Thursday, October 13, 2011
Interview with Patrick Carter, Digital Folio
Have you ever wondered, as you're adding that new electronics product into your basket at Amazon.com, if you're getting the best deal for your money? Do you wish you had more time to price check and comparison shop for your online purchases? Well, Denver-based Digital Folio (www.digitalfolio.com) thinks it has the thing for you--a browser add-on which automatically pulls up price comparisons and offers while you are shopping, every time you add something to your online shopping basket. To hear more about how the firm is looking to change the way people shop online, we spoke with Patrick Carter, Digital Folio's CEO and Founder, to hear more about the company's product.
What is Digital Folio?
Patrick Carter: In essence, Digital Folio does for shopping what the iPod did for music. In the shopping area, it's tough to keep up with prices and cobble together lots of information. With Digital Folio, that happens automatically as part of your browser or mobile phone. The reason we equate this with the iPod, is that, if you think about the iPod, it really eliminates the need to cobble together that mix tape of your favorite songs from a sea of radio stations. Nowadays, there are lots of comparison shopping and retail sites. With Digital Folio, we make it so you can drag and drop products into the side bar, and we'll keep track of pricing for you, pricing history, and do comparisons, so you don't have to constantly go back and repeat that effort of cobbling together all of that information. For any of your readers who are familiar with Evernote, we refer to it as the Evernote for shopping. In addition to the shopping comparisons, the other piece is we are introducing the ability for retailers to present you with promotions, based on the things you want. For example, if you are interested in a digital camera, you can get a promotion from a Walmart or Target, or whatnot related to the camera you are interested in and are tracking. It's similar to Groupon in reverse.
It looks like your software is a browser add on?
Patrick Carter: Yes, we support Internet Explorer 8 or FireFox 3.6 or later. With Firefox, we support both Windows and Mac OS environments, and next year we plan to add Chrome and Safari.
Has it been difficulty getting users to add your software to their browser?
Patrick Carter: It is something we focus on a lot, and which we are constantly seeking to refine. But, one thing we have seen in the market in the past few years is that people are now far more receptive to download software, versus years ago, partly because they are now used to doing that with their mobile phone. With the iPhone and other phones, downloading has become more of a mainstay of that experience. It does involve some stuff as part of the install, but we make it as simple as possible, and try to quite frankly provide a real rewarding experience so that it's worth the time invested from a consumer perspective.
You also mentioned you have mobile in your plans?
Patrick Carter: Yes, we do. We plan to have an iPhone native app and Windows Phone 7 app, out during the holiday period, although we haven't announced a date yet, with Android shortly thereafter. It's actively in the works.
What's your background?
Patrick Carter: I have about 25 years in the software innovation space, starting with AT&T at the very technical end doing strategic computing, then running part of a consulting practice around data warehousing, analytics, and CRM at Ernst & Young. I was at Scient as a Global Managing Partner, and also ran an agency for Omnicom, the database marketing agency. It's really from those experience dealing with shoppers and retail, that I realized that things are inherently broken. Online is the defacto space for research for the consumer, with 50 million people a day using it for research, but it's pretty fragmented. It's a very intensive process to try to cobble together information. This morning I was talking with a prominent mommy blogger, who was excited about our product, who told me the way she does it now is with a spreadsheet of all the various price movements and comparisons out there. In fact, we are seeing now with dynamic pricing on the web, that retailers are changing prices multiple times a day. The highest we've seen is a company changing their pricing seven times in four hours. For a consumer, if you have to deal with that level of effort, it makes it impossible to keep track of prices. Your research you did last night at 11pm is stale this morning, and then you have to go through that again. Instead, Digital Folio takes care of that for you, and you can share that with your friends and family, and co-shop as well.
Talk about the promotional aspect of this?
Patrick Carter: The idea is to save consumers time and money. With our promotion features, we are providing advertisers, retailers, and manufacturers with something they've never been able to do before. We allow them to provide a promotion right in your shopping list, so it's inherently relevant. Our platform will allow retailers and manufacturers, in essence, to be able to construct promotions very relevant for you. They can lower the price for you if they want, and do it all in real time. That solves some pain points for retailers, especially brick and mortar retailers, so that instead of them smarting over the encroachment of Amazon and eBay into physical stores with mobile phones with price checking apps, they and level the playing field and provide their own comparisons and promotions when someone is shipping on Amazon's digital store.
How is the company funded?
Patrick Carter: We're bootstrapped, and have some leading angel investors.
Finally, what are the next steps for your company?
Patrick Carter: I think our big next steps is unveiling the promotional aspect, which will consists of deals from big brands, that consumers can't find anywhere else. All of that will be create in real time, and that what I describe to as a Groupon in reverse, providing deals relevant to you, which empowers both the consumer and the advertisers. As we look out into next year, I think you'll also see something on the tablet front from us too. We literally just launched out of beta a little less than a month ago, and we'll focus this season on getting the word out as well as illustrating to shoppers the power of the platform and the power of the promotions.
Thanks, and good luck!