Straube’s 100-Year Legacy

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These articles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 8, 1999. All rights reserved.

On the Ball in E-Commerce

Two entrepreneurs who have staked their fortunes on

E-commerce spoke at U.S. 1’s technology forum last week at the Doral

Forrestal. Jim Medalia, CEO of Kingston-based

Justballs!, is selling equipment for sports activities. Ed McLaughlin,

CEO of Emmons Drive-based Secure Commerce Services, offers online

bill presentment and payment at Paytrust.com. The seminar was part

of the all-day trade show and technology

expo jointly sponsored with the Princeton Chamber.

Internet commerce can’t be compared to anything else, said McLaughlin.

It’s not like anything we have ever seen before. The Internet empowers

the consumer and blurs all the traditional lines on how the product

gets to the end user, said Medalia. It offers 24-hour,

seven-day-a week convenience, limitless selection, and dependable

product selection.

"But time is the Internet merchant’s enemy," said Medalia.

"It is better to learn from your mistakes than to wait for others

to enter the field and then do a counter punch. Put something up and

then continually fix it."

Medalia has the world’s only website devoted to selling balls and

has been proclaimed one of the top retailers online. To pursue market

share, he said, you need to spend money. His market, for instance,

is worth $2.3 billion in the United States alone. "If it costs

me $50, for instance, to acquire a customer, and if I can prove that

the total amount spent is $300, and my margin is

50 percent or $150 profit — that means I make three times what

I spend," said Medalia. "As long as that is a positive number

I will spend any penny I can beg, borrow, or steal."

McLaughlin helps consumers reduce the paper pile. "Tell us who

your billers are, and what the account is, and we will do almost

everything

else for you," McLaughlin said. For one monthly fee, $7.95, you

authorize up to 25 payments on your personal, secure web page, and

your bills are stored there for instant access. E-mail tells you that

the bill has arrived, and you can deal with it then or anytime. You

log into a secure area, the Paytrust bill center, and review the bill

and/or pay the bill. Whenever you want to check a bill, it’s on the

Internet for you to view, whether you are traveling or at home. You

can authorize prepayment or pay each bill separately. Your payments

will tap your bank account on the day you specify, and you can set

up quarterly payments ahead of time, avoiding late charges.

"Because we are working for the consumer, we can work with any

bank or biller, and we are working with over 400 billers and every

major bank in the region," said McLaughlin. "We have already

paid over $1 million worth of bills."

Medalia spoke of how he decided which E-commerce market to pursue.

He compared books (Amazon.com) and music (CDNow) to the sporting goods

industry and found that all three were large, mature markets, and

that they were fractured markets. What made them particularly

appropriate for E-commerce were three characteristics of the products:

They have a long shelf life and are easy to ship;

A huge selection is produced but only a limited portion is

available in bricks and mortar stores;

The products require little after market support but

benefit from extensive pre-purchase information, the kind not usually

available from in-store salespeople

Medalia also noted that all three products cater to the

consumer’s

leisure pursuits.

How do you get people to come to your cyber store? asked one

questioner. Don’t buy banner ads, said Medalia. Instead, get involved

with content and do deals. He has negotiated deals to supply balls to

http://www.shopsports.com,

which is an anchor site for AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and ESPN. Paytrust uses

advertising as well as cyber deals. "We have to

explain Paytrust," said McLaughlin.

What about customer service? Both entrepreneurs handle their own

customer

service call centers, instead of the more usual practice, to contract

it out.

Focus on the customer, said Medalia, is why his firm holds its own

inventory and has 97 percent fulfillment (goods shipped out) in less

than 24 hours versus 80 percent, which is the high standard for the

catalog industry.

McLaughlin said his firm strongly dedicates itself to the needs of

the consumer rather than of the billers or the banks. Because surveys

say that privacy is a major consumer worry, Paytrust.com sells its

service on a subscription basis ($7.95 a month), eliminating

advertising,

and therefore maintains strict privacy guidelines. "Privacy issues

drove our entire business model. We don’t sell your eyeballs,"

said McLaughlin. "We keep a maniacal focus on who is the consumer

and we deliver the service to that consumer."

As for technology, Paytrust.com is patenting its scanning system and

is using proven models for back-office payment. Justballs! extensively

customized its inventory software but is not using EDI (electronic

data interchange) with its warehouse facility.

How to get the attention of a funder? A good business plan is a must

but is not enough. Earn your stripes at a venture fair, said the

entrepreneurs, or somehow gain an introduction from an insider.

Top Of Page
Straube’s 100-Year Legacy

The Straube Center has a treasure lode of intriguing

tales from the past, but Win Straube wants to showcase the innovative

stories for the future. His center on West Delaware Avenue in Pennington

used to be an iron foundry, but now the tenants are founding new technologies.

His annual open house celebration, always the second Tuesday after

Labor Day, will be Tuesday, September 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. Everyone

is invited; food will be provided by Pennington Market. Call 609-737-8695.

