    I've got designs on the artist, painter, headshot photography and actor markets in NY and LA since I've got some experience there as well. While I'm not quite at the four-hour work week with these sidelines, I'm probably close to eight... and I work on weekends.

    Of course I couldn't do this myself. I have a team that reside in various locations around the world; California, New York, India... And they do the heavy lifting. I'm just around to provide direction, and to pay the bills. Fortunately, with scale comes profitability.


    Shine Teeth Whitening

    We've launched another Select Partner for Medical Spa MD. Shine Teeth Whitening

    Shine provides professional teeth whitening services to medical offices while creating jobs for single moms, musicians, artists, and others who don’t fit well in the traditional 8-5 corporate world.

    Shine's technicians are trained by licensed dentists to create custom fit trays for teeth whitening at a fraction of the cost of obtaining those services from traditional dental office suppliers.

    This teeth whitening service for physicians joins other Medspa MD partners like Medical Spa RX, a site that imports wholesale Botox and Restylane from Canada.


    Gateway Aesthetic Laser Clinic: Worst Plastic Surgery Bilboard Award


    The worst plastic surgery billboard I've ever seen. In fact, it may be the worst plastic surgery ad too.

    This is what happens when someone in the laser clinic is doing the marketing and advertising for plastic surgeons.

    I've actually seen this billboard. It's along I-15 in Utah and I've driven past it a few times. Each time shaking my head in utter disbelief that anyone describing themselves as a 'cosmetic surgeon' could be attached to such bad taste. (And the actual design is worse. Quite obviously the work of a $6 an hour kid that's still in high school.) How could anyone think that this would move a woman to get plastic surgery?

    The Gateway Aesthetic Institute & Laser Center is the cosmetic dermatology practice of Dr. Mark Taylor but there's usually a plastic surgeon to be found. I guess now it's 'Dr. Heidi'. According to the Gateway Aesthetic Institue's web site, Dr. Heidi is actually:

    Heidi Regenass, M.D., a board certified plastic surgeon who comes to Gateway Aesthetic from Phoenix, Arizona, where she owned her own successful practice.

    Dr. Regenass brings an international flair to cosmetic plastic surgery. Dr. Regenass specializes in plastic surgery procedures that rejuvenate the face and body, enhancing one’s natural beauty.

    It may well be that this as was designed by Gateway Aesthetic Institute and Dr. Regenass didn't have anything to do with it. In that case I feel sorry for her. It's got to be embarrassing to have your name attached to something this crass and trite.

    What the Bad Billboard Project says about Dr. Heidi's boob job billboard:

    My business used to be housed in an office a few feet from this billboard. Only it was a different billboard back then. I was driving by, saw this, and felt like I couldn’t pass it up. It is poorly designed, to be sure, but I’m not sure that matters so much, at least as far as getting your attention. Whether it would actually result in increased sales, I’m not sure. Probably, since many people don’t appreciate good design, either consciously or subconsciously. As for me, I’m thoroughly offended and would certainly never let Dr. Heidi get her dirty paws on me.


    Climate Change

    The Skeptical side claims at least 31,486 dissenters in their ranks, according to the PetitionProject.org. That sounds like a lot. But is it?

    Climate Change: A Consensus Among Scientists?
    Of course, not all 12 million US scientists therefore agree with ‘The Consensus’. But this puts the PetitionProject’s 31,486 signatories in some kind of context.

    Our maths here is somewhat coarse. Some better data suggests the ‘consensus’ figure is around 97.5% of publishing climatologists and around 90% of all publishing scientists supporting the human-induced climate theory. See this study for more details (PDF – Doran And Zimmerman 2009)

    Actually, here’s how some of it looks:

    Climate Change: A Consensus Among Scientists 2

    Skeptical Field

    Among the climate skeptic scientists, we wondered which fields of science were most represented. We expected climate and earth sciences. But we got…

    Climate Consensus: Breakdown of skeptical scientists by field

    In fact, when you adjust the PetitionProject’s odd categorisation – they filed ‘chemical engineers’ as chemists and physical engineers as ‘physicists’ – the total number of engineers who signed the petition, by our reckoning, jumps to 49%

    Why so many engineers?




    It's pretty often that when I hear of PETA being mentioned, it's in a kind of dismissive and condescending way. Of course, you could just watch the video.

    Pledge to go fur-free at PETA.org.