Differences Between a Dive Bar and Club

In the United States, 21 is the magical age. Once a person turns 21, the world is practically opened up to her, and there aren’t any more age restrictions to worry about. One of the first things that a new 21-year-old typically wants to do is bar hop. However, there are a lot of different bars out there to choose from, and it can be a bit intimidating the first time around. Knowing what to expect from certain types of bars is handy and helps a person feel more relaxed.

Dive bars are popular among the younger age groups for various reasons. Dive bars tend to be much more relaxed, meaning they don’t require a cover charge and don’t have dress standards. For example, a Nob Hill dive bar might have a crowd full of college-age students wearing jeans and t-shirts. Dive bars also tend to have fairly cheap drinks and have a community feel among them. Although rare today, some dive bars might be so casual that they only accept cash for drinks.

Beer bars are a type of specialty bar. These bars specialize in offering a wide variety of beers for patrons to try. While most of them also serve cocktails, the main drink to try is a beer from their extensive list. This is a place to go for beer-lovers, and the age crowd at beer bars tends to be a little older.

Clubs are bars that also offer dancing and entertainment. Clubs are popular for their exciting nightlife, good music, and attractive customers. Clubs, unlike beer bars, rarely offer a wide variety of beer, but usually offer an extensive list of cocktails and hard alcohol. Most clubs have a dress code, so it’s important to know what to wear before trying to get in. Additionally, clubs usually require a cover charge in order to get in for the night.

Lessons Learned From An E-Commerce Adventure

It is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all; and even more important to learn from your mistakes.

That is what I keep telling myself after having invested the time and cash equivalent to a Harvard MBA in an e-commerce start-up that has stalled and is winding down. Not a happy prospect in light of all the media pre-occupation with e-commerce success stories and the young millionaires watching their IPOs rocket into cyberspace. But the headlines ignore the more frequent stories of new e-commerce businesses that do not hit the stock market jackpot. Many of them either settle into a low-key niche or exhaust their resources and fold.

This is the story of an Internet venture that did not make the headlines, but offers some useful insights for entrepreneurs evaluating their own initiatives. The lessons learned are applicable to your own new venture or to an investment in someone else’s.

In mid-1998 we launched a new company called nxtNet (www.nxtnet.com) with the slogan … “taking you to the next level on the Internet”.

My partner and I both had prior successful entrepreneurial experience in computer products and wanted to start a new venture together. We decided to develop a business that would catch the next wave of e-commerce services for mid-sized companies seeking to do business on the Internet. After long discussions, searches for a unique service offering, and many draft business plans, we developed a market strategy and then chose Intershop Communications as our software development platform. This product had the advantages of being suitable for single or multiple online storefronts, and offered a flexible, economic and comprehensive solution. We committed to the product, staffing, facilities and equipment to start training and development immediately. The two of us provided the time and cash required to get started.

By October 1998, we had an initial product with application as an online storefront for an associated computer business. At the same time, we realized that the application had wide appeal to other computer dealers and could be sold as a multi-user database service and e-commerce resource. We had developed a consolidated catalogue of 85,000 computer products from multiple distributor product databases that allowed rapid search and comparison for product information, pricing, and current sources. Users could access the catalogue from the Internet and find a product by manufacturer, category, and part number, key word or price range and immediately see the alternate sources and prices with links to more technical information, preferred dealer pricing and actual stock levels. Additional features allowed the catalogue to be customized so that any computer reseller could present the database as his own online storefront. This option offered all the search and product information features to his customers, but showed only retail pricing and enabled the online ordering process.

The product offering quickly received positive feedback and strong indications of support from all the participants – resellers, distributors, and manufacturers. It was a comprehensive, powerful, and effective tool for buying and selling at all levels within the Canadian computer distribution channel. Resellers recognized the value in an online resource to save time and effort. Distributors and manufacturers saw the opportunity to promote their products, and major publishers in the industry wanted to offer complementary online services to their subscribers and advertisers. How could we fail with all this enthusiasm and support?

