September 19, 2018 12:00 pm

FX Group soft launch for mCart-powered platform aims to make the red carpet shoppable

Last night influencers along with executives from MasterCard and Evite, joined us for the  soft launch of the FX Group marketplace, powered by mCart. FX Group is a creative agency poised to ignite shoppable content in every medium with mCart’s stellar technology.

Be among the first to visit and shop the FX Group marketplace now!

On FX Group CEO Kristian Krempel, Mavatar co-founder and CEO Susan Akbarpour says, “He is someone who has his hand behind the content.”

The FX Group Aims to Monetize the Red Carpet

Krempel says, “They [major awards show] do a large red carpet build-up but it’s not monetized in any way, shape or form. [mCart] creates transparency immediately. I believe this is the next revolution and if the rest of Hollywood catches up at our pace, we’ll see.”

Lauded by industry insider publications like Fashionista, Apparel Resources, WWD, Fashion News and others we’re thrilled to offer the first marketplace for everyone from micro to mega influencers to use mCarts to make the most of their original content in any medium.

mCart is the Future of Influence Marketing and Advertising

mCart leverages AI and blockchain technology to introduce fairness, transparency and speed to maximize the reach of Content Publishers like you, who are truly responsible for influencing shoppers. The mCart platform provides all the necessary tools such as coupon validation, rebate, price drop alerts, look-a-likes, product locator, and over 100 innovative acquisition, retention and monetization features. Each of these features is designed to stop third-party tools publishers from replacing the content publisher’s cookies in the penultimate step, a practice that has contributed to a drastic margin of error in attribution analysis.

September 10, 2018 12:00 am

Understanding The Difference Between Influence Marketing And Influencer Marketing

It’s love at first sight: with your friend’s new sofa, or maybe your boss’s handbag. You want to know where you can get one, but you never get a chance to ask. Or maybe it’s a dress worn by a celebrity on the red carpet catches your eye. You sift through one Google search result after another to find it. You even post a picture on your social media, hoping friends can help.

Every time something like this happens, it represents not just a dissatisfied shopper, but also a lost sale. Monetizing the influence of these contexts, something I’ve been working toward within my own business, can be an enormous marketing opportunity. I call it “influence marketing.”

Influence marketing should not be confused with “influencer marketing,” which focuses on individuals pushing products to consumers. Instead, it’s about the power of content or context and empowering consumers with relevant data throughout the entire path to purchase, from brand awareness and consideration to purchase decision, which includes comparing products’ quality, price, popularity, proximity and even relatability.

In a world hyper-saturated with advertisements, an influencer waving a new “must have” lip gloss on Instagram can become just another part of the whirl. In contrast, influence marketing doesn’t push products but rather presents them in the context of a narrative. The success of eco-friendly marketing, like Patagonia’s “Don’t buy this jacket” campaign, shows the power of an authentic, positive narrative.

To create a shoppable world, we first need to categorize sources of influence.

Categorizing Influence

I divided influencers into three categories to better define my influence marketing concept: micro, macro and mega influencers.

What is the difference between influencer marketing and influence marketing?

Micro influencers are everyday people, including those we know, who typically have fewer than 10,000 followers. They create content, or what I call “shoppable context.” They are a powerful force with a high engagement rate: 80% of Americans seek recommendations before making a purchase. Spotting a sofa in the comfort and sincerity of your cousin’s house, for instance, creates a context that sells.

Despite their high engagement rate, micro influencers are not an official part of the value chain because they’re small fries, even if they could be considered the most powerful force in the aggregate.

Macro influencers range from social media notables with tens of thousands of followers to celebrities with tens of millions. This large and influential group has been one of the main drivers of influencer marketing so far. Because they advertise to a wider audience than micro influencers, brands often work with them through affiliate networks or agencies.

While there are many examples of macro influencers making tons of money from brand and product endorsements, it is often less clear how much sales they actually generate.

Take David Beckham, for instance. The former soccer player earned 30 million pounds annually from brand and product endorsements. From the affiliate sales point of view, based on our own experience with 30 top retailers and the traditional affiliate network’s average 5% commission rate, his endorsements should have created 600 million pounds gross merchandise value (GMV). But the reality is no one knows whether he’s overpaid or underpaid.

