Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

On January 1, I left a perfectly excellent executive position at Eric Mower + Associates to embark on my second startup. The first one, MicroMass Communications, was launched in 1994 based on some exciting academic work I was involved with at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. We were a pioneer in one-to-one marketing then and the company is still a leader in relationship marketing for the healthcare sector today.

My new venture is called tuzag and it represents the convergence of disparate passions pursued throughout my career. We are focused on solving two related challenges that, together, will completely disrupt your expectations of online commerce and entertainment.

The first challenge isn’t fundamentally different than we faced with MicroMass: creating a viable, scalable means of matching marketers and consumers in a way that helps consumers buy faster and establish lasting, loyal connections with brands. To that end, tuzag will focus on creating unique consumer purchase blueprints, a Genome for learning, shopping and buying behaviors if you will, that are addressable by marketers via individually tailored online display and video ads. 

Of course, mapping the Shopper Genome requires a laboratory of sufficient breadth and fidelity to ensure that consumers are willing to participate and that there are enough of them to attract marketers.  For that, we’ll take on a second massively hairy challenge. tuzag will be the first seamlessly integrated integrated TV network for the Social Age.

tuzag will offer content producers a way to easily create immersive content that links intuitively to eCommerce, social media and related online content. Consumers gain access to an engaging, interactive online entertainment and shopping experience woven directly into their social graphs in return for creating private, secure eHarmony-like profiles that provide marketers with a means of reaching the right consumers at the right time with individually tailored messages that accelerate the buying process. There are a lot of established companies and startups hovering around the connected/interactive/social TV space, but they’re all focused on attaching their idea to the existing Cable/Hollywood/Madison Ave. infrastructure. The right solution, I believe, requires complete disruption; incremental tweaks to an archaic model will water down great concepts until they’re ho-hum for the consumer and toothlessly subservient to the existing power structure.

So, sure, either of these challenges would be monumental in scope and mind-numbingly difficult on its own. Together, they represent the biggest rock I’ve attempted to push up and over a hill in my career. But I’m convinced they are symbiotic sides of the same coin and that tuzag’s best competitive advantage is precisely the difficulty of pulling this off. I enter this fray with my eyes open and the confidence that the past 30 years have adequately prepared me to bring tuzag to market with an exciting, universe-denting solution that delivers the next generation of personalized eCommerce and interactive entertainment in the very near future.

In the coming months, I’ll use this space to share the good, the bad and the ugly of turning the idea into an actual company (tuzag, inc. was born on January 7, 2013). Marketing stuff will live on our website, www.tuz.ag; join me here to share the travails of an interesting journey.

Whenever my life hits a new plot point and changes directions, I pull out my Robert Frost anthology and re-read “The Road Not Taken.” Please click through for the entire passage, but since this post’s title references Henry V’s pre-battle prep talk, it’s probably best to end with something a tad more pastoral…:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.