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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Tumri, a throwback to my days at Impulse! Buy Network

Posted by direwolff on May 22, 2007

After reading the following VentureBeat post about Tumri back on May 7th, I wrote the following comments:

Talk about a case of “Back to the Future”, back in 1997 a company called Impulse! Buy Network was built on this very premise. It was sold to Inktomi in April of ‘99 for $115M, which at the time provided Softbank Ventures (Mobius) w/the best ROI of their portfolio for that year. It was before the term widgets was in vogue and these ads were called “barkers”. Yahoo!, AOL, ComputerShopper, Disney’s GO Network, AT&T Worldnet, and a host of other major portals were affiliates and displayed these product driven ads targeted to whatever section on their web site they were placed (ie. sports products targeted to sports content on the portal). Yes, contextual ad targeting before Google had released AdSense.

This was a merchandising network, with such merchants as J.Crew, K-mart, and over 200 others feeding product offers into the network. These product offers could also be paired up w/such selling methods as “falling price offer”, “auction”, “limited time offer”, and so on.

Anyway, Inktomi ended up combining Impulse! w/their C2B acquisition (a competitor to MySimon and Junglee at the time) of an early comparison shopping engine. This made tons of sense because if you consider, having products in a comparison shopping engine or as product offers on widgets, these are simply applications of a product database. Hmmm…I wonder if a similar fate awaits these latest entrants?

Funny to see these apps coming back strong. I should also note that at that time Accel passed on investing in the company, so I’m guessing this time around they didn’t want to miss it again ;)

Well, in catching the following press release that Tumri had teamed up with online performance based direct marketing agency NETexponent to offer their widgets, I started seeing the second leg of what Impulse! ended up moving towards over time.  Because some of the portals at the time wanted to control which merchants would be allowed to appear on their site, and they liked the Impulse! platform and administrative features for giving merchants more control for handling this themselves, Impulse! began to license a branded closed version of its open network functionality where merchant would be permissioned by the portal and only appear across those other web properties that the portal company wanted (as opposed to across the entire Impulse! Buy Network).  Disney’s GO! Network was the first licensee of this model.  It would not be such a leap to see Tumri enter into relationships with networks of sites like the New York Times Co. or Yahoo! or Viacom, that want to offer the Tumri capability as an added product to offer their advertisers.  After all, this is basically the combination of advertising and affiliate models.

In looking over Tumri’s list of advisors, I see three ex-Inktomi folks but none of them were from the Impulse! acquisition, which leads me to believe that they may be missing out on some of the valuable lessons gleaned from the first iteration of this merchandising business model.  People like Mark Goldstein, DC Cullinane, Richard Ling or Scott Cahill, would have been invaluable resources for them to have included among this group.

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