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Burning Man Origins

August 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

This article was written by Phineas Upham

Burning Man started as an act of “radical self-expression” according to its creator, Larry Harvey. He was with some friends at a bonfire solstice celebration in San Francisco, when the group decided to burn a 9-foot tall man made of wood. They also built a smaller wooden dog to go along with the man.

The figure grew a little bit each year, reaching 15 feet in 1987 and 40 feet by 1980.

The attendees of these early gatherings named the wooden structure simply “The Man,” which is a name still carried into each festival. To avoid people confusing the festival with the film “The Wicker Man,” Harvey called his creation “The Burning Man.”

Meanwhile, a separate festival was developing in the desert north of Reno. This festival was to take place at Black Rock Desert. During that same time, the beach burners were having troubles with the law. They lacked the permits necessary to continue burning the man.

The man of 1990 was built in a vacant lot. It was disassembled after the beach festival and returned to the lot, where Harvey and others reassembled it after hearing about the Black Rock Desert gathering.

A group went out into the desert in 1991, equipped with a permit from the Bureau of Land Management, with two simple rules: “Don’t interfere with anyone else’s immediate experience,” and “no guns allowed in central camp.”

The festival still continues, and is famous for being the onus of many tech companies. The founders of Google met Eric Schmidt at Burning Man.


About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his LinedIn page.

Shipping Tips for Entrepreneurs

August 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Shipping isn’t a very sexy topic in the startup scene, but it is still a crucial part of business. It’s a challenging problem to solve, and not one you’re likely to do over night. It has the potential to crush a business dealing with inflated costs just to get products to the user. With these tips, you’ll be able to hammer out some of the details in your business plan for shipping to customers anywhere in the world.

Determine Cost

The first thing a business should do is determine the costs of shipping, and look for ways to cover those costs. Most companies online will offer some kind of shipping service to a US mailing address. Usually it’s standard mail delivered within one week or five business days.

Keep in mind that your shipping component shouldn’t be looked at as a part of your long term revenue. Most companies will take a loss on shipping costs so that customers won’t resent the brand. There are also other ways to subsidize those costs, like hiding some of it in the product price itself.

If you want to offer goods internationally, you’ll need order fulfillment services that can forward mail to addresses based outside of the US. International shipping can be costly, and difficult to track if you don’t use the right company.

Promotional Shipping

Companies like Amazon pride themselves in “Free Shipping” as a promotional tool. This is a viable strategy for any budding business, but it does come down to cost. Amazon has always subsidized its shipping costs, building its business on gaining market share as opposed to profits. Some businesses aren’t in the position to absorb those kinds of costs. Instead of offering full-time shipping, consider offering free shipping on certain items, or for orders over a certain dollar amount.

Handling Returns

Another concern you should have when you’re shipping a product is what happens if the item is returned. Returns will cost you money subsidizing the packaging to send the item back to the factory. If the customer requests a replacement, you will pay for the replacement item itself along with the shipping costs for the new product. It is not uncommon for companies to ask customers to split these costs.

Final Thoughts

Shipping inside or outside the US presents costs and complications that must be ironed out before an ecommerce business can find success. Do not try to compete with shipping as your prime selling point, instead look for ways to cover some of these costs and offer a better product.
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The United Parcel Service

August 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

This article was written by Phineas Upham

James Casey founded the American Messenger Company in 1907. It began in Seattle, Washington, and had service stretching to Oakland, California by 1919. Their first delivery car was a Model T. Ford, which first appeared in 1913. Casey partnered with another parcel company and formed Merchants Parcel Delivery, and with it came the development of providing services to the same local neighborhoods. Cars were packed and sent to specific sections of the city, rather than drivers who rode around and made their own schedules.

That consolidated service became popular in places like New York City throughout the 1930s, and the company soon changed its name to reflect the new business practice. It became United Parcel Service officially in 1937, changing its logo to match the name. It also adopted the tagline, “The Delivery System for Stores of Quality” and promptly acquired common carrier rights to deliver to any address.

