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On April 8, 2018, Juan commented on Amsterdam Smart City (ASC) :

Great read, JSG. It’s very interesting to see how cities are approaching “getting smart”. I don’t think most politicians get elected on the promise of turning a city smart, but rather on solving a certain issue (e.g. solving mobility in Boston, or providing affordable housing in NYC). Amsterdam followed a grassroots approach and tried to be a “match-maker” between corporations and citizen’s proposals to be more environmentally-friendly (they have lots to lose from rising sea levels!). In contrast, other cities such as Barcelona and Atlanta are being more deliberate and following a top-down approach, which might be less painful in terms of organization. I wonder what’d be right for Boston?

Fascinating read, Jesse. It’s scary how good Spotify’s algorithm knows us by this point. It also gives them access to an interesting set of opportunities: they can choose to become their own supplier by signing artists directly, turning into a label themselves and finally improving their profitably. For sure they have enough data to craft very successful hits. However, their value proposition as an aggregator would be eroded if labels see them as a competitor and they pull their artists out of the platform. I wonder who has more to lose, and how future contracts between Spotify and the Big Three will look like in a not so distant future.

On April 8, 2018, Juan commented on Spotify may know you better than you realize :

Thanks for your post, RPARK. Spotify knows us very well as you mentioned, and that data is extremely valuable to record labels. Although Spotify’s relationship with their suppliers seems bitter-sweet (they are major investors, yet they’re also the reason why the service is still unprofitable), the Big Three record labels couldn’t do their job if it weren’t for all the data that Spotify provides them with (e.g. where fans are listening and thus where to tour, which trending song to pick as the next single, how to time album releases, etc.). So interesting to think about the weird relation between them!

On March 25, 2018, Juan commented on Wikipedia: The Ultimate Crowdsourced Knowledge Tool :

Great read, Eliza! Last week I was reading about YouTube incorporating extracts from Wikipedia on those videos that promote conspiracy theories. Apparently, YT hadn’t even bothered telling the Wikipedia team about this new feature before making the announcement to the general public. I wonder if companies that are leveraging the full potential of Wikipedia do actually have a responsibility to donate/improve the platform – i.e. YT will save resources by leveraging Wikipedia articles, yet they won’t be paying a penny to do so. Should Wikipedia come up with some freemium model where individual users have free ad-less experience (to avoid compromising the integrity of the place) yet corporations need to pay to use their data base (for features, ML training, etc.)? It could be a very lucrative approach and improve the sustainability of their finances.

On March 25, 2018, Juan commented on YouTube’s Evolving Challenge :

Great read, S.Po! Re. the Adpocalypse, I wonder how YT plans to tackle and police sensitive content. One option is to hire more staff and provide them with clear guidelines, but that is an expensive route and it makes them de facto the ‘moral police’. Censorship is a tricky concept that Google/YT tries to avoid. AI, which would lower their costs, seems to be not yet good enough to understand the context of certain videos (e.g. humor, sarcasm, etc.). Another cheap way is to keep on crowdsourcing viewers’ opinions by having them report and denounce inappropriate content. But as we’ve seen with Logan Paul’s and other youtubers’ videos, this approach tends to be too slow and reactive to concerns by advertisers. I’m very curious to see how they solve it in the future!

Thanks for your post, Ting! When I first read it, I thought the bootcamp concept would only apply to crowdsourcing ideas for furniture, but I think it’s very interesting that IKEA is also testing on other parts of their business, such as their food store. Apparently, the concept of bug-filled meatballs and algae products comes also from bootcamp! Not sure how sustainable or scalable this model actually is, since the bootcamp finalists have to travel to Sweden and work in the implementation with them, but it’s anyway a very interesting form of sourcing new ideas.

Great read, Eliza. It’s very interesting to see how data science can solve some of the frictions of these markets, but I wonder how the startup is protecting itself from some of the risks coming from external market conditions, i.e. the value of the house is not only dependent on neighborhood, number of rooms, etc. but also on the overall health of the RE market, and as we’ve seen in previous crises, that can change fast. What if they get an inflow of very motivated sellers but no potential buyers while the housing prices decrease significantly (2008 situation)? How long could they survive in that situation?

