Thursday, January 3, 2008

n2N Commerce no more

TechCrunch reports on the first start-up death of 2008 (or the last of 2007, perhaps), involving Cambridge-based n2N Commerce.

The company officially launched last January with a $30 million round of funding from Limited Brands and General Catalyst. Joel Cutler and Larry Bohn were the GC board members. Ruben Pinchanski, one of Boston's pioneers of Web development and e-commerce, was the CEO.

One entrepreneur who heard news of the company's troubles tells me that n2N laid off about 70 people before Christmas.

Update: I'm told that the decision to shut-down n2N wasn't made by the full board, but by Limited Brands, which unfortunately was the company's lead investor and primary customer. I suspect we'll see some legal action, since it doesn't sound like GC is too happy about putting money into a start-up that was given just one year to prove its model. GC had two board seats, as did Limited Brands. Pinchanski was the fifth board member.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

This week's Globe column: A mash-up of Amazon and Second Life

Yesterday's Globe column focused on an e-commerce start-up called Kinset, co-founded by serial entrepreneur John Butler.
From the opening:

    John Butler is trying to introduce true browsing to the online shopping experience, blending the innovations of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with the old-school merchandising of R.H. Macy.

    Butler is the founder and chief executive of Kinset Inc., a Marlborough start-up that plans to launch its first online stores this week. Kinset's stores combine e-commerce with the kind of visually rich, three-dimensional environment that has been made popular by the virtual world Second Life and such videogames as World of Warcraft, but that would feel familiar to a conventional department store shopper.

    In November, Brookstone will launch a Kinset store that will allow shoppers to roam virtual aisles in search of the perfect holiday gift. And Canton-based Tweeter, the consumer electronics chain, could have one online in time for the Su per Bowl, when buyers tend to hunt for new TVs.

For those who appreciate historical allusions, RH Macy ran a dry goods store in Haverhill, MA (called the Haverhill Cheap Store), and even sponsored a parade in the town, before he moved to New York to start the shop that became Macy's. Interestingly, Macy was a die-hard entrepreneur: he failed four times before opening his store in Herald Square. More on that here.

Here's the video for this week's column -- a chat with John Butler at the Newton Marriott, and a demo of the software. You can also now check out their two demo stores, BunchBooks and 'lectroTown, on the Kinset site. (Assuming you have a Windows PC.)

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