AC

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Thanks Mohit for this great post. I have a lot of friends who have used BlaBlaCar and they love it – it’s impressive how much their prices are cheaper. I have always wondered why there were no BlaBlaCar competitors here in the United States. I assume this has certainly something to do with the density of large cities in Europe – the average distance traveled in the U.S. is too long, leading people to prefer flying?

Thanks Michelle for this great post. We clearly see a commoditization of information happening in the digital age, certainly at the expense of quality. With the public become more and more aware of issues of fake news, I wonder wether consumer behavior is not going to shift to a higher willingness to pay for accurate good quality journalistic content. At the end of the day, we still need journalists to add value by verifying sources, conducting research, and filtering out information. I wonder besides subscription and pay wall, what kind of new innovative business models could be imagined to enable this transition?

On April 28, 2017, AC commented on Rocket is falling down to Earth :

Great Post Katarina. I have worked for Rocket-Internet in the summer on 2012 in Malaysia. I was impressed by their ability to execute very well and very fast on proven business models. One question that comes to my mind as I think about their business model is to what extend is their culture beneficial to their business model. Rocket is known for a very agressive work culture, with a lot of confrontation and sometimes volatile decisions. I wonder wether this model, while it works in the short-term, is a good way to attract and keep good talent in the long term?

On April 28, 2017, AC commented on Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia :

Thanks Mohit for your post on Wikipedia – great post. I have always been fascinated (and surprised to be honest) by the fact that the people contributing to Wikipedia are doing so without getting rewarded for their work. I wonder if this does not create a bias that leads to wikipedia only cover mainstream, high-level knowledge. In my previous job, I could not put Wikipedia as a source on my slides because it was not considered as a ‘serious’ and ‘reliable’ source of knowledge.

On April 28, 2017, AC commented on Vetr: Crowdsourcing Stock Ratings :

Great Post James!! Vetr sounds like an exciting company! When you think about the financial markets in general, they actually are a crowd-sourced pricing model. As the great investor Benjamin Graham said “the market is a voting machine”. This means that the price of a security already reflects the opinion of the crowd – weighted by how much money they have put to use. Given this context, I think the most interesting part about Vetr is their ability to identify top-performers, and give them a higher weight. Vetr could outperform the market by being able to give more weight to historical top-performers when they make a prediction.

On April 28, 2017, AC commented on Transferwise: Disruptive money transfer :

I love Transferwise! I use it frequently to transfer euros here in the US. It’s impressive how much cheaper it is to use Transferwise versus a standard bank transfer. A couple of questions come to my mind as I think about their business model.

(1) Do you think Transferwise is threatened by the emergence of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which supposedly should provide even lower transaction costs?

(2) How scalable do you think Transferwise’s operating model is? The matching model seem to only work as long as the transfers are balanced on both ways, otherwise the company would have to accumulate cash in one currency, which creates FX risk. I wonder how the company deals with swings in demand.

Finally, I agree with you that regulation such as anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing are going to be a key subject that the company needs to deal with. I am excited to see how well they’re going to be doing in 5 years.

Thanks very much Damian for this post. I enjoyed learning about the dynamics of Google glass’s failure. I agree with your point on B2B – it probably made more sense to develop targeted products for enterprise use-cases. B2B has generally been a weak point for google, as they are mostly are consumer facing company. The google glass case also reinforces my belief that Tech products are not only about good products, but also about good timing. Being too early can be a problem!

On April 28, 2017, AC commented on Unity: The biggest platform for creating VR content :

Great post Bipul. I wonder to what is the balance of power between Unity and its game development engine on one side and the HMD / VR Infrastructure platforms on the other side (E.g. HTC Vive, Oculus Rift). If HTC for example manages tor each a large scale and network effects in terms of developer community and content, is it possible that they can ‘close the door’ and move towards a closed eco-system (kind of what Apple did in the PC apple – which by the way did not end very well for Apple)?

Great post Libby, MindMaze is one of the most promising start-ups out there in the VR space. As you point out in your conclusion, it will be challenging for a small start-up like MindMaze to directly compete with established platforms that have strong network effects and content in place. A key question that remains to be answered is wether the VR eco-system will favor the closed/integrated model (e.g. Apple in smartphone) or the open model (e.g. Android). While the hardware and software are done by specialized players, the Oculus / Samsung and HTC / Valve partnerships currently create two separate integrated models. I wonder wether the Android model can work in VR, in which case MindMaze could potentially be the Android equivalent.

