Tech industry veteran Daniel Marovitz knows a thing or two about digital transactions: Until July he was head of product management for Deustche Bank’s global transaction banking business and a member of the board of the $5 billion a year commercial bank. He also has experience with online communities, thanks to a stint as the vice president of commerce at iVillage, the online women’s network.
And, he is somewhat of an authority on online commerce, having served as the head of Gateway.com which sold the first PC over the Internet, and co-authored the book Three Clicks Away:Advice from the Trenches of eCommerce, published by John Wiley in 2001.
Now, Marovitz, a 39-year-old American living in London, is leveraging his diverse expertise to create buzzumi, a new Internet platform formally launching Nov. 1, which aims to help organizations and individuals monetize online communities.
“There are wonderful, big, robust communities online but most struggle to turn all that traffic into a business,” says Marovitz, who gave the scoop about buzzumi's launch to Informilo. A blog with 250,000 readers a year, for example, might only generate a few hundred dollars a month in revenue. “We think paid real-time interaction, paid text and video chat and webinars, is a way to change that,” he says.
Google Adwords and Amazon affiliate links generate fractions of a cent per month per reader for the vast majority of bloggers. “If we are indeed living in the knowledge economy, then knowledge must be compensated,” says Marovitz. “We all love Wikipedia and quora but man does not live by reputation alone you need to make cash from your expertise and time.”
While the first knowledge networks connected individuals to experts they did not already know, buzzumi gives people who are participants in a community the tools they need to buy help and advice from people they already follow on Twitter or blogs they read.
Buzzumi’s package of synchronous communication, scheduling, alerting and integrated payment, allows followers to book one-to-one sessions or participate in paid webinars from their favorite bloggers. For example, an online pundit could tweet that he or she is available to give instant analysis, for a fee, minutes after a big news story breaks.
Any person or organization can create customized rooms on buzzumi’s platform to host audio, video, text chats with up to six people or webinars with up to 100. Experts can upload wallpaper, name the session, provide some information about themselves as the host, and invite people to a paid or free chat in seconds.
There is no upfront fee and nothing to download, unlike the clunky tools people paid to us in the past such as Webex or gotomeeting.com. buzzumi only charges its 10% fee if the person or organizing hosting a session charges.
Bloggers and journalists are not the only ones that can benefit from buzzumi’s platform- there is a B2B product as well. The service will help deliver counseling via paid long distance services to people experiencing psychological distress. buzzumi is partnering with bigwhitewall.com, a UK-based online mental health organization that contracts widely with the National Health Service, to bring real-time therapeutic support to people in their own homes at any time of day or night. "The buzzumi platform is a very exciting extension of big whitewall's services allowing us to offer our Community, many of whom do not use offline services, immediate access to high quality therapeutic support', says Jenny Hyatt, the bigwhitewall's chief executive.
Already government health services in the U.S. and New Zealand are signaling interest in using bighwhitewall and buzzumi to provide similar services, he says.
buzzumi is headquartered in London but aims to be global from the start. The core team of four, brings together broad expertise from marketing at City Index and CMC Markets as well as technology work with SimpleName, , Ericsson, and the New Zealand police.
Before founding buzzumi, Marovitz served a variety of roles at Deutsche Bank, where he was the youngest managing director in the firm's history. He was chief information office for investment banking; managing director and chief operating officer of the eGCI- charged with developing and implementing online products for Deutsche Bank’s investment and commercial bank globally, and most recently a board member of the global transaction bank.
Prior to Deutsche Bank, Dan worked at iVillage. He was a member of the management team that took the firm public, at the time, the sixth largest IPO in the history of the US stock market. Before iVillage, Marovitz worked for Gateway 2000 where he served as the head of Gateway.com.
Marovitz says he believes that the opportunity for buzzumi is huge. There are literally millions of businesses in the world that are nominally some form of “consultancy” that can project themselves online with buzzumi, he says. Over time, the service will extend to offer more functionality dedicated to helping people sell “knowledge product.” The goal, says Marovitz, is to become “an ebay for knowledge and information.”
The company has been funded by the founders thus far but is in the middle of closing on a small round mostly from friends and family and high net worth individuals. As the company scales it will seek institutional money.