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Archive for the month “July, 2015”

Campaign fundraising outsourcing

In the old days, politicians handled their own fundraising directly, or asked a trusted insider to do it for them. For example, John Kennedy had his father take care of fundraising. But these days, fundraising – like just about anything else – can be outsourced. According to Forbes, one of the emerging companies in this space is Stripe.

[B]y using Stripe, campaigns can avoid hiring employees to handle payments and donations. [Hillary] Clinton’s donations webpage, featuring a simple sign-up flow that promises security and the ability to set up recurring contributions, is powered by Stripe, which will process the gift, store credit card information and disburse the appropriate funds to the campaign.

The processing presumably includes compliance with all Federal and state campaign finance laws. For this service, Stripe gets a cut of up to 2.9% of the total dollars raised, which seems reasonable.

But Clinton isn’t the only person using Stripe. People from both sides of the aisle, ranging from Bernie Sanders to Mike Huckabee, are using the service. And some candidates are using more than one service.

[Rand] Paul paid $102,371 to Stripe for donations processing last quarter, compared to the $34,396 he disbursed to PayPal for similar services.

Stripe (like Paypal) is not just used for political donations; it can be used for any financial transaction. Interestingly enough, Stripe can accept Bitcoin payments. I’m not sure how the campaign finance regulators react to that, however.

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The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, 1859 – 2015?

Back in 2008, I wrote a post that noted that while the Krogers and Safeways of the world were complaining that Walmart was putting them out of business, the Krogers and Safeways themselves had done their best to put even older companies out of business. After all, you can’t have a supermarket unless there was a market before that.

And one of the oldest of those markets, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, may be about to close its doors.

Back when A&P started, it only stocked tea and similar items, and only fulfilled purchased via mail order. In other words, it was a 19th century Amazon.

Eventually A&P not only began letting people actually come to its facilities, but actually let them wander up and down the aisles and select products themselves. As a result, A&P got big. Very big.

How big? Almost as big as General Motors. Courthouse News Service tells us that A&P was judged to be too big.

By the early 1950s the company’s dominance prompted federal regulators to step in and breakup what they feared was fast becoming a monopoly.

So A&P wasn’t quite as big, but it was still a going concern. When I was growing up in Virginia in the 1970s, I remember a small A&P store that was near my house. It was a small store – only four aisles – and nowhere near the size of the Safeway and the Giant Food down the street.

However, its old-timey size wasn’t the thing that doomed A&P. It was good old acquisition.

Although changing tastes and the market entrance of new competitors like Whole Foods proved challenging to A&P, most analysts say it was the company’s 2007 purchase of the Pathmark chain, right before the global economic crisis, that doomed it.

Since 2007, A&P has filed for bankruptcy twice. In its latest filing, the company states that if it is unable to sell 120 of its 300 stores to three competitors, it will be forced to liquidate.

Maybe it can return to its mail order roots and sell tea via Amazon.

My thoughts on .@tad ‘s thoughts on Microsoft, augmented reality, and virtual reality

Tad Donaghe has posted at Medium again. I’m going to skip over his thoughts on Windows Phone (although I actually owned a Windows phone many years ago) and concentrate on his views about Microsoft’s future endeavors. As Donaghe sees it, Microsoft now has an opportunity to devote additional resources to something else.

Here’s why: Microsoft’s Hololens Augmented Reality offering. By 2020 the Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) markets are predicted to be worth more than $150B. I suspect that by 2025 they will dwarf the current mobile market. So, if Microsoft can grab a significant share of the AR and/or VR market, they will be very well positioned to reap huge financial rewards.

I haven’t really looked at this market other than peeking at Kinect a little bit, so I’ll rely on Donaghe’s assertion that while Hololens may not be as advanced as the competing Magic Leap technology, Microsoft has at least exhibited Hololens to people.

And what if Microsoft gets Hololens to market? We all know the story about Microsoft products – version 1.0 often isn’t that good. But in some (not all) cases, Microsoft perseveres and releases version 2.0 and version 3.0, and ends up dominating the market for many years to come. Look at Netscape vs. Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer will be replaced by a new browser in Windows 10, nearly two decades after IE was originally launched. Netscape itself is long gone.

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