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On April 10, 2018, jessica commented on SOFI :

Great post Christie! I wonder how defensible SoFi’s business model is. They seem very focused on building customer loyalty through their marketing, but I would guess that customers choose a loan refinancer based on price and little else. It seems likely that other major financial institution could build out similar products to SoFi’s product (though potentially at the expense of their margins).

It will also be interesting to see how SoFi and other FinTech companies fare if there a financial downturn and the risk profiles change substantially. I suspect the regulatory threat will become much more a reality in this case.

There are quite a few Whoop bands floating around HBS (and not just on the professional athletes), so there’s likely also a market that exists for high-income consumers. This may actually be a very attractive market segment with an increased likelihood to pay for additional products and services, such a virtual coach or advanced analytic analysis.

Whoop is also experimenting with network effects through the use of groups within the app to allow users to see the stats and performance data from their friends. One of my roommates has a Whoop band and has become obsessed with not only checking his own daily “recovery scores” but comparing his recovery, sleep, and workout data to other friends with Whoop bands. He constantly shows the band to other people, demonstrating to me that even though the product is expensive it likely has a high Net Promoter Score. It will be interesting to see if Whoop if able to take control of the premium end of the fitness wearable market.

On April 10, 2018, jessica commented on How does Electronic Arts keep players hooked? :

I was curious on the same question as the above comment. It seems like a company that collects so much customer data and feedback should have been able to avoid such a huge PR disaster. I wonder if it was just an issue of greed for more revenues or if some data they had collected led them astray – possibly related to the differences in preferences across regions and platforms.

On March 26, 2018, jessica commented on Yelp :

Yelp has also been accused of removing reviews unfavorable to businesses in exchange for ad revenue from the businesses. If this is ever found to be true, it will be interesting to see if the crowd of reviewers stays with the platform or takes their content contributions elsewhere. Maintaining community trust is a complicated and necessary role of companies that depend on crowds.

It’s interesting to compare the Rotten Tomatoes approach to rating media to the rating methods employed by other media sites such as Netflix. Netflix does not leverage crowd ratings but rather assigns a “% fit” based on the other content you have previously watched. While this customized rating system has the potential to deliver better recommendations for users, it also creates the risk of bias; for example, Netflix can give their own original content higher scores, potentially unfairly. The crowd in the case of Rotten Tomatoes eliminates this bias but also creates an either virtuous cycle or a doom loop in which films that are rated well will get more viewers and more positive reviews and films that are rated poorly will not get viewers and thus ratings will stay low.

On March 26, 2018, jessica commented on IKEA: crowdsourcing ideas to co-create a better everyday life :

I’d be curious to know more about the IP rights afforded to the participants. I worry that Ikea could lose participant trust if it is ever perceived as copying an idea (even if that idea had already been in the works by Ikea HQ).

While I agree that curation is important, there is something to be said for the awareness that virality like this delivers. Even thought the outcome was a silly name, many thousands more people were exposed to the NERC than would otherwise have been, which could result in future goodwill for the organization.

On March 8, 2018, jessica commented on Drone Racing League :

Drone racing also opens a very interesting hardware platform, which is relatively rare compared to software platforms. There are many open-source designs as well as drone racing communities that create detailed specifications and parts lists to assist drone racers in building customer racing drones. I agree with your point about prices being inaccessible to most users, but that is at least in part due to the technology being new to market; prices have decreased substantially in the past 5 years and will continue to decrease. I am very excited about drones as a hardware platform because they are somewhat a form of “adult” Legos. You assemble various parts and end up with something functional and cool that you can customize to be your own. I am hopeful that this capability will extend into high school and youth robotics programs and get kids and young adults more excited about building things and hopefully entering careers in engineering.

The acquisition by a Chinese company is very interesting given China’s stance on homosexuality. WeChat doesn’t even allow users to send the rainbow flag emoji despite it being available in emoji keyboards. I am curious as to what the future intentions are for Kunlun Group moving forward and if there will be any major changes to the product or expansions into other geographies.

On March 8, 2018, jessica commented on The League: Challenges of Scaling an Exclusive App :

In addition to the problems discussed by other commenters, I wonder if The League will run into issues by maxing out it’s total addressable market. Given that the platform succeeds by eliminating users (couples match up and stay together) and there are only so many users that fit into this “exclusive” community, I worry that scaling will be difficult, if not possible, forcing The League to be a niche player for its existence. As a niche player, they will be highly susceptible to competitors willing to take a lower margin. The offering could become essentially commoditized.

On March 8, 2018, jessica commented on Spotify | Should Investors Join The Band? :

Great post! I believe there is definitely a strong comparison to be made to Netflix as other comments have suggested. Sustaining an advantage based on licensed content will only last so long. Spotify will eventually need to develop original content – essentially becoming a record label. Spotify has heavily leveraged machine learning algorithms to build out their customized playlist features. Highly personalized playlists are a form of original content that I personally believe only Spotify currently does well. The data they have collected on user’s listening habits could enable them to make excellent picks should they choose to also develop original content.

On March 8, 2018, jessica commented on The “Harvard” of Dating Apps: The League :

I’m not sure the waitlist feature mitigates multi-homing. If anything, it might increase it. If I am recently single and have to wait X weeks to gain access to an app, I am likely to download and use other apps in the meantime. Furthermore, I think showing a limited number of individuals might contribute to multi-homing. “Swiping” is somewhat addictive, and even though The League might provide more quality matches, users may feel the need to continue playing the “game” of swiping.

On February 1, 2018, jessica commented on “Put your Money where your Mouth is” :

Domino’s today reminds me a lot of Red Bull. They are a company selling a product that is relatively commoditized but have managed to differentiate themselves by investing in somewhat random and flashy endeavors to attract consumer attention. In fairness, most of Domino’s investments are much more clearly linked to their operating model (new ways of ordering and delivering) than Red Bull’s ( Red Bull Flugtag event or the Red Bull Air Race), but the impact is the same. Domino’s, as with Red Bull, seems cooler, edgier, and more fun than competitors delivery a similar product.

Interestingly, this approach has enabled Domino’s to perform incredibly well, allowing them to continue such investments. Today’s investments (such as the robotic delivery car) are not only attention-grabbing but will also contribute to improved performance, setting the company up for even more success. Red Bull’s events are still just a marketing tool.

It will be interesting to see if the ability to stream live sports with easier access and higher quality will have any impact on attendance at live sporting events. It is not difficult to imagine a world in which VR enables stream viewers to experience the game as if they were in prime seats at the game. Drastic declines in attendance could cause rippling effects through the entire sporting industry – stadium building might no longer make sense, owners might require different payout structures, traditional network rights contracts may no longer make sense. Time will tell if customers still value the “in-person” experience even when the “at-home” experience is very close and likely less expensive.

It’s interesting to consider the parallel trends occurring in other professional service industries, notably legal, accounting, and consulting. New players in these spaces started by taking the low end of the market (ex: reading legal documents or filing standard tax returns) and have now moved on to providing more specialized services, potentially starting to take business from the legacy players. I agree with Rachel that these new financial services companies may be pulling in new customers rather than taking existing customers, but I think this will shift in the long term as indicated by the other industries. Further, to Liza’s point, I’m not sure the short term unit economics matter. With these levels of AUM, VC money will continue to flow into Wealthfront sustaining it until there is a point where the business model is profitable.