On February 28, 2018, Juan commented on Grab Billion Dollar Opportunity in Southeast Asia :

Great post, Taka! I heard some days ago that Uber might be considering selling its SEA business to Grab and exit the region altogether, which would be consistent with their last plays in China and Russia. Furthermore, not sure how SoftBank feels about two of their billion-dollar investments competing head-to-head against each other? (https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/22/about-grab-uber/) Maybe Grab’s payment play points towards what we’ve been talking about regarding these kinds of platforms: most of their value is focused on its location (the level of service they offer in each town). Maybe broadening the product scope (venturing into payments) rather than expanding the geographic reach makes more sense, thus Uber should cut their losses and focus on Western markets, while Grab grabs SEA.

Very interesting read, Zach! It feels kind of serendipitous that Grindr stumbled upon a customer that was typically clustered geographically and that preferred repeated ‘networking’ interactions, but as you point out, that’s key to their success! I wonder if, going forward, the recent acquisition by a Chinese company will impact its usage in some markets such as the US. As WaPo points out (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2018/01/12/can-the-chinese-government-now-get-access-to-your-grindr-profile/?utm_term=.d6314f4cc7a9), some of their users might be spooked by the undefined regulation governing data privacy in China.

On February 1, 2018, Juan commented on Making Lemonade out of Insurance Lemons :

Great read, Rachel! I had no idea about the company but now I’m excited to become a real adult and purchase some Lemonade. Regarding its growth path, I think they might be attracting some unwanted attention from not-so-traditional players in the insurance space as well (https://www.crowdfundinsider.com/2018/01/127255-amazon-getting-insurance-insurtech-firm-lemonade-says-amazon-poaching-employees/). I’m sure the new $120m funding round will help scale quickly and fend off some of the traditional and new competitors. Additionally, I find fascinating that they donate any extra profit to charity. Insurers have gathered a terrible rep over the years, and as you point out, this double mission of making money plus impacting communities socially (hopefully, with no cynical purposes in mind beyond reducing fraud) might help change that!

On February 1, 2018, Juan commented on A community digitally comes together to save Community :

Great post, Pasha! And great taste in TV shows! In my opinion, Community has been one of the only shows in TV to get product placement right, and thanks to your explanation about this fan effort to engage advertisers, I finally understand why they were able to be so bold. The not-so-subtle approach of both KFC (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcjW6maPJko) and Subway (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI1l17Q60as) was genius, and helped those brands become more approachable for the millions of us that watched it. I hope we get to see yet another season of ‘Troy and Abed in the morning’ soon!

On February 1, 2018, Juan commented on Spotify loses itself to music :

Great read, Rain! CEO Daniel Ek insists in being independent from other tech companies, but recent Tencent minority stake exchange (https://www.ft.com/content/b9e301bc-ce5a-3e04-9ed1-ebd6ec2145ca) might point to partnerships with bigger guns. Even if they do end up going public, Spotify is also trying to broaden both its scope (by moving into podcasts, news and political coverage, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-18/spotify-has-a-new-plan-to-take-on-radio-and-reinvent-podcasting?cmpid=BBD011818_TECH&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_term=180118&utm_campaign=tech) and its geographic reach (e.g. China, with the help of Tencent). Maybe these new sources of revenue will help the streaming service clean up their financials in time for the IPO.

On February 1, 2018, Juan commented on Netflix: The Media Killer :

I’m still amazed at how fast Netflix seems to be growing. Taking into account the recent price hikes in subscription, the numbers released during the last Q4 earnings call seem exceptionally good. I do worry though, as others have commented , about the bubble that the company plus competitors seem to be creating in the entertainment industry with the billion dollar budgets thrown into film and TVproduction. Also, increased marketing spending this year (as a % of revenues and vs previous years) might point to some saturation of the market or a more threatening competitive landscape, i.e. they are spending more on acquiring customers, which might lead to some margin erosion. We’ll have to wait and keep on… watching.