The 1970s brought service to the entire continental United States, and an office in Canada that was founded in 1976. By 1982, UPS had launched its “Next Day Air” feature. This eventually led to UPS airlines launching in 1988.

UPS has since made acquisitions in the air industry, mostly geared toward servicing and maintaining its craft. It is a company built around manpower, which can leave it vulnerable to walkouts like the one that occurred in 1997. 185,000 employees left the building, forcing UPS to shut itself down for 16 days while it negotiated with laborers. It was also the victim of a bombing in 1974, when an explosion killed one man and injured others. The explosion was ruled a homicide, but the case was never solved.


Phineas Upham

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his LinedIn page.

The Craze Behind Soda Stream

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Written by Phineas Upham

The SodaStream really began in 1903, when Guy Hugh Gilby created an “apparatus for aerating liquids.” The device was sold almost exclusively to upper class households, and it came with a variety of syrups. Cherry was most popular, but sarsaparilla was another house favorite as well.

Commercial carbonation machines rose to prominence in the 1920s, and by the 1950s, soda had officially become a trend. In-home soda making machines were sold, which is where SodaStream entered the market. Originally sold in Europe, and later to Australia and Germany, the SodaStream is often associated with nostalgia for the 70s and 80s. Many Europeans from those eras will remember the slogan “Get Busy with the Fizzy,” which went from being a jingle to part of the company logo.

The company was originally a spinoff of another investment firm, but it was purchased by Cadbury Schweppes in 1985. It was sold again in 1998 to Soda-Club, an Israeli distribution company founded by a man named Peter Wiseburgh.

In many ways, SodaStream is a great example of how to revive a brand. Each time SodaStream has changed ownership, it has found a new market to break into. The current revival is happening mostly in America, but Europe is also getting a taste. The new line of SodaStream machines is designed for sustainability, which earned the company a Seal of Approval from the Good housekeeping Institute. New flavors are also being sold in partnership with the companies that make drinks like Kool-Aid and Country Time lemonade.


Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phineas on his Phineas Upham website

Follow The Money With Crafts

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

By John Woodson

Do you like doing crafts? Is it something you look forward to doing when you get home from work? Do friends know to expect amazing products from you for their birthday? Do you have bigger, better projects in your head at all times? If so, it sounds like crafts play a pretty big role in your life.

In that case, why not take things to the next level and start profiting from those talents of yours? Far too many people have amazing hobbies they never fully explore. However, it’s important to remember that profiting from your talents need not be difficult at all. In fact, thanks to the World Wide Web, it’s easier than ever before. There are practically no startup costs other than what you otherwise spend on crafts and you can charge whatever you want.

So the next time you’re working on jewelry kits for your friends, consider making a couple extras for customers. Put them on sites like eBay, Etsy or Fiverr and see what kind of reaction you get. Who knows? It could be the beginning of your own company.

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Whether you like crafts because they put a smile on your face, you like surprising your friends and family with handmade gifts or you see them as a business opportunity, you need the right materials to get the finished results you actually want. At Too Cute Beads, you’ll find that very thing and much more like Regaliz leather materials and other options.

OkCupid Corporate Profile

August 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Written by Phineas Upham

OkCupid really began with the creation of a website called “TheSpark,” which was a collection of humorous personality quizzes and tests. It also included a match test based off the Myers-Briggs ideology.

The inclusion of that tool sparked a new spinoff website called “SparkMatch.” Users were able to search for others based on the outcome of their match tests, and contact each other to meet up. SparkMatch became immediately popular and the founders created OkCupid to handle the demand. They sold off SparkNotes to Barnes and Noble and focused exclusively on the dating sector.

