Acquisition thoughts: Dealertrack by Cox Automotive

I am not sure how many people were expecting Dealertrack to be acquired by Cox Automotive yesterday. And let me just say – congrats to the Dealertrack team, going from a $10M investment in 2002 to a $4B exit just 13 years later. However, what struck me in this deal was that Cox – ultimately a media and finance company – acquired a CRM/software vendor.

My one insight into this is that they do not see Dealertrack as just a CRM or a finance-department application. They see Dealertrack, with 17,000 dealerships, as the Bloomberg terminal of a trillion-dollar global industry. From that perspective the tie-in is even more interesting. They will be able to offer a full omni-channel experience to the dealers – from when the person first looks at a car to the final delivery of the vehicle.

updated: I accidentally wrote 2012, instead of 2002 for the initial VC funding. Corrected as of 6/16/2015 5:03PM.

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You might be doing “major redesign launch” wrong if

English: SmugMug Main Screen Shot

English: SmugMug Main Screen Shot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a major new launch you also need to write a post for your customers to show them how to back to the old design. Maybe I am overdramatizing, but it really struck a chord with me.

Here is smugmug – a company I used to love to use – with a new tutorial on

“Get the Legacy Look in the New SmugMug”

I am happy folks at Smugmug are taking customer questions and complaints seriously; and there is always someone who wants what they had, and no upgrades, but this is exactly why you do not typically simply upgrade everyone without giving them a choice or at least a moment to click and confirm the upgrade.


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Reminiscing about red rocks

Canyonlands NP

As kids get older we think of times, people, and places to share with them. The first two are difficult, but the latter can be done especially if they are protected by the federal government. Some day we will go back to American West with them, but in the meantime some of the old favourites to reminisce on.

Arches NP, Bryce, Grand Canyon, and Canyonlands – wish we were there…

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Features Review: Related Google+ Page

Related Google+ Page Widget

Related Google+ Page Widget

I am always on the lookout for a smart UX decision. Today’s feature is a relatively recently added “Related Google+ Page” feature on gmail.

– What is it?

It is small widget in the upper right corner which replaces the person’s widget when an email is sent from a corporate account instead of a personal email.

– Why I like this?

It is actually serving a useful purpose without being overly annoying and in your face. Located in the upper right corner of the open email and as such does not interfere with the message itself. It does not require me to dismiss or otherwise interrupt my flow but helps draw attention to what I may not not – that there is a public google+ page for this entity.

– Why is this good for Google?

Related People on Google+

Related People on Google+

Lots of people follow their favorite companies on Facebook, but few user would be going on Google+ looking for yet another place to see these companies. This widget allows Google to leverage the enormous reach of GMail to promote its other property without being overly annoying.

– Extra benefit for the user

If you are already following this organization you will see that it is in one or more of your circles, possibly giving you a reminder of a prior relationship.


Google needs all the help it can get to compete with Facebook and grow Google+. They are doing a good job leveraging GMail and other Google properties in this war, and GMail users are already used to, theoretically, to their emails being processed in order to target ads.

From the User Experience design perspective this is a nice little feature that adds a little value without asking anything from the user upfront.




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HK as seen by iPhone

This was the first time I did not have my “normal” DSLR gear with me on a trip, and while I missed my trusty Nikon, it was clear that Apple’s “more photos are taken with iPhone than any other camera” commercial are true.

It is pretty incredible what phone cameras can do.  I took a lot fewer photos than usual but as always – if you cut down to just a few, you can try to skew the average quality up.

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What facebook does not kill – it makes stronger

Update: has just had a major redesign. So Part II might follow.

I used to do a lot more photography – purposeful photography intended to leverage technical capabilities of the cameras, film, scanners, computers, and tripods in order to create meaningful images. Needless to say I was not very good at that. But – thanks to the internet, I could post these images on various photo forums and critique sites. I truly believed at the time that the reason – the ONLY reason – I posted these photos was to receive constructive criticism from my betters so that I, in turn would get better and bestow my true vision on the public.

That did not really happen.

Looking back it seems obvious that really I was simply looking for people to look at my pictures and preferably to like them. This suspicious was confirmed when

(1) I was compulsively checking the number of views and comments on my posted photos
(2) I was running against the limits of pictures I can post in a day and
(3) I kept seeing the same people move from site to site, reposting their portfolio to the adulation of new fans.

Facebook, and Google+ turn out to be much better for people to post pictures. There is the “like” button right there and your friends and family like any pictures you post that does not make them look bad. Seriously – you know you have liked a picture of a foot-long Subway sandwich someone posted and you definitely liked a picture of your friend’s cat even though secretly you hate cats (DOGS RULE)

There is silver-lining though. A few of the photo critique sites are still going strong. Free now from people who simply want their pictures to be liked they can cater to their inner core of camera geeks and their hanger-ons. What does not kill you – makes you stronger.

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Human Ingenuity on display

English: Sr-71

English: Sr-71 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For a while now I wanted to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space museum outside of Washington DC – The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It is located right next to the Dulles airport, and is definetely worth the trip. It is not nearly as crowded with people or planes as the one located at the National

Mall, but more importantly it has space for two of the most awesome examples of engineering prowess and human ingenuity.

After seeing them both, I will cannot decide which one impressed me more – the SR-71A “Blackbird” or the space shuttle ‘Discovery‘…

After thinking about it for a few days – I think the Blackbird is my favorite. It was a truly remarkable feat of engineering that was done on a relatively small budget, met all of its objectives, and has a legion of fans. I hope that one day I will work on something I could as proud of as the Lockheed team must have been of this plane.



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Now Accepting Iphone 5 pre-orders

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

I will now be accepting orders for iPhone 5. I do not know when it will ship, or how much it will cost, but if you send me $1,500 today I will accept your pre-order. All you need to do when iPhone 5 goes on sale is email me a reminder and a payment for the price of the phone when it is released and within 6-8 weeks I will send you your phone.

Why pre-order in some store in China when there is a perfectly good pre-order operation here!

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Relating brand value to number of touch points

Just a half-formed thought.

Does your firm measure number of times a customer thinks of you, touches base?

Look at new valuations for startups and you start to get dizzy. But this is all for services that their users use EVERY DAY. multiple times per day, often.

Look at most trusted brands – they all make things their users use EVERY DAY.

You couldn’t tell how many times a day you used an apple device. Dozens for sure, hundreds possibly.

I guess I’m wondering how this high-touch world affects brands whose services aren’t very interactive. Should they change? Can they?

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self-driving car – can it be so cheap? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Americans are increasingly interested in buying self-driving cars, though some blanch at the price, according to survey results released yesterday by J.D. Powers and Associates. According to a press release (the full study isn’t available to the public), the firm’s annual look at consumers and emerging auto technology found that 37 percent of drivers are interested in an autonomous vehicle. But upon learning that a self-driving car will cost an extra $3,000, the figure dropped to 20 percent.

I’d gladly pay $3,000 to have a self-driving car. I am completely in agreement with the notion that I would like to be able to take control at any point, but really – the value of the freedom a car offers and the time/attention saved in NOT having to drive myself has to pay for itself pretty fast.

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