A Framed First Dollar for the Internet Age

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Or, the most awesomely nerdy conference table ever.

ConferenceTAble.jpg

You know those framed dollar bills you see in some businesses that commemorate the first money they ever made? Well, this is sort of an update to that concept for the Internet era. 

Above we see Cleveland-based SparkBase's conference table. The components of their first servers were built into the wood of the table by the founder of the company, Douglas Hardman, and his brother. Hell of a way to commemorate the start that you got in digital biz.

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SparkBase is a nice success story. They've been hiring like crazy in Cleveland, particularly in the last year and a half and are up to 50 people working out of their new offices. They're one of several middleware vendors in the retail space that are emerging to collect and analyze retail data.

"If you have a loyalty, gift, or reward card in your pocket, there are 4 or 5 networks that process those transactions. We're one of them," said Hardman. 

They can offer sophisticated analytics on merchants' customers retail spending habits, which can then be used to fine-tune promotions.

"I can say about [a customer], our research and all the other programs he's listed in say that he actions more often on a percent-off offer. And we can say that his average purchase is $5. So, instead of sending him a $1 off coupon, I can send him a 20 percent off coupon. He's more likely to use that, even though it's the same monetary value," Hardman said said. "It's all about data analytics and getting people to shop at the stores that they're shopping at more often and merchants rewarding their customer base."

They're now building what he calls "a transaction engine" by integrating their network with merchants. They expect to be up and running with 500,000 businesses by next year.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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