Posts in: Uncategorized

Gmail: Super Clear Buttons

December 23rd, 2010

I was just using Gmail and was closing my window, when Google gave me this warning:

Your standard error message would say “Cancel” or “Continue”. I would typically support minimalism, but in this case, saying more makes me think less – and decide what I’d like to do faster.

“Operation Payback”: DDoS Against Fax Machines

December 21st, 2010

In retaliation against Amazon, MasterCard, PayPal and others for blocking WikiLeaks from using their service – Anonymous has launched an attack against their fax machines (see Slashdot).  The goal: occupy the numbers so legitimate faxes can’t go through, which disrupts day to day businesses operations.

j2Global doubles down on online faxing: $213 million dollar purchase

December 21st, 2010

Last week, one of our competitors was purchased for $213 million. The buyer: j2Global (the parent company of eFax).

Portus IP Solutions’ had $72 million of revenue per year and 81% of that revenue came from online faxing. With the purchase,  j2Global now owns 44% of the online faxing market (LA Business Journal).

An Obituary

When Protus stood up to eFax, we also benefited. In 2009, eFax claimed exclusive use of the word “eFax” – even though its a generic term. Protus challenged them in court and won. If they had lost, it would have been like Ford owning the trademark for “car” or “automobile”.  There are no major competitors left to eFax (see my previous post on eFax’s customer service).

Market Validation

On the other hand, this purchase represents major market validation. Online faxing still provides tremendous value to individuals and small businesses. In fact, it’s projected to grow 15.5% and 11.1% for businesses and individuals (Davidson Consulting).


Protus doesn’t do anything spectacular. They don’t revolutionize online faxing, legal documents, signatures or the transfer of important documents.  Yet, they still managed to have huge revenue and a significant purchase price.  That’s good news for us, as we have some technology in the works which add significantly more value to the faxing and legal document space.

Conveying a persona on your pricing page

December 16th, 2010

You can have something that conveys a status / persona onto the buyer (from

Or functional and stale (earth class mail):

Or conversational and personal (basecamp):

Why I’ll never forget DropBox: Power of Desktop Integration

December 12th, 2010

After a simple signup, I’m reminded of dropbox everyday. They placed 2 icons on my desktop computer.

Dropbox’s brilliant engagement

December 11th, 2010

Dropbox has a brilliant way of engaging users in their application and getting them to share with friends. They even committed an entire tab to it.

If you complete 5 of the 6 tasks, you can get a reward – which is more storage. Note, your reward is their reward. More storage means more engagement.

Regardless, take a look at the requirements and you can understand their priorities: learning (how does the app work), permanence (downloading it to your desktop) and sharing (social marketing).

Usability Changes to the Interface

December 8th, 2010

Simplicity and usability is key to what we’re building.

Here is what “Send A Fax” used to look like.

We intentionally built 3 input boxes. The first 2 boxes are the same length, because they represent 3 digits each. The last one is longer, because it’s 4 digits.

Why is that important? Because it’s a visual que. Without reading, a visitor might understand that we need a 10 digit number.

Here is the re-design (we still need to make it nice looking):

We discovered a problem with the previous design. Because of the 3 boxes, our users couldn’t cut and paste into it. They’d have to remember the number or re-visit our site several times. That’s really annoying.

We could have implemented a cut and paste, which would have worked with the split boxes. However, even though our visitors could functionally cut and paste, they might not understand that it’s possible — and never try.

We went for the single box.  Hope you like it.

Having a Better Service Doesn’t Mean You Win

December 2nd, 2010

It’s astonishing how some businesses manage to make so much money, while completely bungling their customer service, support, and pricing system.

As we do market research, we hear over and over, “I hate eFax.” The statement comes with a lot of oomph, like they really mean it. Here’s what someone told me yesterday:

“I still think I have an [efax] account. I’m paying for it, I think.”

How do you not know if you’re paying for a service? How is that possible?  Because once you’re in, eFax makes it extremely difficult for you to cancel.

Financial and business momentum is huge; and eFax benefits from both. When entrepreneurs talk about competing with a corporate juggernaut, they often think it will be enough to just make a more customer friendly, usable, and simply better service. If you build something, people will come – because in a vacuum, their service is better.

But, the things that make sense in life, don’t always make sense online. Read “For DecorMyEyes, Bad Publicity is a Good Thing,” about a site owner that builds back links by harassing his clients. While I don’t imagine that eFax is being deliberate, even complaints about its service increases it rank for high volume search keywords.

In addition, lots of customers, paying unreasonable high prices (sometimes without knowing it) supports a higher ROI per user – which also increases eFax’s high AdWords budget.  And, there’s more, which I’ll talk about more in future posts.

Regardless, what lesson do I take from this? Don’t be lazy. Even though a competitor has an antiquated and byzantine service does not mean you have an easy opponent.

Comic of the Day #5 [picture]

November 13th, 2010

Comic of the Day #3 [picture]

November 11th, 2010