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Treatful, the "Anti-Groupon," Brings Online Gift Certificates to Acclaimed Restaurants into the 21st Century

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), we Americans are in the process of spending around $28 billion on gift cards this holiday season, with 80 percent of us choosing to buy at least one, spending an average of $43.23 per card.

There’s nothing new about gift cards, of course, but what is new in 2011 is the effort by a number of local startups to attack the traditional, impersonal sort of card with a new, much more personalized online approach.

Three small companies poised to disrupt the traditional gift card industry in three separate strategies are Giftly, Giftiki, and Wantful – all of which I’ve profiled earlier this year.

Now there’s a fourth to add to the list – Treatful – co-founded by two Stanford business school grads, Brent Looney and Hoon Kim.

Pssst! Online Shopping is Exploding and -- Men and Women Shop Differently

Back in the early days of the web, there were some who predicted that online shopping would never take off, because, in addition to other hesitations, most people would never entrust their credit card information to a website.

Amazon started proving the critics wrong soon after it launched in 1995, and when eBay joined the party the following year, it quickly became apparent that ecommerce represented a massive new business opportunity where a lot of players were going to make (and/or lose) a lot of money.

Cut to the present tense, and ecommerce generated some $165.4 billion in sales last year, or roughly eight percent of the retail product sales in the U.S. According to Forrester Research, that figure will reach the neighborhood of $279 billion by 2015.

Meanwhile, with Groupon and Living Social, daily deals and flash sales, the sheer volume of marketing and shopping information coursing over the Internet has become deafening. Email, Facebook, Twitter are all bursting at the seams with the stuff.

Led by 19-Year-Old Founder, Kiip Launches New Ad Model Based on "Emotional ROI"

Everywhere you look these days, people are playing games on their mobile devices. Business travelers at the airport, kids on the bus, restaurant patrons waiting for meals –– they all seem to be gaming in 5-10 minute spurts.

Meanwhile, as is the case with all types of original content, creating all those cool (free) games is an expensive proposition, so the same problem plaguing all types of digital media hangs over the gaming industry –– how to pay for it all?

Brian Wong thinks he may have found an answer. The 19-year-old founder of the advertising startup Kiip (pronounced Keep), unveiled his unique approach earlier this week.

It can be summarized in Kiip's tagline: "Real Rewards for virtual achievements."

No Room at the Top: Why No Women on Web 2.0 Boards?

In every neighborhood where tech startups are located, you’ll see them – small groups of bright young men, mainly engineers, going out to lunch together. Very occasionally, there will be a woman who is part of the group, but that’s an exception that proves the rule.

It’s an odd phenomenon, this gender segregation, especially because virtually none of these young men fit the old-fashioned stereotype of sexists; by contrast, their generation supports equality between men and women more  than any in the past.

And as these companies grow, they hire plenty of women. At Twitter, for example, a recent estimate has women accounting for around a quarter of the workforce.

But where the paucity of women is most striking is on the boards of directors of Web 2.0 companies. In a piece last December for the Wall Street Journal, Kara Swisher documented that none of the leading companies in this sector – Twitter (9 members), Facebook (5), Zynga (5), Groupon (9) and Foursquare (3)-- had a single woman on their board!

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