While the potential for success clearly existed, everybody had the same questions and reservations – “Who is there now?” “How many are using it?” and “I don’t want to pay until it’s bigger”.

Reasonable objections we thought, so we added features and content for free. We promoted the product with free trials and low cost subscriptions for reseller access. Then we coaxed, persuaded, sold hard, and made deals. The “contra” became the standard for obtaining press coverage, free ads, mailing lists and promotion in exchange for free participation and future consideration. Activity on the Web site and catalogue grew to 3000 visitors per month with over 800 subscribers and the distributor list increased from three to twelve.

But revenue remained near zero as most reseller subscribers declined to pay for the service. Reasons were “it should be free – let the advertisers pay”, “I don’t use it enough”, “there are lower cost options”, or “we built our own solution”. The audience did not grow fast enough even after we offered it for free, to satisfy the advertisers and content providers. Without persistent and conspicuous sales and marketing efforts, all the participants quickly lost interest. Meanwhile the costs of database maintenance, ongoing development, site hosting, Internet access, sales, marketing, and administration were increasing.

Clearly the old entrepreneurial model of controlling costs and growing revenue was not going to apply. We had to realign our profile to show how zero revenue and high initial costs could still lead to significant investment returns like other well-known Internet ventures. So from early 1999 we started an aggressive search for financing, estimating our requirements at $500,000 to $1,500,000 over the next two years before achieving positive cash flow. More business plans, spreadsheets, and glossy presentations to demonstrate future valuations up to $20 million, even $40 million.

We knocked on many doors, from banks to government agencies, from angel investors to venture capital, from stock promoters to business consultants, and again received lots of encouragement, but no financing. So the founding partners were faced with a continuing cash drain, no relief in sight, and the limits of their own resources rapidly approaching. It was time to put the project on hold. Strategic partners or investors might still be developed to proceed with the project, but the ongoing expenditures were stopped in late 1999.

So what are the lessons learned? We already knew that nothing ventured, nothing gained. We now also knew that big successes in the new economy require big investments. Entrepreneurs may start small, but large investments will be required from new sources to achieve significant success. And no one will put significant money into a venture unless it is the only remaining requirement.

The concept, product, development, marketing and staffing all have to be in place before an investor will provide the final ingredient – his cash. Exceptions are likely only where the management team has already succeeded in the same arena, or the investor himself can deliver the missing elements, such as customers or management skills. No investor is going to take the chance that the entrepreneur with a good concept or product will also be able to deliver the required management and marketing skills to succeed, after he has the cash.

Next time we will know better. And there are side benefits from this expensive learning experience. I can now admit that with the knowledge gained through our association with Intershop Communications, I was confident enough to make an investment in their stock on the German Neue Markt at 65 Euros last year. It went over 400 Euros last month and is still rising with their rapid growth and the prospect of a NASDAQ listing this year. Almost enough to recover my investment in nxtNet.

So the most important lesson is that education in the new economy is essential, and not free, but it can lead to success outside the original plan. Learn, be aware, and be aggressively opportunistic.

The Differences Between SodaStream Models

Many people want to get a SodaStream but have no idea which model is best for them. It can be difficult to choose, especially when the SodaStream company has no information highlighting the differences between the models. Here is a brief overview explaining which features are unique to the models.

There are currently eight SodaStream models available. They are The Revolution, The Source, The Fizz, The Crystal, The Pure, The Fountain Jet, The Dynamo and The Genesis. First, let's address the similarities of all eight types. All of the eight models can make soda or sparkling water in the convenience of your home. All come with "stay fizzy" bottle closures that keep the carbonation in longer. All are compatible with the standard 14.5 ounce carbonation cylinder which is capable of carbonating up to sixty liters of soda or sparkling water.

