Web Exclusives:Features
a PAW web exclusive column

October 24, 2001:
Comparison shopping
Dan Ciporin '80, CEO of Dealtime.com, helps users find the best prices on scores of products

By Rob MacKay '89

Shopaholics who have grown tired of the constant crowds, parking problems, and lines associated with their passion might think that they have reached Nirvana after surfing to www.dealtime.com.

Run by Dan Ciporin '80, this free comparison-shopping service allows users to check out an infinite number of products, prices, and stores from behind a computer screen. Then there's the option to buy, buy, buy - and charge it.

"It's somewhat similar to the Yellow Pages. For example, let's say you're looking for a digital camera," says the Woodrow Wilson School alumnus. "We'll give you a listing of all the stores that hold it, the merchant ratings, and even tell you if it's in stock. That way you can find what you want without having to visit any stores. We also give information on shipping costs."

About four years old, DealTime makes money by charging sellers for high placement on their lists. Companies can also pay a little extra and get their logos featured or have their names show up in color. (Ciporin says that stores that don't pay extra are still listed.)

It's all so modern and high tech. But Ciporin is quick to emphasize that the lessons he learned during his year in India with Princeton-in-Asia and his two years in Thailand after graduation are what prepared him for today's work force. In India he worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency during a year off. The experience convinced him to join Woodrow Wilson School, where he did a thesis on South East Asian politics and the refuge crises.

That led to his accepting a two-year stint with the International Rescue Committee in a Cambodian refugee camp located in Sa Kaeo, Thailand. He started off teaching English and helping medical brigades, but soon he was running the educational facilities at a 35,000-refugee village.

At the time, the Khmer Rouge military dictatorship was forcing an "agrarian utopia" on Cambodia and was summarily killing anybody with an education, especially teachers. They had banned schools and eliminated money. For four years, the country hadn't learned anything.

Within the friendly confines of the camp, Ciporin built an entire school system from the ground up - training teachers, getting books and desks, locating places to study and developing curriculums.

"It was incredibly fulfilling. I felt I was making such an enormous impact in people's lives," he says. "But it made me understand that uniting a diverse group towards one common goal is what leadership is all about. It's the same skill set for nonprofits as for multinational businesses...Teamwork is what business is about."

Ciporin returned home and got a degree from the Yale School of Management. Then he consulted for Fortune 500 companies and ran MasterCard International's U.S. product efforts.

He joined DealTime about two and a half years ago as CEO and chairman during the Internet Gold Rush. Times were good, but he feels the true strength of the company was demonstrated by how it responded to the depths of the Internet drop. "The Internet has gone from boon to bust to reality," he says. "But the fact is that e-commerce is here to stay and it's still growing. In large numbers, people are starting to shop on-line and then shop more and more on-line. Now the question is how these people are going to do their transactions."

Rob MacKay is a frequent contributor to PAW Online and can be reached at robertazo@hotmail.com