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October 3, 2000


Inc. Magazine Rates BigVine Web Site Tops

In the October issue of Inc. magazine, a group of 20 CEO's of mid-size companies viewed six barter web sites and then proclaimed BigVine's site to be the them the highest grade in all six categories! The categories included: ease of use, inventory; security/comfort, customer service, pricing, and value delivered for the price.

The other barter sites graded were: BarterTrust; iSolve; Lassobucks; TargetBarter; and Ubarter.

"Direct Connect" Model Another Area Of Concern For Barter Industry

Changes come from many angles. And the barter industry isn't immune to such evolvement. A new forum that allows airlines, and others, to sell travel directly to corporations could prove to be a formidable and considerable competitor.

The new system, GetThere Inc. is a business-to-business travel marketplace and marks a significant shift in travel distribution. In short, by selling direct, airlines, hotels, and car-rental agencies bypass traditional computer reservations systems like Sabre, Worldspan LP and Galileo International (all of which provide schedule and fare information, process bookings, and charge fees for each transaction.)

Those fees can cost travel suppliers--airlines, hotels, and car-rental companies--as much as $50 to $100 a trip. Gadi Maier, CEO of GetThere, a Menlo Park (CA) internet travel company, says selling travel directly can cut distribution costs by 80%.

The push toward more direct selling comes as corporations increasingly bargain directly with their preferred suppliers in exchange for discounts. And the more "direct and streamlined" the process becomes for corporate America, the less they'll need outside it expansive reservation systems or the services of barter companies.

Will Private Labeling Cut Into Barter Sales?

Retailers continue to eye private labeling as a way to maximize profits from various products. The latest example is Wal-Mart selling its own brand of wine, under the Alcott Ridge Vineyards name for $6 to $7 a bottle, at 1,300 Wal-Mart stores around the world. (The private-labeled wine will be produced by the California-based Gallo winery.)

Look for national grocery chains to follow Wal-Mart's move. And as the private labeling trend expands there may be less inventory available in the barter marketplace.

Les French Gets "Ink" In The Wall Street Journal

Former ITEX corporate employee, Les French, received a huge write-up in the September 28th issue of The Wall Street Journal. The story covered his posting of internet messages about his former company which is publicly traded, and the subsequent libel suit by ITEX to stifle his online criticism.

According to the story, French filed a countersuit and the new ITEX management settled by agreeing to pay him $40,000. French used the funds to start John Does Anonymous.

French explained that his site serves as a kind of American Civil Liberties Union for investor chat rooms, devoted to protecting speech that is free and freewheeling--but not fraudulent or genuinely libelous--about public companies.

Here And There. . .

  • Yahoo and Barnes & Noble are dealing... Under a multi-year agreement banner ads and graphic boxes will send viewers to Barnes & from Yahoo's search engine. In return, Barnes & Noble has agreed to promote in its 551 stores an existing free internet service from Yahoo and Spinway, Inc., an internet marketing infrastructure company.

  • Trade exchanges are increasingly using IRTA's "Universal Currency" to trade with one trade this past week saw a large order of new refrigerators and dishwashers being traded from a client of a trade exchange located in Springfield, Virginia, to a lodge in one of America's top winter playgrounds--Vail, Colorado.

    The significance of such "hard product" being available on barter shows there is substantial client base growth taking place. As this critical mass of trader expansion continues, more valuable commoditieswill be available, which will fuel further growth. Consequently, the value of the aggregate barter network will increase exponentially.

  • Andersen Consulting is busy pursuing over 1,000 former employees with a type of barter currency offer...if a former employee had worked at least three years for Andersen they are eligible for special "loyalty e-units" which represent stakes in its new venture-capital investment unit.

  • More barter on the horizon... At this year's Annual Inc. 500 Conference (held in Vail, Colorado) the number-one issue on the minds of Inc. 500 CEO's is related to financing growth. And with the banks tightening up on credit to small and midsize companies, we'll see a credit squeeze which is certainly bullish for the barter industry.

  • Marriott Rewards, the hotelier's frequent-traveler program, is looking for a way to leverage its synergy with E*trade. (Earlier this year E*trade signed an agreement with Marriott which allowed the online brokerage firm's customers to earn Marriott Rewards points by depositing money in new accounts.)

    Now the new plan goes one step further--letting members of Marriott Rewards trade points for cash in an E*trade account. Details on the ratio of frequent-traveler points that will be traded for cash, and under what conditions, are still to be worked out.

    Bottomline message: The frequent traveler can look forward to obtaining more value for their business, as the many programs will morph into, essentially, cash rebates.

  • Insiders (directors of public corporations, and/or holders of large amounts of stock) are sending a message...and there is a divergence between Old Economy and New Economy insiders. The Old Economy, which concentrates on the New York Stock Exchange issues, is seeing a weekly sell to buy ratio of 3.31 to 1. The same ratio for (New Economy) stocks listed on the American Exchange and the NASDAQ is 0.45 and 1.68, respectively.

    Old Economy insiders were selling $26 of stock for every dollar bought in August, which is more bearish than for any other month over the past five years, according to

  • Sean "Puffy" Combs, a well-known and sometimes controversial recording artist, has entered into a barter transaction with, an internet hip-hop company. Combs will receive an equity stake in the closely held Hookt in exchange for forging a promotional and retail partnership where Hookt will handle Combs' Sean John clothing line and offer music from artists affiliated with his Bad Boy record label.

  • More people are sharing in a piece of the pie--potential ownership of public companies. About 10 million employees nationwide got stock options in 1999, ten times the level of seven years ago. Silicon Valley executives, newly-hired, are given stock options averaging 117,588 shares (valued at $685,234) according to a survey of businesses done earlier this year by the National Center for Employee Ownership.


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