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商业 - 科技

麻省才女的创新狂想

JP Mangalindan 2013年05月08日

麻省理工大学高材生、创新极客阿曼达•佩顿创办的新兴电子商务网站Grand St.希望帮助民间发明家们把他们的发明创造推向个性化市场,比如巴掌大小的大麻汽化器,再比如订制成人玩具。不过,她自己的梦想则是有朝一日能够打造出《钢铁侠》中的超级计算机。

    Grand St.联合创始人阿曼达•佩顿曾希望打造《钢铁侠》中的超级计算机,不过她随后找到了更大的挑战。佩顿说:“所以,虽然许多人对打造产品无比狂热,但不得不耗费大笔时间处理生产和销售等各类繁琐的问题。”

    对于阿曼达•佩顿这位现代发明家而言,想出好点子固然难,但使自己的发明到达消费者手中也同样不容易。“所以,虽然许多人对打造产品无比狂热,但他们不得不花大把时间处理生产和销售等各类繁琐问题。”年仅29岁的极客网站Grand St.联合创始人阿曼达•佩顿点评道。这些发明家无法对产品精雕细琢,只能疲于奔命地应付和工厂和零售商。“太没劲了。”佩顿一语中的。

    佩顿一直对《钢铁侠》(the Iron Man)中的超级计算机情有独钟。她曾花了好几个月时间,计划去打造这样的吞金怪兽。不过,这位科学怪才最后瞄准了电子商务,创办了一家专注硬件销售的网站。当然,佩顿信心满满地称,亚马逊(Amazon)、沃尔玛(Wal-Mart)和百思买(Best Buy)都存在不足。在这些地方,大部分产品仅仅被当作普通商品罗列,而不是独一无二的存在。

    佩顿和软件工程师乔•拉卢以及亚伦•汉莎一道在曼哈顿创建了极客网站Grand St.。去年秋天,Grand St获得了150万美元种子基金,投资者包括First Round Capital、Quotidian Ventures以及视频博客Gary Vaynerchuk等。网站的宗旨是:打造制作人社区,鼓励创新,帮助推广产品。

    菲尼亚斯•巴恩斯是First Round Capital的合伙人,也是Grand St.的资助者之一。他解释说:“不少人在寻找独一无二的东西。他们不愿意去百思买购买千篇一律的产品。这些人更愿意支持独立的匠人。”

    Grand St.的理念和百思买截然相反。目前这个网站只支持受邀请用户,出售的商品绝对千奇百怪,而且包罗万象,例如使用方块型手柄操作的互动游戏、巴掌大的大麻汽化器,甚至还有成人玩具,不过这些产品都组织得很有条理。Grand St.每次推荐三到五种商品,每种都是限时销售,每隔几天Grand St.会更新一批商品。进行推荐前,佩顿和她的团队会花上几周时间测试产品。

    Grand St.的效率非常高。决定采购第一批货前,它会向发明家确认有足够的存货。随后Grand St.以批发价买入商品,再加价销售。一旦真正开卖,Grand St.会密切监视销售情况,同时预测市场行情,以决定后续采购。佩顿表示完善的流程能确保Grand St零库存,即存货刚刚好或只多出一点。换句话说,Grand St.极少有资金会浪费在滞销的存货上。

    For the modern inventor, getting her creation in the hands of consumers can be just as trying as conjuring up the product in the first place. "So many people who build hardware love building products but spend all their time doing manufacturing and distribution," explains 29-year-old Grand St. co-founder Amanda Peyton. Many inventors would rather focus on polishing their product but get sidetracked dealing with factories and coaxing retailers. As Peyton puts it, "It sucks."

    Which is why, after several months of toying with the idea of building a cost-prohibitive real-world version of the supercomputer featured in the Iron Man flicks, the serial tinkerer set her sights on setting up an e-commerce site that improved how hardware is discovered. Surely, she reasoned, there's a better solution than Amazon (AMZN), Wal-Mart (WMT), and Best Buy (BBY), erstwhile warehouses where most inventory is arguably viewed as commodities rather than unique products.

    Together with software developers and co-founders Joe Lallouz and Aaron Henshaw, Peyton launched the Manhattan-based Grand St. last fall, a startup funded with a reported $1.3 million from First Round Capital, Quotidian Ventures, video blogger Gary Vaynerchuk, and others. The goal: establish a maker community where innovation is encouraged and wares can be easily discovered.

    "There are people who are looking for something unique," explains Phineas Barnes, a First Round Capital partner and Grand St. backer. "They know more than to go to Best Buy and pick up something that is one in a million. They'd rather support an independent craftsman."

    To wit, Grand St. does the opposite of a Best Buy. Visitors to the invite-only website may notice the site's selection is unorthodox and wide-ranging -- an interactive game with cube-based controls, a palm-sized marijuana vaporizer, even an adult toy -- but curated. Grand St. highlights three to five products at once, each one on sale for a limited time, swapping in a new one every few days. Peyton and crew will test products for weeks before they make a decision about whether to put it on the site.

    If and when they do, they're efficient about it. Grand St., which buys at wholesale prices then marks them up, will make sure an inventor has an adequate quantity of something in stock before snapping up a small initial order. Once the product is available on the site, it will closely monitor initial sales, predict how it'll perform overall, then put subsequent orders through with the inventor. Peyton says their process ensures there's always just enough product to go around but also negligible surplus. In other words, very little of Grand St.'s capital goes to waste on unbought inventory.

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