Sunday, July 24, 2011

Work History 2000 - 2001: Start-ups and Shutdowns

So since Hallmark had taught me a very valuable lesson on why content management systems mean a LOT when it comes to user and manager experience on the Web, I found myself in demand.

Hallmark used the Broadvision content management system that was very expensive and kind of buggy, to say the least. Companies who bought the CMS needed people who weren't intimidated by this multi-thousand dollar behemoth on their network. So late in 2000, I received an email asking me if I would come down and interview at a small start up in Florida who had some ambitious plans and some interesting technology in mind for a product database and shopping portal.

Barpoint Technologies of Fort Lauderdale devised a Palm Pilot model that had a built-in barcode scanner that allowed users to do quick comparison shopping in stores coupled with an online database of sellers. You walk up to a product on the shelf, you scan the 10 digit product barcode and the Palm Pilot would launch an app (yep, a mobile app) that would tell you more about it and other vendors online and near the store who were selling it cheaper. It was way ahead of its time. So much so, that barely anyone used it.

I was called in to be a content creator for the shopping portal. I would write review articles linked to products that users could opt to read, and then click through to purchase based on what I wrote. There were thousands of products in our database. We barely made a dent in the shopping experience, but that didn't change the fact that people could still find better deals through this app and help themselves be better informed shoppers.

The last thing we did was create an online app that allowed people to scan barcodes of CDs and our site would upload sound files directly to the Palm Pilot so they could hear what they were buying. iTunes didn't launch until January of 2001, so our little tech-based outfit was slightly ahead of the curve. We just didn't have the capital. When the twin towers came down in September of that year, our funding evaporated and I returned home to Kansas City a bit jaded at the industry...for a while.

So to recap:
What I learned -
  • Mobile apps
  • Emerging technology
  • How perilous web start-ups could be
  • How long it took to drive to south Florida