On April 23, 2017, AC commented on Upwork: Connecting Freelancers to Gigs On-Demand :

Great post Alice! I think Upwork is really changing the way we work – I have interned there this summer and also wrote my post on Upwork here https://digit.hbs.org/submission/upwork-changing-the-way-we-work/ ! 🙂

One big question that comes to my mind when I think about Upwork’s strategy is the fact that they have chosen to be a “horizontal” platform, meaning that they cover all sorts of freelance activities from computer programming to design, translation, customer service, etc. They also provide a wide range of hourly rates, going from as low as a few dollars per hour up to around $80 per hour. I wonder wether this is not a strategy of “doing everything for everyone” and wether Upwork should not rather choose a market segment and focus on it in order to be more competitive.

On April 23, 2017, AC commented on Ethereum: fueling the hype around blockchain? :

Great post Yezi. I am myself a blockchain enthusiast and have enjoyed reading your blog post 🙂 !

I think Blockchain is enabling a shift from a centralized internet (where we have to rely on super-sized middle-men like Facebook, Google, Uber, etc) to a more decentralized internet in which value is better shared and privacy more protected. I wonder however what would you think the catalyst for this paradigm shift would be, in particular from the user perspective. Let’s take for example OpenBazaar – which is a decentralized ebay-like App (See Erik’s post here https://digit.hbs.org/submission/openbazaar-using-the-power-of-blockchain-crowds-to-disintermediate-amazon/). What do you think would make a user switch from centralized eBay to a decentralized OpenBazaar? Is the incremental privacy worth the risk of switching to a completely new platform? If not, what could be other ways or business models that would allow for this switch to happen?

As I mentioned on my post on Erik’s post, I also invite you to check out the concept of AppCoins that is also emerging. AppCoins are crypto-currencies that are issued by Blockchain-based protocols in order to capture the value created by the protocol. They can be used to (a) Raise money through Initial Coin Offerings (a concept that could disrupt the entire VC industry) (b) Distribute value across the stakeholders – for example the network participants who are escrows on OpenBazaar could be rewarded by getting OpenBazaar AppCoins in exchange for their services and (c) AppCoins can be used to reward the company itself (The company can issue and keep a bunch of AppCoin, that it can sell on the secondary market onces the AppCoin appreciates). This concept is obviously still very nascent and faces many challenges in particular in terms of regulation (Are AppCoins securities in the SEC sense?).

Great post Erik! I like OpenBazaar – I have interviewed one of their co-founders as part of a project I was working on for Blockchain. They use blockchain tech to develop a decentralized platform for transacting and get rid of the middleman such as Amazon or eBay (and the 10-15% service fee commission they take). They also use blockchain’s enhanced privacy features.

Two things come to mind as I think about Open Bazaar:

(1) I wonder to what extend it is really a good thing to get rid of the middleman – companies like Amazon or Ebay charge a commission because they create value: For example they provide insurance, manage disputes, manage the community (and filter out trouble makers), conduct background checks, etc. All these activities have a cost that someone has to pay for. I wonder to what extend is OpenBazaar transactions really cheaper than the alternatives when compared in an apple-to-apple perspective?

(2) In terms of value capture, one very interesting concept that is currently emerging is AppCoins (See this excellent post by Joel Monegro of USV here http://www.usv.com/blog/fat-protocols). AppCoins are crypto-currencies that are issued by Blockchain-based protocols in order to capture the value created by the protocol. They can be used to (a) Raise money through Initial Coin Offerings (a concept that could disrupt the entire VC industry) (b) Distribute value across the stakeholders – for example the network participants who are escrows on OpenBazaar could be rewarded by getting OpenBazaar AppCoins in exchange for their services and (c) AppCoins can be used to reward the company itself (The company can issue and keep a bunch of AppCoin, that it can sell on the secondary market onces the AppCoin appreciates). This concept is obviously still very nascent and faces many challenges in particular in terms of regulation (Are AppCoins securities in the SEC sense?).