There are four models which are capable of using either the 14.5 ounce carbonation cylinder or the larger 33 ounce cylinder, which is capable of carbonating up to 130 liters of soda or sparkling water. These four models are The Revolution, The Dynamo, The Fountain Jet and The Fizz.

All eight models use the CO2 tank as a power source to carbonate. The Crystal, The Pure, The Dynamo, The Fountain Jet and The Genesis require no additional power source to operate. The Fizz and The Source do require a battery to operate the display components. That battery is included. The Revolution is the only model which requires electricity to work. Keep this in mind, as it will need to be near an outlet when used.

The Crystal comes with a dishwasher safe glass carafe. The other seven models come with BPA-free plastic bottles that are not dishwasher safe. You can buy dishwasher safe bottles separately that are compatible with those seven models, but you can not use the glass carafe with any model other than the Crystal.

The Dynamo, The Fountain Jet, The Pure, The Fizz and The Genesis all require the user to twist the bottle into place. The Crystal, The Revolution and The Source all lock the bottle into place without twisting, making them a little easier to use.

There is only one fully automated SodaStream available at this time. That is The Revolution. You simply press a button to tell it how carbonated you would like your drink and it does the rest for you. It also measures the CO2 levels to let you know how much is left in your carbonation cylinder. The Fizz is not automated but it does monitor and display the amount of carbonation in your drink as well as the level of CO2 in your cylinder. The Source has three LED lights to let you know how much carbonation is in your drink, but does not monitor the CO2 left in your cylinder.

I hope I have shed some light on what makes each SodaStream model unique. Click HERE for more information on SodaStreams and to see how the different models look. Remember, this will probably sit on your counter at all times, so you'll want something that looks good in your kitchen.

Disadvantages to Cruise Ship Travel

Cruise ship travel is not for everybody. Although many enjoy cruises, some travelers prefer other types of vacations. Before going on a cruise, take time to consider whether or not this is the best method of travel for you. Be sure to research information about the specific companies you are considering as well as read reviews from other customers. Also consider talking to those you know who have traveled on cruises before and see if it sounds like something you would enjoy. It is important to get more information than just a recommendation from someone. What one person finds fun, you may not, so it is important to find out why a person did or did not enjoy a cruise ship experience.

Some do not enjoy cruises simply because of the nature of traveling on a boat. Those who are prone to motion sickness may not enjoy being on a boat because of the high likelihood of experiencing sea sickness. Severity differs for everybody, and sea sickness usually is not serious, but it can still be an unpleasant experience and can ruin a vacation. Consider whether or not this is something that concerns you. Medications and wrist bands help some who suffer from sea sickness, but they are not effective for everyone. For some people, sea sickness runs its course relatively quickly, but only you can decide whether or not this is a possibility you are willing to face.

Others are afraid to cruise because of the possibility of the boat sinking. Only you can decide whether or not you are a person who worries about this possibility. It may help to do some research. Any type of travel has inherent risks, of course. Some are terrified of airplane travel but sill travel on cruises. Others travel frequently on airplanes but would not consider going on a cruise. It is true that being on a boat is a different kind of experience than any other form of travel. Some are not so worried about the boat sinking but are afraid of being out in open water, unable to see the shoreline. Only you can decide whether or not being on the ocean bothers you.

Perhaps the most common fear of cruises in the last decade has been based on the media coverage of viral outbreaks on cruise ships. In the last couple years, this problem has improved, but most travelers are familiar with outbreaks of viruses such as the Norwalk virus. These viruses run rampant on cruise ships because of the large number of people in close proximity to one another for extended periods of time. Although general precautions can certainly decrease a persons’ chances of catching a virus on a cruise ship, it is true that illnesses are more difficult to avoid on a boat.

Along with viruses, crime on cruise ships has also been widely publicized. It is important to research each cruise line and get accurate statistics. Also, read reviews and information to learn how incidents are handled, and make sure you understand the level of security that will be present on the ship. Fortunately, most crime committed on cruise ships is property crime rather than violent crime, and this is relatively common with any type of travel.