October 22, 2008

Startup Website Aims to Cut Costs for Wary Consumers

Print More

A Cornell alumnus’s web-based startup is helping online shoppers find tasty deals and other ways to cut costs in an economy of troubled consumers.
Albert Ko ’06 founded CheapCheapCheap.com in 2006 and nurtured the enterprise over two years to pay off his own tuition. The site offers free money-saving methods to visitors, such as exclusive sales, discounts, coupons and information.
“Basically, we assist consumers by giving them new and alternative ways to save money,” said Ko, who currently resides in Los Angeles. “We essentially provide all the exclusive sales and discounts not available to the general public.”
CheapCheapCheap.com features extensive listings of bargains and sales compiled from hundreds of retailers on the web on a daily basis. These opportunities are supplied via user e-mails and sponsorships from retailers, from whom the site regularly receives exclusive deals. The deeply discounted products range from auto parts to action figures.
“We go through thousands of deals and filter out what’s good and what’s worth watching — only the ones with the lowest costs on products,” Ko said.
CheapCheapCheap’s popularity has jumped recently thanks to the growing number of penny-pinching shoppers trying to weather the uncertain financial times. “We’ve seen a significant spike in traffic over the last month,” he explained. “As people are trying to cut costs, they’re constantly looking for deals.”
“It’s a great spot to scope out killer deals on tech stuff, like laptops and game consoles,” said Kyle Doebler ’10, who uses the website to peruse bargains on electronics. “The savings tend to be really steep on those.”
As for other cost-cutting techniques, consumers can browse coupons and codes as well as postings on how to use them, such as instructions on how to stack seven different promotions on Amazon.com to reduce a $101.38 cart to $41.41.
Albert Ko earned his B.S. in materials science and engineering in 2006 and his Masters in Management in 2008, both from Cornell. He claimed that it was a combination of technology courses he took during his graduate education from the Johnson School of Management and certain members of the faculty that imbued him with the “entrepreneurial spirit” that inspired him to start his own business.
“I learned how to formulate a business plan, with timelines, teams and goals, and I eventually created a viable business strategy,” Ko said.
Ko said that in November of 2006, he teamed up with a longtime friend and coder from Brandeis University to launch the site with “virtually no funding,” although it would bring in enough revenue to cover both his tuitions within two years. Revenue for the site is generated through contracts, sponsorships and advertisements negotiated with retailers. However, the site refuses to list deals because of the site’s advertising relationship with a particular seller; it strictly adheres to its policy of listing the lowest price after thorough comparison across reputable merchants.
CheapCheapCheap distinguishes itself from other price-watching websites by “utilizing a lot of the social networks, ranging from Facebook applications to hundreds of Twitter followers,” according to Ko. “We also reveal deals before any of our competitors, so we grow through the first mover’s advantage.”
As for the startup’s future, Ko plans to begin expanding after this winter’s holiday season by intensifying marketing for the website and adding more coders to the team.
“We are looking to work on a technology algorithm that nobody else has currently and are looking to release that in the future,” he added.
For Cornell students eager to start their own venture after graduation, Ko strongly recommended that they begin preparing themselves now. He stressed the importance of continuously researching the market, understanding the competition and most importantly, speaking to current entrepreneurs.
“I just kept asking questions – you wanna know what they did to fail and what they did to succeed,” Ko advised. “I utilized the faculty and all the resources at Cornell. Nobody should fear asking questions, they’re there to help you.”