Almost Famous: Savings.com's Loren Bendele

A new feature wherein All Things Digital looks at up-and-coming and innovative start-ups you should know about.

This week: A lunch date with, some questions for and a few pertinent stats about Loren Bendele and his deal-finding social network, Savings.com, just in time for the holiday shopping wars!

Bendele-image

Who: Loren Bendele

What: CEO of Savings.com.

Why: Savings.com combines a Web 1.0-style coupon site with social networking and crowd sourcing to create live lists of discounts offered by over 4,000 major online retailers.

And, gasp, the site is profitable.

Where: Savings.com/about (corporate bio); Santa Monica, Calif. (analog place); No Twitter profile (egads!).

Who else: couponcabin.com, retailmenot.com.


Five Stats You Won’t Find in His Facebook Profile

Worst Job: Bag boy at a Tom Thumb supermarket outside Dallas, Texas. “I was good though. I always got awards for being the fastest.”

Has a Business Crush on: Yelp.

Gadget of the Moment: iPhone from Apple (AAPL). “I love the Flight Tracker app. It’s a game–all about control.”

Wishes There Was an App for: “I know exactly what I want: A simple app where I can assign levels of importance to contacts. The app would remind me when I haven’t called them in a while. Like, some people I want to call once a week, or a month or a quarter. Just something that helps me keep up relationships.”

Fails at: Details. “I hire others who are much better at that.”


Bio in 140 Characters

Born outside of Dallas, TX. Chem Eng @Texas A&M. Dow Chemical, then to Teleflora, via consulting firms. Became CEO of Savings.com in 2007.


The Five Questions

Isn’t your model a little too “Pets.com, Web 1.0 bubble” to work?

It is sort of Web 1.0. But really, it’s a social network connecting deal fanatics. So, connecting people who are passionate and knowledgeable about getting great deals.

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Some people engage at a very deep level with their own blogs and interaction. We call them our “deal pros.” You can also just come to the site and see what deals are being [rated as the best] by those deal pros. It’s based on votes of the people in the community.

What is this I hear about you being profitable? Don’t you know the start-up rules?

Well, our revenue model was important from the start. We make money because we partner with the retailers whose deals show up on our site. When someone sees a deal on our site, they click the link and go to [for instance] the Gap (GPS) Web site and buy something, we get paid.

We have relationships with 4,000 plus merchants–all of the top online merchants, and when a deal gets uploaded to our site [by a deal pro] we attach a tracking ID to that deal and report it to the merchant. I’m driving over $4 million per month to our top merchants. I’m the top sales driver for a lot of them.

We’ve been profitable since September 2007.

What is the single biggest immediate growth area for Savings.com?

International. We opened a site in England that has been growing like crazy. We had been doing it all from the U.S., with no team over there. You can do a lot remotely, but you can’t make those partner relationships, being face to face, getting the exclusive deals.

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You can’t take them out to lunch and make the connections. We’ve just hired a team there full time. We actually hired the guy who was in charge of partner marketing for Amazon (AMZN) in Europe. He was so big on the opportunity that we have, that he left them for us.

What businesses would the world be better off without?

Ugh, I can’t stand predatory online businesses; cashforgold.com or those payday loan places. There are lots of those check-out services where they offer you free magazine subscriptions and it turns out that they start charging you and you don’t find out until a year later.

They tell you they are going to do it, but they do it in tiny print and it’s just dishonest. We get offers to include those sorts of things on our site all the time. It’s just not what we want to do. It’s important to keep the community pure.

When did you get the business bug?

My parents had a popcorn and yogurt shop, so they could buy things wholesale. When I was in fifth grade, I guess, I started selling Blow Pops out of my backpack. Remember those things? I could buy them for like seven cents apiece and sell them for 50 cents.

I made a lot of money doing that until the teachers shut me down.


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