Changing Hats

RelevantKnowledge founder Tim Cobb launches b-to-b site for apparel industry

Tim Cobb has changed hats a few times over the past four years. At age 35, he felt he had hit a glass ceiling. So, he left his job as vice president of business ventures at Turner Original Productions and co-founded a Website measurement firm, RelevantKnowledge, with fellow Turner Broadcasting System Inc. lawyer Jeff Levy. Cobb was instrumental in coming up with the concept and the name, and he had the business experience. Although equal partners in the venture, Cobb deferred to Levy (who is white) the title of CEO and assumed the role of president. Both came to the unspoken conclusion that with Levy representing the company, financing opportunities would be more forthcoming.

Today, however, the title of CEO suits Cobb well. This past May, he launched edaflow Corp., which provides e-commerce solutions for buyers and sellers in the apparel industry. The company’s Website, www.edaflow.com, is a b-to-b marketplace for apparel retailers, manufacturers, and distributors. A partnership with 1stUp.com Corp. allows edaflow members to get free Internet access. The company also has partnered with New York City-based CIT Commercial Services, which specializes in commercial and individual asset-based financing, to make factoring and credit services available to apparel buyers and sellers.

Between 1996 and 1998, Cobb and Levy’s Atlanta-based firm became the Nielsen of the Internet, an audience measurement system for Websites much like the Nielsen ratings television networks use. Cobb became one of the nation’s young black Internet moguls.

In October 1998, Cobb and Levy merged their company with Media Metrix Inc., a site traffic reporting service. Cobb, whose net worth had swelled to about $25 million, served as vice chairman of Media Metrix.

When the company went public in 1999, the duo parted ways. Levy went on to start eHatchery, an incubator for fledging dotcoms. Cobb launched hipO.com, which sold clothing, music, and other wares to teens online.

edaflow.com is actually a reincarnation of Cobb’s teen site. He initially launched hipO.com based on information gathered at Media Metrix, which showed that the teen market was an untapped demographic.

“I got a chance to see who was doing what well in various consumer verticals. I saw the different ratings we were putting out and it was clear to me that there was no definitive leader in the teen space (ages 12 to 24), compared to, say, the women’s space,” explains Cobb.

Understanding that in order to survive, he could not create an e-business model that relied solely on advertising and sponsorship, Cobb looked at e-commerce opportunities in the teen space. Apparel jumped out. “Our model combined content with commerce. For example, someone could go to Halle Berry’s home page not only to find out the latest ‘goings-on,’ but also to buy music, movies, and apparel, which became our main revenue driver,” explains Cobb.

After six months, hipO.com was attracting 2 million page views a month and generating about $80,000 a day in sales revenues. Even though the site was robust, its business model was flawed. The problem: supply and demand.

“We were constantly sold out of items

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