Lacy

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On April 30, 2017, Lacy commented on Snapchat and AR :

Very interesting post! The user growth and engagement numbers for snapchat are pretty incredible, but i wonder if snapchat will continue to sustain such an engagement advantage as instagram / facebook continue copying key snapchat features. Particularly given the reach provided by WhatsApp (if the company uses it), facebook seems better positioned to win in the long-run even if it is an innovation follower. It will be interesting to see if snap is able to transition from serving as mostly a communication / leisure platform to delivering additional utility in the commerce space, and how the revenue structure for that model develops.

On April 30, 2017, Lacy commented on Lessons from the Google Glass Debacle :

Very interesting post! I wonder if Google Glass would have been more successful if it had thought totally differently about its target market. It seems that there could be tremendous potential utility for Google Glass in the commercial realm, and many of the concerns around privacy, asthetics, and pricing could be less of an issue. Given the magnitude of investment by the company, I’m surprised Google did not make more of an effort to pivot into developing commercial applications while the consumer segment catches up to the technology.

Fascinating model! I agree with Christy’s comment regarding playing in other markets outside prisons. It seems that many of the vocational training materials would be useful in many areas of the economy (high schools, community colleges, professional training programs). Also, I wonder about the political considerations of investing in the education of prisoners when, in many states, there has been public frustration abut prison spending vs. education spending. California, for example, spent $9.6 billion on prisons in 2011 but just $5.7 billion on higher education. The state spends $8,667 per student, per year compared to roughly $50,000 per inmate, per year. (https://thinkprogress.org/california-spends-six-times-more-on-prison-inmates-than-on-college-students-ca19867fd208) Would the public really tolerate the education of prisoners with the newest technology when we don’t provide that privelage to our students?

Thanks, Alex! The question of how to organize a data analytics team at a large company like Sears is an interesting one. Given the importance of data / analytics to drive strategy and operational decisions, should companies have a c-suite officer dedicated to analytics / data? Some level of company-wide oversight and management seems especially important given the importance of cybersecurity threats and data compliance. I’d be interested to learn more about how other companies have done this well, but perhaps there could be a sort of federated model in which analytics talent reports to one person centrally but is also embedded in local units.

On April 6, 2017, Lacy commented on Beauty & Brains: Using Big Data to Build a Better Bra :

Very interesting approach! I took their survey and at the end felt like I could have easily picked out the same bras / sizes on the site without insights from their recommendation engine. Several of the bras they recommended were only available in 4 sizes (XS – L). I wonder if in the future they will find a scalable way to offer more customized offerings. Additionally, I wonder if they could figure out a way to gather all of the info in the questionaire through a photo – for example (privacy concerns aside) could customers upload a photo of themselves with a particular bra, and using that the company could get precise measurements vs. self-reporting. (That data could then be useful for the development of products beyond intimate apparel)

On April 6, 2017, Lacy commented on OpenDoor: applying big data to home selling :

Very interesting post and company! I’m not sure that I accept that housing is more homogeneous in Dallas vs. a place like SF or NYC. Looking at their listings, the houses are very different aesthetically and spread through different areas around the city. There is certainly less variation in pricing (by design). Once the company has refined the model in existing geographies, why couldn’t they expand to a city like SF? The inventory turn would potentially be longer, but given that avg price / sq foot is 5X in SF vs. Dallas, it seems like a huge revenue opportunity.

On March 25, 2017, Lacy commented on IndieGoGo: Supply and Demand -> Demand and Supply :

Very interesting post! Indiegogo has done a lot over the past few years to transition from serving primarily as a crowdfunding company to supporting entrepreneurs throughout the process of bringing their ideas to market. Currently it seems like Indiegogo staffs internally to support entrepreneurs in marketing, product development, etc – I wonder if there is an opporutnity for them to engage crowds beyond simply fundraising in their GTM support functions.

