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Thanks for introducing such an interesting business model. In the S2b2c model, it seems to be critical that the platform must create significant value to small business first so that they can really “work together”. I think Souche’s evolution well illustrates how the platform create value to fragmented small dealers by providing SaaS tools and helping obtain high-quality supplies. As Souche owns a large amount of transaction data, I agree that in the future it can continuously create more value to its small dealers by helping them better make strategic decisions (pricing, target customers, marketing…) based on data intelligence. However, I am wondering how could Souche ensure a consistent and high-quality customer service to be delivered by the fragmented dealers? Will the quality control be a big challenge of this S2b2c model?

On April 29, 2018, Ting commented on Wayfair – A Zillion Things Home :

Thanks for this interesting post, Eliza! It is so impressive that Wayfair successfully drove many digital transformations within its organization. I think the application of AR will be very cool and transform how customers shop furniture. It solved a pain point of buying furniture online (vs. in person) and will help furniture business shift online. IKEA recently also released their AR featured app – IKEA Place.
In addition to AR, I think there be even a bigger potential in leveraging AI to better serve customers. With a large amount of data and visual search capability, Wayfair can build algorithms to make decoration recommendations for customers, providing suggested items that can go well together with the customer’s personal style and purchase history, for example, the algorithms will be able to determine which sofa matches better with the customer’s carpet purchased earlier and push recommendation accordingly.

On April 29, 2018, Ting commented on NBCUniversal: A Path to Going D2C :

Thanks for an interesting and insightful blog post. I agree with you that these traditional studios (Disney, NBC, Warner Bros…) should go direct to consumers to embrace the digital challenge, instead of relying on partnering with third-party digital distributors. As the rise of cord-cutting and trend of “skinny bundles”, D2C is critical for traditional studios to avoid being commoditized (solely as a content producer) and get access to customer data to better create and distribute content. I am surprised that NBC didn’t really leverage its parent company Comcast’s technology and infrastructure (Xfinity) to go D2C first. Besides the two reasons you mentioned, I guess the organizational or even legal restrictions also account for it.

Hi Jesse, thanks for the great post! By leveraging the data, Spotify knows customers well and make them addicted to the platform. I agree with you that the use of data to predict and even create hit songs gives it a great leverage in handling the power dynamics with music labels. This ability sets Spotify apart from its competitors like Pandora/Apple Music and helps the company negotiate a lower royalty cost with labels. I just realized that Spotify also provides an app “Spotify for Artists”, allowing artists to get access to listener data, like who are they, where are they, and which songs are most popular and help win new fans… The insights from data analysis can help empower independent artists to create more hit songs and thus benefit listeners and the company.

On April 9, 2018, Ting commented on AltSchool: Learning about Learning :

Thanks for this interesting post! The idea of personalized learning is intriguing. I think the learner-centered education really can benefit students and parents. However, I believe to really implement the idea is very difficult. Since each student may have a very different preference, need, and progress, this new model will create lots of burden on teachers. How could the teachers manage the whole class, while teaching content and designing activities for each student? In addition, although technology makes the learning easier, is learning on computer/iPad quietly really the right way for learning? After all, interacting with teachers and classmates is critical to the personal development of kids. I think the tool can be a good add-on for kids learning at home, but should not replace the school experience.

On April 9, 2018, Ting commented on The Most Data Driven Salad You Will Ever Eat :

Thanks for the great post, Eliza! I agree with you that ordering online and collecting customer data do create lots of value to customers and the company. Another thing I think Sweetgreen can do with the data is to offer “customized promotion deals” to customers. Actually the problem of traditional loyalty programs (coupons or point-based promotion) is not effective in incentivizing new behaviors, instead it creates liability and can cannibalize normal sales. Analyzing the data can help Sweetgreen incentivize right customer with right promotion deals. For example, if I am a customer haven’t visited Sweetgreen for a few days, it can incentivize me to go by sending me a personalized promotion deal and offer a discount on some items I may be interested according to my purchase history.

Thanks for a great post! I was shocked to learn that 78% of all the public schools in America have at least one teacher posted a project on DonorsChoose! It surprised me that there are so many public schools are not well-funded by the government and need help from the society. I think DonorsChoose do create lots of value by helping the teachers and students in need. I am wondering whether the platform worries about the fake requests? I guess some “fake teachers” with bad intentions may have their ways to counterfeit materials/photos and use the donated money for themselves. Do they verify the information beforehand or do follow-ups with the schools?

