Merchant Innovation

Optimizely’s Power To Convert (Customers)

While most people know that Amazon’s original name was Cadabra when it first incorporated in July 1994, that name was ditched a year later when the company’s attorney misheard the firm’s name as “cadaver.”

Fewer people know that the Cadabra/cadaver incident was actually Amazon’s second near miss with a somewhat creepy-sounding name. According to a recent book on the early rise of Amazon, when Jeff Bezos and his wife were first brainstorming names for their forthcoming eCommerce venture, “” emerged as an early favorite.

It was abandoned when many, many people noted that it was perhaps a bit sinister-sounding. Bezos apparently held on to a certain fondness for it though. Type “ into your search engine (or just click the link) and see where it takes you.

Vestigial artifacts for bad ideas gone by aside, Amazon probably made the right choice in the long run, as it is a little hard to imagine a beloved international brand called “,” even if Relentless had attempted to evolve in a vastly similar way to Amazon. It also illustrates an interesting problem retailers face: those series of “this or that,” “on/off” decisions about how to brand a product, place a product and pitch it to the (targeted) masses. It’s a problem that everyone in the business of reaching consumers with products faces each day.

Sometimes, of course, the solution is obvious (particularly with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight). Amazon is a much better name for an eCommerce company — or just about any company really — than Relentless is. But not all choices are so obvious or easy, and when it comes to deciding what to show Web consumers, matching eyeballs to the right content isn’t always so easy.

And that is where Optimizely comes in. Said simply, the San Francisco-based startup helps marketers, app developers, publishers and retailers A/B test their content to make sure that what is being shown is always maximally effective.

Optimizely’s tech currently allows it to run and compare various content versions in near real time as they are presented to viewers. It then spits back an analytics reports breaking down content performance, with a particular focus on demographic data.

Optimizely seems to be aware of the need to expand its offering. The company recently added a new personalization platform, which uses first-party and third-party customer data to customize content delivered to specific consumers. The are also hoping to develop new products in 2016.

Those new products will likely be boosted by the recent infusion of cash the firm recently saw from investors. Optimizely opened October with $58 million in a Series C funding round, bringing the firm’s total fundraising to $146 million.

The new round was led by Index Ventures, with General Partner Ilya Fushman joining Optimizely’s board of directors. Also participating in the funding were existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Bain Capital Ventures, Battery Ventures, Benchmark, Citi Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Danhua Capital and Pharus Capital, among others.

Optimizely’s high-profile investor list pairs nicely with its high-profile clients, which include Microsoft, CNN and Crate and Barrel, among others. Tommen’s cofounder, Dan Siroker, has entered tech entrepreneurship as something of a celebrity. He started working his A/B testing magic after taking a leave of absence from his job as a Google engineer to do that same sort of work for then-candidate Barack Obama.

That experience went into building the Optimizely product of today — and its products of tomorrow.



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