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|Articles - March 2012|
|Friday, March 02, 2012|
BY LINDA BAKER
Amazon.com makes about $19,000 a minute on product recommendations: personalized suggestions that direct customers to products they might covet in addition to what they intended to buy. Now a Portland company is democratizing product recommendation services by developing faster, cheaper solutions accessible to midsize retailers. Launched in 2009, 4-Tell (“foretell”) creates software that functions like “a really good salesperson at the store,” says CEO Ken Levy, who, along with co-founder Ken Lofgren, came up with the concept after entering a Netflix competition to improve movie rental recommendations. Existing recommendation services typically take three months to integrate into a retailer’s website, with contracts of about $50,000 annually. By contrast, 4-Tell’s software takes only a few hours to integrate, and the company bills monthly, starting at $49, says Levy. The automated service also updates constantly “based on all past behaviors of shoppers, your past behavior, and what you’re doing at this moment.” A virtual company, 4-Tell employs seven full-time workers in Portland, the Gorge and Southern California. Gross revenues clocked in just under $1 million last year, and many of the company’s 100 customers, which include Columbia Sportswear, report sales increases of 10% to 25% after using the recommendation service. “At the end of day, we’re providing value to our customers,” Levy says. “That’s what’s exhilarating.”
Software for retailers
4-Tell has raised more than $1 million from 19 angel investors, including two online marketing professors from the Wharton School of Business; Keiretsu Forum, a national angel investment network; and Bruce Davis, CEO of Beaverton-based Digimarc, where CEO Ken Levy worked as senior director of technology and market development from 2000-2004. It was awarded $120,000 from the Gorge Angel Investors Network competition and $25,000 from the Portland Seed Fund.
Levy aims to grow 4-Tell into a “major force” in five years, with $80 million in annual revenue and 150 employees. The e-commerce platform-provider market is consolidating, he says. “So it’s likely we’ll be acquired.”
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