How much influence on brand sales does Beckham possess? Does his influence still sell after his contract ends? Maybe if he could accurately monetize his influence, he could afford to be more authentic, relevant and selective about his endorsements.

As we move from micro influencers toward macro influencers, we see higher potential payout opportunities, but experience less authenticity. Consumers could be more likely to trust their friends than David Beckham, as world-renowned as he may be.

In my opinion, as a former journalist and publisher, mega influence is created by a collective consciousness that influences consumers even more than superstars like Beckham do. Sources of mega influence include mainstream media, movies, TV, red carpet shows, festivals and experts. These influencers set trends, swaying millions of consumers with their content or context.

Studies show that video — be it a YouTube video or Hollywood blockbuster — profoundly influences product awareness, as people watch video not only for entertainment but also to learn about new trends. This influence drives people to buy, leveraging the power of storylines that create immediate and powerful emotional connections between consumers and products. Accurately monetizing this diffused mega influence has proven difficult because it’s impossible to accurately measure its extent.

Using Micro And Mega Influence

I previously mentioned that I believe blockchain has the power, DNA and bandwidth to make influence marketing a reality, scale digital marketing and enable micropayments. For micro influencers who are too small to get paid using traditional accounting and brand management, we use blockchain technology to automatically reward them with micropayments to realize peer-to-peer advertising, as GDPR and FCC limitations imposed on influencer marketing become a bottleneck.

We’ve found that mega influencers, who create shoppable content and engage with millions of consumers, can also see rewards via micropayments on blockchain. For instance, a movie studio could be instantaneously paid via blockchain for any sales generated by content connected to a film.

The benefits of blockchain-backed influence marketing for micro and mega influencers don’t necessarily exclude macro influencers. David Beckham could also leverage blockchain to support and endorse products he loves for his fans to shop. He would get a fair commission for the sales he generates, making his value more accurate, affordable and authentic.

There have been a number of blockchain-based technologies introduced to the industry, such as the new tech from Comcast’s Advanced Advertising Group that uses blockchain within a network of participants to allow brands to make media buys on both broadcast and over-the-top (OTT) TV. Computer giant IBM is another big player in the space, as reported in Forbes. But perhaps more exciting is the effect of this technology in pull model advertising.

I believe blockchain could become an industry standard to realize cross-pollination efforts between media, consumers and retailers to make the world around us shoppable and track influence to sales dollars.

Mavatar co-founder and CEO Susan Akbarpour is a contributor for Forbes CommunityVoice series, where this article originally appeared.

September 2, 2018 12:00 pm

Highlighting Our CEO Among Other Iranian-Americans in Tech in “Decoding Silicon Valley” Series

Iranian-American diaspora after Iran’s revolution played a notable role in world of technology, especially in the U.S.

Renowned scientists such as Professor Ali Javan, who was the first to propose the concept of the gas laser in 1959 and Professor Lotfi Zadeh, who was best known for proposing fuzzy mathematics with undeniable applications in technology, economics, education, construction and many other multi trillion dollars industries. Maryam Mirzakhani; the first woman to ever win the Nobel Prize for Mathematics to Anousheh Ansari, the first female space traveler, Pierre Omidyar, eBay founder; Dara Khosroshahi, Uber CEOSassan Goudarzi, Intuit CEO and many others; are all belong to the Iranian- American community that according to the Iranian American Contribution Project database and Wikipedia, are among the highest-educated people in the United States.

Learn more at Iranian Americans’ Contribution Project.

Decoding Silicon Valley, showcases some of the successful Iranian entrepreneurs and VCs working in technology and examines their key to success. The series boasts viewership of 5–6 million young Iranians and is available to download for free. Decoding Silicon Valley offers an exciting inside look at Farsi-speaking Iranians working in tech and is produced by IranWire. IranWire is a media outlet focusing on citizen journalists, enabling a community of young Iranian journalists with a place to discuss local and global news in one place.

Mavatar co-founders Brom Mahbod and Susan Akbarpour discuss projects at their Silicon Valley office in Menlo Park.

