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BigCrumbs Closes, Trades Cashback for Rev-Share

The popular BigCrumbs cashback site is closing, but its founder is not calling it quits. Vince Martin is turning cashback on its head with the launch of MainStreetSHARES.

BigCrumbs was a popular service that allowed people to earn cashback on their purchases on eBay and other online retail websites. In February, BigCrumbs went offline after discovering some members’ accounts had been compromised. At the time, the company said evidence suggested the attacker used credentials gained in breaches of other sites, not through any breach of its website.

In explaining the permanent closure last week, Martin said BigCrumbs was a great start but wasn’t sufficient to help him realize his full vision, which was to cut people in on a bigger share of the wealth that flows through the economy, much of which they are responsible for creating.

“For the effort involved and the duration that we would have been offline just to bring BigCrumbs back, with enhanced security and other changes, it made more sense to expend the additional effort required for MainStreetSHARES and reach for our full vision,” he said.

In a letter to members of BigCrumbs, Martin explained that vision. “MainStreetSHARES is not about the old cash back. It’s about you sharing all company revenue streams, continued referral commissions, and our members earning a cash payout in the event that we’re acquired. In other words, it’s not just about saving a dollar here and there. It’s about investing in yourself, claiming your own value, and finally getting your piece of the total pie.

“The concept is simple: each member multiplies the value of other members, then everyone shares in that multiplied value. You’ve made many other companies tremendously valuable through this same multiple effect. This time, you’ll share in what you help to create. This is the path to having more.”

Martin told EcommerceBytes that MainStreetSHARES shares all company revenue with members based on their total monthly spending. “We’re aware that it’s slightly “smarter” than vanilla cash back, but we believe it’s more different than it is complex, and the average person will understand it once they “let go” of the old cash back model,” he said.

We asked Martin to tell us more about the concept of MainStreetSHARES through an email interview, which follows.

EcommerceBytes: Can you explain the difference between the way the new site works compared to the old site? Shoppers still use a BigCrumbs link to shop, but…?

Martin: Sure. It’s actually really simple. We’re sharing ALL of the company’s revenue streams with members, based on how much they spend. That’s it. The biggest obstacle in understanding it is in attempting to equate it to vanilla cash back. So, people have to reset their minds a bit. In a nutshell:

1) People shop through MainStreetSHARES via our store links (as they did with BigCrumbs)

2) This generates commissions from the stores (again, as with BigCrumbs)

3) We also earn other revenue (for instance, from advertising)

4) The overwhelming majority of ALL of the revenue that is generated is shared by members, based on how much they spend each month

So members will see the credit appear on their accounts, just as with BigCrumbs. The difference is, the number can “float” until payday, as total revenue and member spending increase. That part is actually kind of exciting and can be checked as we update revenue daily. So, it’s “how much more shared revenue has the company booked on a given day, and how much is my share worth now based on my spending as a member?”

Initially the amount they earn will generally be a little more than they would have earned in cash back on average. But as our numbers increase and, thus, additional revenue from advertising and future plans is realized, members will be earning considerably more, because they share in ALL of this revenue. For instance, if we book as much ad revenue as shopping commissions, then everyone will earn effectively twice as much. Then, you add additional revenue from there, and the members’ share just keeps going up.

Of course, they also earn msSHARES, which give them a legally binding claim on a portion of the proceeds in the event of an acquisition.

The messaging about the new site has the feel of a revolutionary “movement” rather than a business or money-saving tactic. What’s the influence or the intent behind it?

Martin: Glad you picked up on that. It is very much a revolutionary movement, and it’s about completely changing the economic game in favor of those who traditionally only provide the economic “fuel” via their spending, but don’t share on the wealth redemption side.

Most people have no idea how much power or value they have and how much wealth they generate for so many companies (not just the stores from which they directly buy).

For example, with BigCrumbs, retailers would come to us and say, “we’ll pay you X to include us in an email to your members or put our brand on your home page”. Now, the only reason we could charge advertisers X is because of our members. So, why shouldn’t we also share a piece – in fact, the majority – of X?

The traditional company would accrue all of that additional value to themselves and their investors, as well as redeem the total value that is realized upon an acquisition. Then everyone stands around scratching their heads about wealth gaps and income inequality?

So, we say, “Capitalism is awesome, but why do the same handful of investors and a few others keep benefiting?” Why don’t the people who are actually creating this value get to share in ALL of it?

As for the personal motivation, I’ve always felt a tremendous sense of solidarity with the “little guy” or underdog, and a desire to “right” the status quo. Fairness has always been a “thing” for me. So, I believe that capitalism is good, but it needs to be “tweaked” because it’s been tilted too much in one direction.

BigCrumbs was founded on that vision, and it got us a good distance. With MainStreetSHARES, the handcuffs are completely off with regard to unleashing the full implementation of the vision.

When you say, “In celebration of our launch, we are setting aside an additional 10% acquisition payout bonus. Only those members who earn msSHARES in the next few months will share this bonus in the event of an acquisition,” can you tell me what the base is? 10% of what? Are you saying it’s 10% of an acquisition price?

Martin: Yes, that’s 10% of the acquisition price. So, you know we’ve allocated 50% of any acquisition net cash proceeds for members to share. Well, this is an additional10% that only members who earn msSHARES (via their own shopping or their referrals’) during those few months will share. Of course, the significance is that we expect millions more members contributing and, hence, greatly increased value over the coming year or two. This significantly lifts the value of any acquisition, however, only the relatively small percentage of people who earn msSHARES in the next few months will claim 10% of the net cash proceeds for themselves. They are essentially “locking in” a huge share of future value.

Have you looked into whether there are there any regulations involved in a business with this kind of membership structure?

Martin: Yes! There’s actually nothing quite like what we’re doing, so we consulted with our counsel for formal legal guidance. They came back with specifics, including language, that we’ve incorporated into our program.

What kind of response are you getting?

Martin: Passionate! It’s different, so some people are essentially trying to wrap their minds around it. Some just have questions. Others are reluctant to give up the old cash back model, because they are accustomed to it and because they may have yet to grasp their true value or how that value is multiplied by the presence of others.

This was totally expected, and we knew we’d have to educate. We also know there’ll be some who don’t make the transition with us. Some are pretty well trained to believe that a little bit of a discount is the best they can do – the pinnacle of their power.

So, we’ve had some say, “I just want my old cash back”. And, we say, “we’re giving you so much more than that! Take a minute to think it through, and you’ll see!”

We have faith in the majority, because it just makes so much sense.

And, importantly, we’ve had those forward thinking, early adopters who immediately connect with what we’re doing and their excitement is barely contained in their messages to us. These are exactly the people we know we need to help teach and “inspire” the later adopters who aren’t quite as quick to see it. That’s normal. Everything that’s grown or gone viral has done so in exactly this way. So, we actually predicted this in the section “The Game Plan” on our “About” page. Phase 1 is all about the early adopters. So, we need more, but we are really heartened to see them out there at this very early stage. It’s working!

More information is available on BigCrumbs.com and on MainStreetSHARES.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.