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On March 5, 2019, CN commented on The Best Camera is the One That’s With You :

A lot of photographers like Annie Leibovitz are actually now moving from professional cameras to phone cameras to do professional shoots and while there is certainly a segment of the population still devoted to their cameras, I think on the whole people are moving to just using their phones for as many activities as possible. The traditional players may be left with supplying parts to the phone makers! But this comes at a huge loss as cameras that once sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars now come in a form factor that command $45 from handset manfacturers.

Hi Gaurav, very interesting post! Our Launching Technology Ventures class actually just experimented with an interactive version of a HBS case using the digital content platform Glose (https://glose.education/) where everyone in the class can see what other students highlighted and annotated, and then respond to those. It’s an extension from just consuming the content to interacting with the content in a social way with people in your community. As the ebook digital ecosystem moves beyond one’s home to the classroom, I think there will be many more opportunities to create and capture value. To your point, I think publishers and book stores could stand to lose far more – just imagine all the textbooks that may no longer be bought!

Hi Juan – great knowledge of the cosmetics space! I was actually interviewing at Ipsy last year for a potential internship and I found them to be much more compelling than Birch Box and a much bigger threat to Sephora for 2 reasons – 1) Viral Brand Voice: Ipsy was marketed as the brain child of Michelle Phan, an ultra famous YouTube beauty blogger (https://www.youtube.com/michellephan) with 9 million fans who were super engaged and obsessed with her make-up tutorials. Thus, when the subscription product launched, it already had a natural early adopter fan base who helped spread virality like wildfire. 2) Low-investment but super high return physical presence: while Birch Box burned cash by expanding with brick and mortar stores on some of the most expensive real estate in NYC, Ipsy took on a more innovative approach by hosting annual make up conventions (think Comic Con but devoted to all things beauty related) and selling admissions tickets for hundreds of dollars each (https://www.tixr.com/groups/genbeauty/events/ipsy-gen-beauty-new-york-2018-9005). These events capitalized on the relationships Ipsy already had with content creators (who were given free studio space to do shoots, free product, and free publicity on Ipsy’s social media, etc. in return for their endorsements) and brands (who as you mentioned paid to get their products into Ipsy subscriptions) to make a deeper in-person connection with their customer base. Ipsy also gives existing subscribers of their monthly boxes a 10-30% cash back on full-size purchases of products through a rewards program (most of these full size products were previously featured in sample form in the subscription boxes) if they purchase through the “Ipsy Shopper” platform. As such, Ipsy is looking to fulfill all parts of the customer journey from education, trial, to purchase and loyalty. If I were to bet, Sephora should really be worried about Ipsy these days.

Despite a lot of critics who called the Apple Watch a failure, I agree, Ge, that it actually was tremendously successful. To me, what’s most impressive about this product is not its usability or out of this world features (which I agree with many critics, is clearly lacking: https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/05/17/the-biggest-sign-yet-the-apple-watch-is-failing.aspx) but rather its ability to extend Apple’s ecosystem into another piece of proprietary software enabled hardware. First is the phone in our pockets, then it’s the iPad on our night stands, then it was the TV in our living rooms, and then came the piece of fashion on our wrists. Most recently, it was the speakers that can fit anywhere in our homes or offices. This quest to monopolize our homes and bodies makes Apple one step closer in controlling all aspects of our daily communication, socialization and entertainment needs. In effect, this ecosystem creates tremendous barriers to entry – a Fitbit or Fossil or Amazfit cannot interact to the same extent or integrate with nearly as many other Apple devices we already own.

On February 23, 2019, CN commented on Android, Not Just an Operating System :

NR, like you, I have always been a fan of the Android operating system and how it was designed. In my Strategy and Tech. class last semester, I explored a new initiative that Android is working on called Android Automotive (https://www.androidpolice.com/2018/05/14/google-full-speed-ahead-android-automotive-not-much-android-auto/). Many may already be familiar with Google’s Android Auto product, which has dominated the mobile phone projection market for in-vehicle infotainment. Android Auto was Google’s first foray into the connected car space and is now supported in over 400 car models . The app, which first needs to be downloaded from the Google Play app store, enables those using an Android-powered phone to project the contents of their phone onto a vehicle’s screen through an USB cord. The service is essentially just a repackaging of the mobile phone experience with the appropriate display size and power source needed to run on the display screen of a vehicle. Now, however, Android is tackling the OS, which is the entire brains of the vehicle and support two primary functionalities– infotainment, which encapsulates entertainment, navigation, and other compatible vehicle-specific apps, and vehicle control, which deal with safety features and the management of climate controls, locks, and windows. I’m quite bullish on Android’s success here, especially given all the unique propositions you mentioned above, though I wonder if being open-source in a software that controls functions relating to human safety will set them back?

On February 23, 2019, CN commented on TikTok: A Viral App Among Teenagers :

I have spent so much time scrolling through and enjoying the content on the Chinese version of Tik Tok, Dou Yin, that I often think about how it can overcome Instagram and Snapchat to win the global social media empire. While generally optimistic about the platform, I have 2 key concerns about its future success. First, according to research that Facebook conducted (https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/how-brands-can-still-win-over-customers-as-attention-spans-decrease-on-social/), users spend an average of only 1.7 seconds with any piece of mobile content on its platform and that time is even shorter for younger audiences. While Tik Tok’s main value proposition capitalizes on this trend of shorter video clips of less than 15 seconds, I worry about how the ever decreasing attention span of eyeballs will impact its value capture, and thus its longevity in the market. To successfully monetize, Tik Tok would need to figure out the formula of how to successfully advertise to its audience through video, despite the challenge that these youths will not see 90% of each clip. Secondly, and if not more of a threat, given deteriorating U.S./China relations and the sensitivity of the data question, I wonder how the U.S. and the broader international community will feel about a Chinese entity having so much power over the data creation and consumption of their citizens. If foreign individuals begin to decimate content that potentially threaten the agenda of the Chinese government (ie. using the platform to organize protests, challenge Party policies, etc.) on Tik Tok, how will China exert its influence over a company whose technology was created and domiciled within its jurisdiction?

Great summary about the capabilities and network effects of Shopify! I wanted to highlight that while Shopify may market itself as an “out of the box” e-commerce solution, a tremendous amount of manual labor and engineering resources is still required to link the payment, marketing, and storefront functionalities. To add more color on how the ecosystem works and a real life anecdote, the retail start-up I worked at prior to HBS was run entirely on Shopify. We were an e-commerce platform operating out of Canada that used Stripe as the back end for payment processing, Klaviyo for all marketing and retention programs, and the Shopify storefront inventory and listing management system. In reality, none of these functionalities work with just a click of a button. Each product listing had to be manually entered and managed on the e-commerce platform and if you run an omni-channel business with brick and mortar stores, there is no integration. Thus, we had to use another product called Vend to manage the physical stores separately. The transition from linking MailChimp with Shopify to linking Klaviyo with Shopify was also quite painful and I had to manually download and reupload tons of CSV files of customer contact info. Once you upload the contacts, then targeting and running campaigns does become pretty self-explanatory. The payment processing functionality required an engineer to devote many hours of work to get everything up and running. Finally, to my understanding, there is no ecosystem partner for supporting the important shipping and fulfillment functionalities. All in all, you still need a dedicated engineer to set up the process, others services not on the platform for managing all parts of a retail business, and lots of manual help to manage inventory and marketing. While Shopify is definitely more easy and convenient than alternatives, I wanted to dispel the belief that anyone can now run an ecommerce business out of the box with just this product.