Mavatar CEO Susan Akbarpour speaks at Stanford GSB’s Leveraging Blockchain for Innovation Conference on May 9, 2019.

Ben Perlmutter
May 14 · 5 min read
Mavatar CEO Susan Akbarpour speaking at GSB’s Leveraging Blockchain for Innovation Conference.

Mavatar CEO and Co-Founder Susan Akbarpour recently spoke at Stanford GSB’s Leveraging Blockchain for Innovation Conference on May 9.

In Susan’s talk, Blockchain: putting an end to the Customer-as-a-Product business model, she discussed how the mCart omnichannel marketplace and affiliate sales platform leverages blockchain to revolutionize affiliate sales and create consumer-centric commerce.

The conference featured prominent scholars and leaders from multiple industries, discussing recent innovations related to blockchain technology, and how companies can leverage this technology to improve their operations. The event was held at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and was hosted by Stanford GSB’s Value Chain Innovation Initiative, which seeks to understand how innovations like blockchain reshape the world.

Susan also participated in a panel discussion discussing how to leverage blockchain to enhance the consumer experience. She was joined by Pablo Medina, Associate Director of Product Lifecycle and Protection at Genentech, and Jesse Morris, Chief Commercial Officer of the Energy Web Foundation. Their discussion was moderated by Dr. Haim Mendelson, Stanford Professor and Co-Director of the Value Chain Innovation Initiative, who delivered a presentation about cryptocurrency and blockchain adoption.

Dr. Haim Mendelson showing the similarity between Bitcoin price and the hype cycle for emerging technologies.

The event also featured presentations from other blockchain and supply chain industry leaders, including Co-Founder and CEO of Rippleworks Doug Galen and Sr. Technology Associate of BP Karen Scarbrough. Closing remarks were delivered by supply chain visionary, Stanford GSB Professor, and Value Chain innovation Initiative Co-Director Dr. Hau Lee.

mCart Origins: A Stanford GSB Story

Susan began her talk discussing the origins of mCart, which took place in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the same place the Leveraging Blockchain for Innovation Conference was held.

When Susan was a Student at GSB back in 2010, she attended a Human-Computer Interaction course taught by Professor Terry Winograd. The course covered the ineffective internet business models driven by phony metrics like CPC and CPM.

This led Susan to cofound Mavatar and develop the mCart influence marketing and omnichannel marketplace platform-as-a-service. mCart was built to create a content-driven advertising ecosystem where companies, influencers, and everyday people promote products and receive affiliate sales compensation for their work.

Susan speaking to an engaged crowd at the conference.

Instead of easily-ignored push advertisements, mCart promotes content using affiliate advertising, where influencers promote content and are paid for every sale their content brings.

Most affiliate marketing systems, in contrast, pay influencers via opaque, costly, and at times downright fraudulent affiliate networks that redirect sales to last click hijackers like coupon and rebate sites who steal the cookies for the sale.

mCart has its affiliate sales system built right into the platform, so payment flows directly and transparently to the influencer driving the sale.

“The mCart platform, Susan said, “optimizes the entire path to purchase on one platform — from discovery, through consideration, to transaction — and compensates all parties fairly along the way.”

mCart streamlining the path to purchase.

The Micropayment Bottleneck

The mCart platform was a great idea backed up with a top-notch team. Susan said, “we thought of ourselves as the smartest people on earth who could change the way people shop, sell and advertise with one platform.”

They then went to top 500 retailers to pitch the idea and hit a wall. The retailers presented Mavatar with the “best worst question”: Who is handling the back office accounting to send all these small commission payments by check or other traditional payment methods to influencers?

Sending a check can cost $10–15, and that’s a lot of money when you’re only sending a 50 cent commission!

The micropayment wall. Is it surmountable?

It was a bottleneck that was looking like it could possibly be the end of Mavatar’s vision for a new consumer-centric commerce.

Leveraging Blockchain to Create Consumer-Centric Commerce

But rather than yielding defeat, the Mavatar team got innovative, Susan explained. They decided to integrate blockchain smart contracts and use them to seamlessly compensate influencers and marketplace operators for the sales they drive.

The blockchain-driven system pays marketplace operators and influencers for the sales that come to mCart marketplaces through QR codes or links in their content. They then receive a predetermined commission on sales via blockchain-based smart contracts.

No middlemen to drive up transaction costs or slow down the process. No last-click hijackers stealing commission. Just value fairly distributed to the deserving influencers and marketplace operators.

mCart creates a new retail ecosystem where influencers and organizations are incentivized to create shoppable content while consumers are served products in the content they already value. mCart is a brand new system for consumer-centric commerce.

mCart’s blockchain economics.

Ending the Consumer-as-a-Product Business Model

mCart’s platform economics bring an end to the consumer-as-a-product business model that has dominated digital advertising for the first 2 decades of the 21st century.

Digital advertising has grown up based on gathering as much consumer data as possible, and then targeting and retargeting them with push advertisements. This has led to our ad flooded world, where consumers have developed “banner blindness,” not even seeing all the ads that are thrown at them. That’s why click-through rates on online ads have plummeted to a pitiful .05 percent.

The mCart blockchain-powered affiliate sales system pulls shoppers to purchase by making the content they’re already consuming shop-able. When the consumer buys from the content, the content creator is instantly and fairly compensated for their influence on sales via mCart’s blockchain-backed smart contracts.

Some speakers from the conference (L) and Prof. Hau Lee delivering the conference’s closing address (R).

“Blockchain could be a way to enable us to have new sorts of business models and accelerate innovation like what [Mavatar] is doing,” said Co-Director of the Value Chain Innovation Initiative Hau Lee, ”tracking influencers and giving incentive to [create more content].”

mCart leverages blockchain to disrupt the consumer-as-a-product business model and create a new consumer-centric commerce.


Democratizing Influence Marketing on Blockchain

Ben Perlmutter

Written by

Content Creator for startups. Currently based in Medellin, Colombia.



Democratizing Influence Marketing on Blockchain

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