The test one takes upon becoming a member of OkCupid is almost exactly the same as the original match test on SparkMatch. The company takes great pride in its testing, and has even licensed the quiz program it uses out to other companies. It also developed the subsidiary Hello-Quizzy as a spinoff to its testing, but the site remains niche compared to OkCupid. OkCupid also looks at a member’s interactions on the site to determine which matches are best for them.

OkCupid has more than 3 million active users on its website, and the site had an extremely active community of bloggers until the journal service shut down. Anyone can join the website, with A-List accounts reaping the benefits of an ad free experience and increased options for filtering.

OkCupid is also both famous and infamous for its blog “OkTrends,” which analyzes the behavior of its users in an attempt to discuss trends in the dating world.


Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phineas on his Phineas Upham website

How Geotargeting Affects Deliverability

August 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Location targeting is a fairly new concept in the world of ad delivery online. Targeting by location is often discussed as the next logical step in a campaign. First, you launch and then you tweak targeting to get everything right. The trouble with this assertion is that it ignores the variables involved with your campaign. Affiliate marketing isn’t a simple industry. Geotargeting, like every other form of marketing online, takes work and research to discover which targets are worth taking aim at.

Reduce Quantity, Increase Quality

When you narrow your targeting, using any method including geotagging, you effectively reduce the number of eyes that will see your ads. This is a double edged sword, so to speak, because views do translate to conversions. If you geotarget properly, you effectively cut segments of display advertising traffic that you might not otherwise need. Perhaps you have a location specific offer for home improvement services. Marketing too far out of your local area will just hurt your campaign.

Have Specific Purpose

Geotargeting is a hot buzzword in the world of banner advertising these days, but not everyone using it knows what they are doing. If you don’t have a specific purpose in mind for your campaigns, you’re basically reducing the traffic your ads receive to no greater end. Geotargeting is not something you test because you’re looking for ways to improve your ads. It won’t bring you greater volume of traffic, and it won’t affect quality unless you have specific reasons that it should.

Test Cases

Reasons to test geotargeting might include a high value per lead. Some states might net you higher revenue because the product sells for higher. You might also notice that certain states perform better than others, or that certain deals have restrictions on which states they can be marketed to. This is usually because of local laws, but don’t waste your time figuring out why that is. The offer might be bound to a location, such as an airline offering discounted flights to certain cities or a limited home delivery program for a small drop shipping company.

Final Thoughts

Geotargeting can be powerful if put into the right hands. It’s something you should use sparingly, but use it if you have reason to do so. Always start with the campaign: figure out your core audience and look for methods to market to them.

Bio: Ted Dhanik is a confirmed animal lover and co-founder of engage:BDR. With direct marketing experience online, Ted Dhanik is an expert on all things banner advertising. Find Ted Dhanik online and learn how to transform your business with banner advertising.

American Express History

August 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Written by Phin Upham

American Express was started in Buffalo, New York as an express mailing service for the region. It was founded under a merger of three separate companies. Henry Wells, William G. Fargo, and John Warren Butterfield all combined their efforts to start a national express line.

This partially led to the creation of Wells Fargo & Co. because a proposal to offer American Express service as far as California was objected to. Their first office was in the Tribeca part of New York City, specifically at the corners of Jay and Hudson.

The company managed to scale through strategic partnerships. It affiliated itself with the newly established Wells Fargo Co., and found additional partnerships in rail and steamship operations. The company grew its shipping half, and started a new venture in the financial industry in 1882.

Its first product was a money order service, which fit nicely with its shipping services. The move was made to compete directly with the US Postal service, but it was not the only change the company would undertake. Somewhere between 1888 and 1890, the president of American Express took a trip to Europe. As a wealthy individual, and with credit statements to back his reputation, he still found it nearly impossible to get cash on hand. He created Travelers Cheques with this in mind, releasing denominations up to $100.

It was not until the 1980s, when American Express made a serious of investment acquisitions, that it would begin to take the shape of the financial institute we know today.


Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Twitter page.