The Greening of Montana
The World of E-Commerce
Business to Business
From Bench to Business
Rocky Mountain Global
The World of E-Commerce
by Amy Joyner
E-commerce and e-business are front and center, says Jakki Mohr, an associate professor of marketing for the UM School of Business Administration who teaches various e-commerce courses.
If you look at e-commerce, 22 percent of the transactions are consumer purchases. The big untapped gold mine is business to business.
All of our students are getting this, she says of Internet exposure. Its diffused through many of their courses. But the students have to be looking for it. They have to have the initiative.
In a graduate-level course, eCommerce and Internet Marketing, Mohr pre-tests each student to measure Internet proficiency. She expects a 50/50 mix of students who are well informed and others who want to be. Mohr assigns students an existing business, asks them to analyze its Internet presence and develop a plan that would drive revenue and growth.
These hands-on projects are so important because the students get so much out of them, she says. The course design does take its toll on faculty, however, because each of the 60 students enrolled in two sections of the class has an individual project.
Signs of marketplace success
Former UM football punter and tight end Dallas Neil completed his masters degree in May 2000 and wrote his thesis on a business that he brought from academia to the real world Kinetic Sports International. Neil is in Atlanta marketing his CD-ROM software that creates custom training schedules for high school athletes. He also is a new addition to the Atlanta Falcons line-up.
Brumby McLeod is another e-commerce leader who brought his masters degree work straight to the Internet. His brainchild, e-railroad, Inc at www.e-railroad.com, started last year when he was working in accounting for Montana Rail Link.
While attending the MBA class held during the 1999 e-business conference at UMs Montana World Trade Center, McLeod based his business-plan project on the railroad industry. A week later, MRL executives came to him wanting to sell locomotive parts online. The business plan was already written at the conference; McLeod could easily proceed.
I was young, just coming out of school, and I was ready, McLeod says.
Now, he is partnered with seven people who helped start e-railroad.com. He has just completed the 18th version of his business plan and is looking for $300,000 in seed money from a venture capital investor. His partners are a mix of information technology professionals and railroad executives.
Kurt Jacobson, former owner of Big Sky Net at www.bigsky.net, is one of e-railroads executives and provides a six-person team that is programming a Web site for the business-to-business, industry-specific venture. Just one year from inception, e-railroads customers now can find tools most commonly used by the railroad industry.
Our target market is short-line and regional railroads, of which MRL is one of the largest, representing 10 percent of our target market, he says. His main competition is General Electric.
Its my partners who got me here, McLeod says of Jacobson, Van Blakely, Tom Coston, Lynn Churchill, Laurie Pace and Niki Froines.
I am trying to be everything to a specific group, he explains. If this model works, I want to take that model to other industries.
Local means global
The company was started by UM alumni Kelly Robbennolt. Jordan Lind and Tom Wenz hold key management positions. David Bond, broadband media specialist at eLocal, is one of the firms 65 employees in Missoula and Houston. He explains the firms services as selling an integration of our product to offer local content to existing Web sites.
Bond believes that the major Internet search engines didnt set themselves up correctly 10 or 15 years ago.
They are so worried about technologies, he says, that they left local content off the list. And that is the most simple thing.
By offering its services free via the Internet, eLocals revenue comes from what it charges businesses for integrating the local aspect to other Web sites, Bond explains.
Streaming is the technology used for displaying data before the entire file has been transmitted via the Internet. The data recipient collects the data and sends it as a steady stream, making it much easier to view Internet video.
This is a partnership that allows us to do what our customers need without making the investment, Bond says. Its a win-win situation.
At ITRC, which provides technology and training resources, the interns will view the video and use image-recognition technology to discern the images content and record observations. Churchills office already has partnered with several companies wanting to use embedded videos.
He gives the example of a Web user typing, for instance, ski conditions. Not only will the Web search engine find URL sites, but the metadata embedded in the video will direct the user to video clips of area ski resorts. The eLocal tie will provide information about the region where the ski video was taken. Kip Owens from SSI explains, A customer sends beta video with an idea to present it to an audience. We encode the video and host it at SSI. Then we send a link to the customer for his or her Web site.
ELocal will manage the database related to each embedded video file, while SSI handles the streaming production through zipendcode.com, which provides a database query of all video related to a specific geographical location.
Bond explains that eLocal is essentially selling the services of zipendcode.com to eLocals customers.
Churchill is excited about the project, saying, Its a young technology. But its potential is tremendous. The key is that its video on demand, not on cable TV lines, but via your Internet service provider.