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MIT entrepreneur automates e-commerce ordering process

Colin Neagle | May 2, 2013
Doug Feigelson is a true entrepreneur, one who has built a successful business out of a custom solution he designed as part of another venture. He says he’d rather "fail completely" than sell his company, and, as a third-year computer science student at MIT, he regularly turns down job offers so he can focus on his startup.

Zincs customers have found the API useful for both convenience and cutting costs. Companies selling their products through multiple online channels are using Zinc to avoid missing out on sales when demand outstrips supply. Others have been able to reallocate their resources to more productive tasks.

A couple of our customers literally had people working full-time, one of them was full-time and another was just spending a lot of time, ordering things from Amazon, just a lot of clicking, Feigelson says. And with us they could automate that and just save all that effort.

However, Zinc hasnt been restricted to the B2B world. Feigelson says some of the more creative cases have been for individual use, where hackers apply the technology to interesting real-life purposes. In one example, Zinc could be set up to automatically order more ink when a printer runs low. In another, a developer inquired about using Zinc to create a Facebook app allowing people to set up small accounts with their own money, say $50, and inviting friends to buy him gifts with it. Another developer wanted to create an app that automatically orders a random object to be delivered to his house every month.

With at least another semester remaining at MIT, Feigelson has refrained from promoting Zinc too heavily. He turns down most media requests and hasnt participated in many startup conferences or competitions, save for the MIT 100K competition, where the company was a semifinalist. So far, most of Zincs customers have found the company organically, simply by searching API for ordering from Amazon on search engines.

Once the summer break provides some free time for Feigelson and Eric Swanson, Feigelsons high school friend and Zinc co-founder who currently lives in their native Ohio and attends the University of Cincinnati, the company plans to dive into its promotional stage. Feigelson says theyll pursue some relationships with other online retailers, like and, or will at least attempt to automate the process of ordering from their websites.

He plans to spend the summer working from San Francisco. Not to open an office the company will probably work full-time out of an apartment but just to be around the startup culture. Feigelson likes the environment, the coffee shops full of entrepreneurs talking about startups, in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley area. But, even while running a successful startup in the startup cultures epicenter, he doesnt expect to be spending much time talking that way himself.

I usually like to say Im working on a project, he says. I usually prefer not to say the word startup.


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