With all the talk of the coming tech IPOs and the inclusion of Gilt on most of these lists, I was prompted to reflect on the ecommerce sector on the East Coast. Many of the mega success stories of ecommerce over the past decade are on the West Coast, including such notable pioneers as Amazon, eBay and Netflix. What I find incredibly interesting, however, is the number of big and successful ecommerce companies located in the Northeast. Priceline, Vistaprint, and others were conceived, started and grown by talented East Coast entrepreneurs into multi-billion dollar market leaders.
As the East Coast ecommerce sector has scaled it has given rise to new companies that are blazing the trail of innovation along the lines of new and differentiated customer acquisition models (free business cards from Vistaprint, private club sales from Gilt, Rue La La and Ideeli, and many other clever and engaging models) as well as product innovation and specialization (mass market customized printing from Vistaprint and Mimeo, integrated travel search from Kayak, all the shoes you could ever want from Shoebuy, targeted open source products and gifts from Thinkgeek, specialty gift mass customization from Vermont Teddy Bear, and used consumer electronics liquidation from Gazelle. You have to admit, that is a lot of interesting innovation around selling stuff on the web!
The pace of innovation is extraordinary as new companies in the Northeast embrace new models of customer acquisition and product specialization / differentiation. Over the past few years I have met with entrepreneurs who are innovating in a multitude of ways around highly targeted product categories coupled with very low cost customer acquisition strategies (exciting companies I have met with include Fetchdog – dog products, Rent the Runway – women’s high end dresses and accessories, Gazelle – consumer electronics, HealthPlanOne – individual health insurance, Ticketfly – next generation electronic ticketing, and many others).
What is equally compelling is the large number of entrepreneurs building new companies in this sector and the many successful and experienced entrepreneurs in this industry cluster on the East Coast. On the one hand there are serial entrepreneurs who do not come from the established ecommerce arena such as Kevin Ryan (Chairman of Gilt, previously CEO of Doubleclick) and Janet Holian (President of Vistaprint Europe, previously VP of Marketing at Geeknet, formerly Andover.net) and then there other entrepreneurs who come directly from the ecommerce industry such as Andrew Dreskin (CEO of Ticketfly, previously EVP at Ticketmaster), and Israel Ganot (CEO of Gazelle, previously VP at eBay). What really excites me about this dynamic is there is a real opportunity for many great entrepreneurs in the Northeast to go after new ecommerce models and while there are eBay and Amazon alumni who have moved east to build companies in Boston and New York, ecommerce pedigree is not a requirement to succeed.
This is good news for our entrepreneurial ecosystem because it represents yet another strong, high growth cluster that is driving innovation and giving rise to multiple spin out companies that will expand the sector and its strength in our market.
I wasn’t smart enough to do an affiliate deal with all of the sites I linked to above (despite the extraordinary traffic to this blog…!!) but I am sure they would be happy to have you click thru since those clicks will be cheaper than they ones they get from Google or Bing.