In September 1899, relates Straube, Enoch Knowles and Joseph

Schiller had a meeting of minds regarding a parcel of land, to

transform it into a site for innovation and industry. "Now we

are a beehive of invention," says Straube.

His biography "At the Right Place" by Virginia Persing details

how these buildings hosted a series of tenants who used technologies

current for their time. Knowles and Schiller built it as an iron foundry.

The tenants that followed made, in succession, coal briquettes, braided

copper electrical wire, hard candy, aircraft, prefabricated parts

for hospitals, Cointreau liqueur, and cosmetics.

The briquette chemist, who was run out of town because of the awful

smell he produced, and the candy company was shut down because it

polluted the water supply. Some past tenants suffered reverses that

were merely financial. The cable company, for instance, went bankrupt

when the stock market crashed in 1929. Others were the victim of circumstance:

The Cointreau plant burned down, and somewhere on these acres is a

cache of old, probably broken, liqueur bottles, by now turned to near

poison.

Straube bought the property in 1976 and brought in the first tenant

in 1981. On 9.5 acres, eight buildings total 50,000 square feet and

have a vacancy rate of just five percent. Though the 75 tenants include

various health practitioners, an architect, employment and insurance

agencies, a recycling firm, and a sales office, the tenant list skews

dramatically to high tech companies. Some have one-person offices

and others employ as many as 20 people.

"We nurture these kinds of companies in fairly low cost space

in a very high tech environment," says Straube. "The low cost

comes through the efficiency and organization; it is top notch quality."

These "intelligent buildings" are managed by an electronic

concierge and have the very latest wiring. Most companies need super

fast connections to the Internet and can buy into a share of the center’s

T-1 line. Winn Thompson, who markets the property, says that

the smallest office, a 10 foot by 10 foot space, rents for $280 a

month on a temporary basis. Straube’s tenant list also includes these

firms:

Top Of Page
Market Research

David Burnett & Associates, David Burnett, president.

609-737-2324; fax, 609-737-2453. Home page: http://www.dbacompany.com.

Focusing on financial services and consumer products for Fortune 500

clients.

Zeldis Research, Ken Zeldis, owner. 609-737-7223;

fax, 609-737-9272.

The Dialogue Company, Glen Greissinger, owner.

609-737-1110; fax, 609-737-6927. Development and management of national

consumer ad/marketing programs for Fortune 500 clients

ORYX Group, Anne Miller, owner. 609-818-1001; fax,

609-818-1010. Statistical research for pharmaceutical product development

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New Media

VertiNews.Com, William L. Dunn, chairman. 609-730-9268;

fax, 609-730-8652. Home page: http://www.vertinews.com. Coverage,

compilation, and delivery of news and research information for professionals.

Whitehurst Industries LLC, John Whitehurst, IT

director. 609-730-0777. Home page: http://www.whitehurstindustries.com.

Multimedia, website, and computer game developer, also Anarchy Entertainment.

Top Of Page
Software

Congenomics, Robert Bruccoleri, president. 609-737-6383;

fax, 609-737-7528. Home page: http://www.congenomics.com.

Bioinformatics and protein modeling; consulting and software development

for genomics, structural biology, and computational chemistry.

Electronic Business Universe (EBU), Glenn Paul,

owner. 609-818-1075; fax, 609-818-1076. Home page: http://www.qwikquote.com.

Development and sales of QwikQuote sales quoting software, Electronic

Concierge, Photos by Net.

Etsee Soft Inc., Sheshadri Mantha, owner/president.

609-730-9180; fax, 609-730-9663. Home page: http://www.etseesoft.com.

LifeConnect software, 24-hour monitoring of patients in hospital,

also sales force automation software and application localization

for Japanese market.

Princeton Center for Education Services, Peter

J. Rizza Jr., president. 609-737-8098; fax, 609-737-3787. "ExpressTrain"

and other electronic learning systems providing interactive classroom

teaching via the web or disks.

Because two past tenants were big-time polluters, it is ironic justice

that two Straube Center tenants now devote themselves to recycling.

Dave Steffens of ERS Imaging Supplies (http://www.ers-imaging.com)

converts empty toner cartridges, and Michael Domino of Domino Plastics

Company (609-737-9600) brokers post-industrial plastic scrap.

Straube points to a shining example of tenant ingenuity, the Product

Development Group founded by Carl M. Stern, http://www.pdgrp.com.

For small and large companies, this consulting firm develops mass

market products — medical, consumer, nontoy infant products, and

toys. Examples of Stern’s work include an infant gate for Fisher-Price,

an infusion pump for Becton Dickinson, an automatic pool cleaner for

Hayward Pool Products, toy trucks for Nylint Corp., and an industrial

soap dispenser for Loctite.

Straube’s favorite: the fire truck that comes with a siren and engine

rumble. Children around the world are hearing the toot-toots and the

vroom vrooms recorded at the Pennington Fire Department.

— Barbara Figge Fox


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