On April 22, 2017, AC commented on Next Big Sound – moneyball for music? :

Great post Daniella! It’s awesome to see data being applied to creative fields like music. Next Big Sound scans the internet looking for data points to evaluate and analyze the success a certain artist / music. But this approach assumes that the artist / soundtrack is already out there in order to be able to measure people’s early reaction to it. I wonder wether in the future, there is an opportunity to intrinsically assess the success / quality of a given piece of art without it even being released to people – using some sort of Alex’s machine learning black box :). This would allow artists who don’t have access to effective distribution to gain recognition and bypass labels. Or may be this AI could even be used to produce high quality art without the need for a human artist…

On April 22, 2017, AC commented on Google Maps – the most expansive data machine :

Great post Anish. Google Maps seems to enjoy a pretty strong competitive position (if not monopoly) thanks to their user base and data – I wonder wether you think Google Maps can be disrupted anytime soon and what are the key threats they may face? Do any of the upcoming technology trends (AR/VR, blockchain, etc) present an opportunity for a new player to break this monopoly and disrupt Google Maps?

On April 22, 2017, AC commented on Netflix: Reinventing Hollywood with Data :

Great post NP! Netflix has indeed managed to build a strong competitive advantage thanks to their data in order to recommend and even produce the right content to the right consumer. Despite their own content production, Netflix is however still dependent on incumbent content producers for the majority of their content – I wonder how these incumbents will retaliate and wether they could use their content leverage to either capture more value from Netflix, or to compete directly through alternative streaming services. Looking forward to see how this competitive dynamic will play out!

Hi Bipul – thanks for your comment. The way the service works is that it identifies potential threats that it puts to categories depending on the probability that it is a genuine attack (high, medium, low, etc) and a human needs to review these alerts and take action if necessary. Also, I am not familiar with the details of how the algorithms work but I would argue that if the models are trained appropriately, then they should be able to identify a promotion.

Thanks very much Erik for your comment. Great point – disintermediation is a big challenge for these platforms. One interesting approach that Upwork (a competitor) is trying is tiered-pricing: The company takes a higher commission on the first projects than on the later ones. But in general, in order to avoid disintermediation, the platforms need to create value through things like dispute resolution, risk transfer, quality assurance, etc.

On April 22, 2017, AC commented on Upwork: Changing the way we work! :

Thanks changeme_47 for your comment. Some of the most popular verticals at this stage in the online freelance industry are computer programming, content marketing, customer service and design. Your point on the regulation is spot-on: regulation is going to need to adapt to these new forms of work in order to secure adequate protection for freelancers. It is upon companies like Upwork to make appropriate lobbying efforts in order to explain their services to regulators.

Thanks for your comment Ophelia – great point. Two answers: First, even though the first autonomous cars will arrive soon, it will take a lot of time (20 years?) to replace the entire car fleet and have a 100% driverless car fleet. Second, autonomous cars will still need to know if they are allowed to park in a given spot.

Thanks Lauren for your comment.

(1) I think the fact the data on restrictions is always changing is an opportunity for the company: If the data was static then the company would create less and less value over time. Unfortunately cities are not very good at updating and keeping track of new rules – so the solution will probably be either crowdsourcing when somebody finds an obsolete rule, or some primary data collection for example through image recognition (just like Google StreetView is regularly updated). With regards to your second point, the company now captures all sort of rules including complicated ones that only apply on specific days / hours.

(2) Haha good point. I don’t think this is something that they have thought about yet!.

Great point Lacy. I agree – the fundamental assumption behind the parking availability service is that parking spots are not 100% utilized.

Thanks Meili for your comment. The fact that the market becomes more efficient doesn’t mean that the service becomes less relevant – in fact, it’s the opposite. In your scenario, the ‘someone else’ can only already be there if they have themselves used the app.

Thanks for your comment. Great idea – if the park meters are smart, they could know when a spot is busy and when it is not. Ultimately, the vision for SpotAngels is to become a digital park-meter that you have in your phone, potentially including services like payment.

Thanks for your comment. Payment is indeed a great opportunity that the team has indeed thought of for their long-term vision. The way we pay for parking today is inefficient and obsolete. This however looks like a winner takes / monopoly opportunity and SpotAngels would need to prove itself before being able to get traction from cities.