Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? I founded the company in 1991, starting with desktop applications for municipalities, companies and government organizations, here and abroad. For the past nine years we've been 100 percent focused on delivering e-commerce solutions, enabling online merchants to sell their wares. The world changed quickly in this industry.
Owner: Dana Greaves
Address: 2245 Ashland St., Ashland
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I pretty much grew up around here and graduated from Medford High in 1982. I went to Silicon Valley for 15 years and came back in 1998.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? In those days there weren't a lot of people around who could do things with personal computers, who could write applications that automated tasks to do accounting or do much of anything. PCs were relatively new. The company I was at — StorageTek — was a mini-computer company that afforded me a lot of opportunity in the electronics industry.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I wish I would have put more focus on rapid growth early on, rather than waiting for 10 years. I got caught up with customer to customer to customer, instead of scaling up to help hundreds of thousands at a go. It's been my own personal evolution. Eventually I got more inspired to scale up and help more people in what turned out to be an incredibly fast-growing industry — e-commerce.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? We're on our fifth acquisition, and the toughest was the last one in August 2010, when we acquired a majoring shopping-cart platform provider — AspDotNetStoreFront.com. It was by far the largest acquisition in our history. It was bigger than our own company, so it was high stakes. No pain, no gain. The outcome has been fantastic. It has enabled us to get close to tens of thousands of new customers in e-commerce who need more and more technology solutions to enable their businesses to flourish. One of the other things it has done is to rapidly grow our other technology offerings that complement AspDotNetStoreFront.com.
Online shopping habits have dramatically changed in the past 18 to 24 months and continue to change. ... Consider 45 percent or so of all online transactions in 2012 were initiated at Amazon.com. That's a massive difference from a couple of years ago, when online shoppers typically Googled an online product and got the long list of potential vendors, then went site by site by site trying to determine the best place to buy. Today, far more transactions are based outside of individual websites. What it means for online merchants is that they can no longer rely on shoppers finding their site. As shoppers, we'd rather go to safe, well-organized sites showing comparisons for products across many vendors. This is what happens at Amazon, Google product search, Bing, Shopping.com ... we like to see shopping options in one place. What this means is they need to get their products broadcast to all the places shoppers are going instead of trying to draw shoppers to their site.
Who are your competitors? The shopping-cart platform market is crowded; there are lots of competitors for AspDotNetStoreFront — good ones. The connectivity we have built, allowing online merchants to broadcast and experiment with prices, descriptions and photographs, is unique to the industry. There isn't another solution like this.
What are your goals? We've been successful in staying ahead of the online markets; we're leading the knowledge base and effective tool sets for online merchants. It's become very clear as Google removed free organic traffic to websites — 20-some months ago — they are monetizing the organic search results for products. When you see moves such as that, the writing is on the wall. There are dozens of technology providers, many of them startups, just in the past year or less, that disrupt how we used to sell and buy online. At the same time, the online payment industry is making very rapid, disruptive moves. Now there are dozens of payment mechanisms that break the mold; Square and Bitcoin are examples. There is disruption from every angle, from payments to innovative selling techniques, such as peer-to-peer. In five years, we want to be directly in the middle of online transactions, bringing together the bits of data and systems required to transact business online — meaning not just the advertising, selling and payment of products, but the shipping, back-office logistics and so on.
What training or education did you need? For me, it was all about programming. I could write code to do things. I was extremely interested and enthused, like the kid in the candy shop about making things wiggle on my computer. What has served me well is understanding programming and building systems in many different industries.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Only do it if your heart is in it; that's so critical.
To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.