The first 25 minutes episode of the Decoding Silicon Valley video series features Mavatar co-founder and CEO, Susan Akbarpour along with other Iranian-American tech figures. Akbarpour discusses shifts we’ve seen in work culture in Silicon Valley versus old, outdated methods of working. She also discusses the best mix of Iranian culture and family values which center around education and hard work with those of her adopted country. She believes that these practices morph with Silicon Valley’s culture of sharing, transparency and tolerance that has led to all of the accomplishments that we are witnessing coming from this community.

Mavatar co-founder and CEO Susan Akbarpour appears the Iran Wire series, Decoding Silicon Valley.

Akbarpour explains how transparency led to new forms of incubators, accelerators and open platform workplaces in the valley where multiple companies share space and resources without the fear of giving away their secrets. “The workplace is really your second home; I’m spending over 10–12 hours of the days here, so it’s not fair to go to a depressing and isolated place everyday.” Collaboration even beyond the border of your own company, bring-your-pup-to-work days and working outside of traditional work hours are all part of startup life for Iranians like all other tech gurus experience as a way life in Silicon Valley.

There are thousands of young Iranians who want to better understand the key to success of their expatriots and how their fellow expatriates are navigating the fast-paced space in Silicon Valley: the utopia of entrepreneurship for millions of innovators around the world . The series goes beyond living and working in technology and also aims to, “to highlight the importance of the values ​​that bring about the success of technology companies in this habitat. Values ​​such as: appreciating failure, tolerance, transparency and sharing, and the important role of minorities, especially women and immigrants in shaping Silicon Valley,” according to the site.

Recently Intuit announced its CEO is stepping down and will be replaced with Iranian Sasan Goodzari. Goodzari’s current role focuses on QuickBooks Online, which primarily serves the self-employed and small businesses. Goodzari’s global insight is expected to serve him well as he takes on the top position at a company with several well-known technologies. Born in Tehran, Goodzari said, “It was an amazingly tough childhood that shaped a lot of what I am today. It shaped me in terms of being a dreamer and also in appreciating diversity.”

The TechCrunch piece discussing Iranian Dara Khosrowani, who served as CEO of Expedia and now serves in the same outpost for Uber. “Venture capitalist Pejman Nozad, who was practically penniless and unable to speak English when he moved to the U.S. from Iran in 1992, says that neither Khosrowshahi’s success, nor that of his extended network, should come as a shock to anyone who knows how Iranian families tend to operate — putting family and friends first, followed closely by a dedication to study, particularly of math and science.”

Shortly after moving to Uber, WIRED interviewed Khosrowani, who said, “When you’ve lost everything, and my family really did lose everything, you learn that loss is a part of life.” It’s this ability to regroup and persevere that makes Iranians ideal for an ever-shifting industry filled with highs and lows.

IranWire is sure to give young people an honest and fresh look at the movers-and-shakers working in Silicon Valley to develop new technologies and elevate well-known products as they take on new leadership roles.

Watch the first episode here.

September 2, 2018 12:00 am


Susan Akbarpour is CEO and co-founder of Mavatar, the company behind mCart, a blockchain-powered platform that connects consumers, retailers, and influencers.

She’s spent the last 30 years working as an entrepreneur, investor, and product developer, and has built four companies along the way while guiding many more.

We sat down with her to talk about blockchain, its impact on advertising, and what will happen when the whole world is “shoppable.”

What does blockchain technology mean for your business?

Blockchain may be a buzzword, but it’s helped us solve a huge problem and bottleneck.

Last year, we visited the top retailers to tell them we’d created an Uber for retail sales — a platform that makes the world shoppable in a user-friendly way.

These retailers took one look at the technology and said, “Sounds good, but how do we deal with all the influencers behind this content? The more influencers promoting our products, the more we’ll have to spend on back-office services.”

The only way we could make our platform scalable was to utilize blockchain to tokenize the system. The technology lets us create an immutable smart contract between multiple parties in a transaction. This means we can handle innumerable settlements and micropayments in a fair and transparent way. As a result, we now work with a lot of top retailers, including Walmart.

That’s how blockchain worked for us. It helped us bring our solution to market and remove any barriers to adoption. It truly saved us.

One big challenge for companies like yours is separating the reality of blockchain technology from the hype. How do we get people to focus on its real value?

There’s a lot of doubt and hype around blockchain because only a very small number of platforms are actually making practical use of it.

