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Riding for a Cause – AIDS/LifeCycle

Monday, April 8th, 2013 by

You might call Mark Kratt a “driven” man, especially when you see him riding the custom-built bike on which he logs 300+ miles every week. He’s driven by his dedication to a cause: to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS outreach and services throughout California. For the second consecutive year, Mark will participate in the AIDS/LifeCycle (ALC) ride, joining more than 2,000 other cyclists who’ll make the 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in June 2013.

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“I’d been a biking fanatic and a volunteer with the Stop AIDS Project and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation for years, so participating in ALC-11 in 2012 seemed like a natural next step,” Mark recalls. “And it really helped that GoGrid supported me. More than half my pledges last year came from a corporate donation and my coworkers. The company culture really focuses on giving back to the community.”

In addition to supporting Mark’s ALC participation, GoGrid works with Family Giving Tree and the San Francisco Food Bank every year to collect and share much-needed items during the holidays. The company also sponsored a “team in training” to help fight cancer by raising money for every mile walked or run during the Nike Marathon in San Francisco last October, with donations going to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Mark, who started at GoGrid in 2002 as a billing and accounting associate, recently celebrated a decade with the company and now manages GoGrid’s billing team. Every day before he starts work, Mark takes a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and to the top of Conzelman in the Marin Headlands. He also regularly takes part in ALC training rides helps with reaching out to new riders. “I’ve gotten more involved in motivating and mentoring first-time riders this year,” he said. “ALC is a signature biking event because it’s meant for recreational riders rather than professionals or racers. Even so, a 7-day ride is a huge commitment—and can be intimidating.” That’s one of the reasons Mark’s also on the planning committee for the 2013 Jonathan Pon 2-Day Memorial Ride, which takes place in May. “The Jon-Pon gives first-time riders a taste of what it’s like to ride 2 days back to back and camp overnight with other cyclists,” he said. Not to mention that the 150-mile ride through Marin and Sonoma counties, with an overnight beside the Russian River, is just plain gorgeous.

Mark explains, “ALC is a wonderful experience because for 7 days, the people involved behave the way you wish everyone would behave every day. It’s an open, honest, and trusting environment where no one complains about standing in line for food or the bathroom. The shared experience of the ride creates such a secure community; we don’t even worry about locking stuff up at night. And the mutual support for how tough the ride is—and how much we’re all challenged physically—is unbelievable.”

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How Artizone.com Carved a Path to eCommerce Success

Thursday, February 7th, 2013 by

We recently talked with one of our newest customers, Artizone.com, about how it’s whetting the public’s appetite for local handmade eats with the help of GoGrid’s cloud infrastructure. Artizone.com is a personable online grocery site that combines two of the things people want most: delicious, healthy food and an easy way to get it. Not that the search and discovery process isn’t part of the whole gourmet experience. I’m from New York and I remember spending hours looking for the best deli and the best bakery and the best butcher. The hunt was a lot of fun, and the result was always amazing. But the time I spent getting to three different stores by bus or subway took a huge chunk out of my day and didn’t leave a lot of time to actually enjoy my “finds.”

Of course once online shopping became more than just a novelty, companies began to offer everything from sneakers to snicker doodles via the web—and eCommerce was born. Artizone has taken the “recipe” a step further by crafting a site that focuses on locally grown, organic, and hand-made foods. You can shop “by aisle” just like in a regular supermarket and choose from fresh produce, meats, and seafood. Or you can shop by “artisan” and learn about the folks who actually make the chocolates, breads, and salsas-to-die-for that Artizone carries. There are also pictures of the artisans, which makes you feel just as close to the source of the food as you would at a local Farmer’s Market. Big Al of Big Al’s Texas Rubs looks pretty much like you’d expect, and seeing his picture somehow makes you trust your decision to buy his rub.

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Artizone offers delivery-based service direct to your doorstep in Chicago and Dallas, depending on your locale selection, and ships nonperishable items throughout the US. And with food makers like Black Dog Gelato in Chicago and TJ’s Seafood Market in Dallas, you’re sure to find something new to try. Of course, the key to a great eCommerce website is the actual experience you have on the site. We all know what a good experience feels like: It’s easy to find what you’re looking for, you can get help right away if you need it via chat or phone, and buying is fast and straightforward (a piece of cake, in Artizone’s case). A great experience goes further by offering you things you didn’t know you wanted but suddenly realize you need, like delicious recipes that use the food you purchase on Artizone.com.

If a site’s disorganized or confusing, most of us will drop our cart like a hot potato (!) before we complete our purchase. And eCommerce companies just hate when we do that. They want to grab our attention, entertain and/or inform us, and then close the sale. That’s why creating a site that takes the “eek” out of eCommerce by hiding the behind-the-scenes mechanics is so important. Artizone’s VP of Research and Development, Sagi Briteman, agrees. “It’s liberating to be able to focus on our online store and user experience—and let GoGrid take care of the infrastructure,” he says. When you visit an eCommerce site like Artizone.com, the last thing you want to worry about is the technology that powers it—you should be focused on when you’ll get all the yummy treats you just ordered.

Naturally, eCommerce websites can’t stay the same week after week or we wouldn’t come back again—and again. If the company isn’t adding or refreshing the content, it might be expanding its services or trying to reach a new audience. Each time it expands to a new metropolitan area, for example, Artizone sees a huge jump in the number of food makers and customers it serves. And to make sure it could grow without worrying about how to meet that demand, the company took its time identifying a cloud infrastructure partner that really understood eCommerce.

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