Monday, September 27, 2010
Interview with Mickie Rosen, Tecca
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Last week, Santa Monica-based Tecca (www.tecca.com) launched a consumer electronics, consumer information service, backed by Fuse Capital and Best Buy. The service--currently only available on iPhone and Android--allows users to find reviews and information about consumer electronics products. We caught up with Mickie Rosen, the firm's CEO, about the company, its links to Best Buy, and how it was incubated out of Fuse Capital. Rosen--in addition to being CEO of Tecca, also is Partner at Fuse Capital. Ross Levinsohn of Fuse Capital also is involved in incubating Tecca.
First, for those who haven't heard of Tecca, talk about what your service is all about?
Mickie Rosen: Tecca is the easiest and most helpful independent service for mainstream consumers to learn, shop, and make the most of their personal technology. The way I like to explain it, is we all have these friends that we call when we have personal technology related questions. We ask them what to buy, if we should upgrade now, what's hot, what's working, what's not working. I'm not an early adopter myself, and consider myself a mainstream consumer even though I'm in the industry, and there are friends that I can call for any electronics question. Our goal, and inspiration, is to be that friend for mainstream consumers. We want to become a resource for people with those kinds of questions, and want to be able to provide answers, points of view, and accurate information and options for them, to make the most of their purchases, or make the most of what they already own.
What's the story behind Tecca and its links to Fuse Capital, and Best Buy?
Mickie Rosen: We announced the relationship between Fuse Capital and Best Buy a year and a half ago. We set up a digital media fund, which had the goal of investing in new digital media properties, ideas, and concepts. One of the concepts we came up with, and bounced around with Best Buy, was a whole new, independent company to help consumers with technology. The digital media fund funded the company, and it's unique, in that Ross Levinsohn and I are incubating it ourselves in our office, and are running the company today.
Are there any links between Best Buy and the service?
Mickie Rosen: The link really is financial. They're just an investor, like with many startups, who also have strategic investors. We're absolutely independent of Best Buy in terms of the information that we're providing, and in terms of the options we give consumers. We are creating a marketplace of trusted, top selling, rated retailers, which includes Best Buy, but also includes Amazon, Walmart, and many other, lesser known brands. We're including retailers from the Google API, which is something we're depdnding on. The other connection we have to Best Buy, which I would like to note, was that because we've just launched the company, the service is still very early. So, in terms of what we have out there in our initial database, is based on the Best Buy open Remix API. That API is open, and many people use that database. That's where our initial database of products is coming from. Right now, we're working on integrating more data from around the web, and our goal is to really aggregate and curate the information out there. In that sense, we're very independent of Best Buy, because it's all about aggregation and curating information, to become the leading web and mobile digital player in terms of information.
It is interesting to see you've been mobile as the first part of your launch--in fact, only offering up iPhone and Android versions, and no web version yet. What was behind that decision?
Mickie Rosen: There were obviously a number of ways to develop and roll this out. We felt that mobile was such a big opportunity, and that it is really an opportunity to bridge the physical with the digital. So, we decided our initial focus should be on the mobile platform. That being said, we think that the overall value is better if you can be across all platforms. We're doing really extensive research on what consumers might want on the PC web. On the other hand, you can go to Walmart now, and say you see something you weren't expecting to buy, can scan the barcode, look for information on that product, see all the review and ratings on that, and feel good about buying it and walking away with it from the store. Mobile has such a unique value in today's marketplace, we thought we'd launch first there.
Why did you decide to incubate this firm--rather than fund something already in the market?
Mickie Rosen: There are a couple of things. We meet with a lot of talented entrepreneurs, with fantastic startup ideas. We're still actively seeking those out, and continuing to find those investment opportunities and invest in them. But why we decided to incubate this one, is we looked at the category to see what we could find in terms of early stage companies, executing against what we had identified--and we didn't find any out there. I think that because of these unique things, plus because of Fuse Capital and Ross and my background. While we've spent a number of years in the venture capital community, we're long time operators. Between Ross and I, we have operated and started a number of companies, have been in a number of startups and established companies in operating capacity. This was something we felt incredibly passionate about, and though it was the perfect time to address the mainstream, so we decided to take it on.
What's the business model behind the firm?
Mickie Rosen: The business model is a combination of advertising revenue, combined with affiliate revenue. We're matching the marketplace notion and model of driving customers to the top retailers.
Finally, what's the plan for the next few months?
Mickie Rosen: We are looking to continue to expand, in multiple ways, particularly around our product database, categories, and what we're offering. Second, we're going to launch it cross-platform. Coming very soon will be mobile web, following that will be the PC web launch. We've also got new features, and as we span platforms to something like the PC web, that really enables us to add lots of rich features.