This is exactly like in the 90s when a lot of people were talking about the internet but most didn’t understand how the internet protocol works.” Fast-forward to today, and most of us still don’t know how the internet protocol works, but we’re all using the applications that are built on top of that protocol.

The challenge is to make more easy-to-use applications, then adoption will rise.

User experience designers have a huge responsibility here. They need to push the complexity of blockchain to the back end and make the front end more user-friendly.

Speaking of the applications of blockchain, how will advertisers be able to use it?

There are loads of applications for the blockchain, but its best use is removing the bottlenecks and middlemen from a platform or ecosystem.

Now that we can see who’s done what for a top retailer, we can cut affiliate networks out of the equation and give brands the ability to reward their influencers fairly and at scale.

In advertising, it’s time to be fair and it’s time to be transparent. We’re inundated by so much noise and our lives are cluttered with so much information that we have to process.

Now, with the arrival of blockchain, this won’t be as much of an issue. Brands will make a lot of money by cutting the cost of sales and marketing and shifting their marketing dollars to best-performing channels, but only if they’re fair and transparent.

Can you explain how blockchain technology will benefit influencers?

Today, content publishers have to endure a series of painful affiliate sales processes to monetize their content.

I’m talking about things like stiff technology integration and approval processes, expiring cookies, outdated tracking techniques with a high margin of errors — the list goes on and on.

At the end of all this, they still haven’t made that much money. This breaks my heart, as I know creating content isn’t easy. It’s unfair that middlemen are giving the results of influencers’ hard work to what I call “last-click hijackers.”

With blockchain, we can attribute a sale to the content publishers that did the most important job. This is going to change everything because until now, influencer marketing had only ever targeted a fraction of influencers out there — macro influencers. Now we can serve micro- and mega-influencers and that’s a huge opportunity.

What first inspired your interest in blockchain? Had you always envisioned blockchain technology being an integral part of your business?

Our blockchain, and the tokenization of our system, was the brainchild of Shayan Zadeh, Mavatar’s executive chairman. He founded Zoosk and was one of the early adopters of blockchain technology.

He saw how the micropayment issue was blocking adoption of our technology and suggested blockchain as a potential solution at one of our board meetings. It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.

Can you tell us a bit more about your life before blockchain? How did you get into software development?

My first project, Teksia, connected the financial resources and best practices in Silicon Valley with entrepreneurs around the world. It was a brilliant and formative experience for me as I built a very strong network of decision makers and technology influencers.

Then we created Linkore, a management consulting company with three major focuses — executive search, investors, and customer relationship management. In essence, it was a concierge service for startups. We were helping them find the right connections, deals, and resources.

I was involved in software UI/UX design at both companies. I ran them with my brother, a software and hardware engineer, and we couldn’t afford to buy much software so we decided to build our own.

I come from a desktop publishing and design background, so my job was designing applications for our businesses; things like a résumé bank, event management systems, and networking software.

Then, when I went to Stanford Graduate School of Business, I realized there was an opportunity to optimize the advertising industry. When I was a publisher, one question I could never answer was, “How can I calculate the ROI of an ad in our publication?” I thought it was time that technology answered this question because it’s a fair one. Everyone tracking advertising dollars to sales dollars needs a precise answer.

What made you pursue a career in advertising?

I’ve been living in the advertising world for almost my entire life. My parents were very entrepreneurial and forward-thinking and launched what I believe was the first advertising agency in Iran.

They also worked as publishers and I followed in their footsteps. I started my own publications and this brought me into contact with advertisers. I also spent some time working as an advertiser myself.

Working on both the buy and sell sides has made it easier for me to picture a win-win situation for everyone involved in the industry.

How has advertising changed since your parents’ day?

The sad truth is: not a lot. Most brands today are still pushing a “get it or regret it” type of push advertising in the hope that consumers will make a purchase decision faster. We have to ditch this paradigm and embrace pull advertising. This means attracting customers with content and empowering them to make smarter decisions at their own pace.

Susan speaks at RampUp Chicago ’18 on September 9th. Interested in knowing how to apply blockchain to your digital marketing strategy? Register for RampUp on the Road Chicago to hear Susan speak about this topic!