On March 25, 2017, Lacy commented on CrowdMed: Solving medical puzzles :

Interesting company. I wonder if there is an alternative funding model in which doctors pay for access to the database (rather than patients), so that patients have a lower barrier to entry. With a larger pool of patients on the platform, additional value could be created for doctors to identify future patients in their field of specialization or candidates for research.

Totally agree with Meili’s point about parking availability. In high-traffic urban areas at peak times, cars often stall in traffic to wait for a car to leave a parking spot, so there is very little time when the space is not occupied. I don’t think the current availability feature is very useful unless you’re dealing with a parking lot that has multiple open spaces and wouldn’t fill up immediately. The data on parking restrictions does seem useful but strikes me more as a feature of another platform (e.g., Waze) vs. a standalone application.

On February 28, 2017, Lacy commented on YC: organizing the seed-funding ecosystem :

Very interesting post! Y combinator actually uses a standard deal now of investing $120k in return for 7% of the company’s equity (unless there are exceptional cases). What’s interesting about Y combinator vs. other platforms we’ve covered is that their long-term success is directly linked to the long-term success of both their founders and, given that returns are driven by the long-term company valuation, the success of the company’s investors. As with other VCs, y combinator is making bets that a handful of companies out of hundreds will become “home-runs” with multi-million or billion $ valuations. (They’ve had several already – airbnb, dropbox, reddit, and others) Unlike most VCs, y combinator has been able to achieve a highly efficient process of seeing hundreds of startups each year, investing relatively small amounts of money up front, and setting the companies up for maximum growth (and thus the fund for maximum returns). It’s a great model because the winners win so big.

Very interesting post! I would be very curious to learn more about who is funding them — Wikileaks must be pulling in a substantial amount of revenue to support a staff of over one hundred globally. Their site offers little transparency as to their donors’ identities / contributions, but I would think both would influence the site’s political agenda.

On February 28, 2017, Lacy commented on Making Higher Education Accessible – Coursera :

Very interesting post! I’m excited to see what Coursera is able to achieve over the next few years. Originally they positioned themselves as trying to fundamentally disrupt traditional higher education delivery, but they have evolved to focus more on on-going learning and development, primarily for people who already have degrees. Because Coursera does not own the original content (schools develop the curriculum), it will be interesting to see if they have a content supply issue down the road as universities develop their own capacities to develop, market, and monetize online content. I can envision a world in which universities eventually go directly to customers (students) while coursera moves to focus more on consumer or enterprise learning and development (a competitive but high margin space).

On February 2, 2017, Lacy commented on One Medical Group: The Potential Uber of Healthcare :

Great post – I wonder to what extent the value proposition of the One Medical model has led “traditional” PCP operators to become more technologically-enabled. At some point, customers in areas served by one medical could demand the level of service offered by the company- could this bring the end of the independent PCP? Could acquiring or partnering with independent PCP providers (versus starting new sites) be the next wave of growth for One Medical?

Wow – it’s pretty incredible that the fund has had such outsized returns over such a long time horizon, particularly considering that computing power and analytical approaches / capacity have evolved dramatically. I would be curious to learn more about when in the investment selection process humans engage vs. leveraging technology. Is a seasoned investor the first filter for companies in consideration, or does the company lean on its computing power so much that investors only get involved at the end of the process? Do these tech enabled processes risk eroding alpha over time (presumably advanced technologies across firms should converge on a company valuation)?

On February 2, 2017, changeme_40 commented on Lynda.com and the Making of the Mother of the Internet :

Very interesting! It seems that in its current model, Lynda.com’s primary value creation is actually in the content it develops through collaborations with industry / technical experts. As the company matures and becomes integrated with LinkedIn / Microsoft, it will be interesting to see if the value creation focuses less on the content itself and more on its value as a platform integrated with other LinkedIn / Microsoft products. For instance, could what is now Lynda.com become a professional development platform for large companies to use to deliver all of their in-house developed training?