Thanks for a great blogpost! I really like the social impact of this project and I believe there will be lots of volunteers willing to contribute. My concern is that it might be difficult to scale since one volunteer can help only one refugee at one time, and repeated common questions/requests might be asked again and again. In addition, I am wondering how to control the quality. I found most topics consulted by refugees are legal and medical related, and these areas require some expertise (not to mention that the legal/medical system is very different in different countries). How can the company make sure volunteers provide correct information/translation for refugees?

Hi Liza, thanks for an interesting post! I think some additional ways of value capture for Quora to consider might include 1) testing whether some customers are interested in paying for high-quality answers and Quora gets a commission from it, 2) help matching one-on-one knowledge consultation and Quora earns a service fee or commission, 3) monetizing the large amount of data by helping companies do customer analysis and target marketing.
I am not sure how the “sponsored post” works? Will there be some advertorials embedded in the answers? If so, I may worry about the neutrality and credibility of the platform.

Great post! I am very interested in the competitive dynamics of this business. First, I think there is a high indirect network effect between users and fitness studios, meanwhile, I assume the tendency of multi-homing is also high? Fitness studios have the incentives to offer classes on other similar platforms to acquire customers and monetize unused class capacity. Competitors like FitReserve, differentiates itself by offering full class schedule, unlike ClassPass’ more restrictive choices, while some others differentiate by focusing on particular work out (like yoga). Second, business partners like Mindbody could be potentially strong competitors. Classpass relies heavily on Mindbody’s infrastructure, I am wondering how would Classpass respond if Mindbody sees the market opportunity and decides to take control of the demand side by themselves? Third, another big challenge is that some fitness studios may move off the platform to get more margin when they can build a direct trust relationship with large numbers of customers. That being said, I think the dynamic pricing you introduced is a smart move for Classpass to help retain some high-demand fitness studios.

On March 5, 2018, Ting commented on Grab Billion Dollar Opportunity in Southeast Asia :

Great post, Taka! It’s interesting to see how a company move from one platform to other platforms. I would like to push back a little bit on the comments of limited complementarity between ride-hailing and payments. Ride-hailing is an important offline payment scenario and can help kick-start the payment business and educate customers, so it can later expand to larger addressable market. Meanwhile, payment system can improve the customer experience of Grab ride-hailing (I assume Uber is still based on credit card while many people in the SEA are unbanked?). So the two platforms actually reinforce each other.
To Eliza’s earlier comment, I think Alibaba (Ant Financial), will definitely be very interested in investing in Grab, just as what they did with Paytm in India.

On March 5, 2018, Ting commented on Can OpenTable survive, or is it losing popularity? :

Thanks for an interesting post! As the market becomes more crowded and customers have high tendency to multi-home, I think Opentable can focus on the supply side to drive the whole network effect. As a customer, I don’t think I will be loyal to one platform, but will multi-home to see which one can help me book a spot in the restaurant I want to go, however, restaurant may have less incentive to multi-home because it is tedious to manage several booking systems at one time and they will just pick the one that brings them more value. I think Opentable can focus on the supply side, by considering improving the functionality of the ERB system, offer the system for free (especially to popular restaurants) or reduce the monthly subscription, to prevent new entrants from catching up.

On February 1, 2018, Ting commented on WeChat: A winner in China but a loser abroad :

Interesting post! I agree with you that the three reasons are key to lead Wechat’s failure overseas. I would like to share one additional thought, the cultural difference also plays an important role here. Chinese people really like the concept of “large and complete”, and products with multi-functions are more popular. Wechat is such a product with multi-functions. It has everything (facebook, whatspp, paypal, Amazon, Uber…) in one app, and Chinese people are very fascinated by that. But US consumers may hold different preference. They prefer leaner products/apps, each with one pure but powerful function. So for US consumers, WeChat is not that attractive and lose lots of its differentiations against existing dominant players. As far as I know, overseas market is not a focus for WeChat (messaging) now. Wechat payment is expanding globally, but mainly target Chinese consumers shopping overseas.

On February 1, 2018, Ting commented on Venmo: What’s Cash? :

Thanks for your sharing! I do think that venom makes my life easier! I agree with you that Venmo is a winner in peer to peer payments market, and so glad to see that they are also moving to retails by cooperating with two million online US retailers. I am wondering that whether Venmo also has interest in expanding the offline payment market. Unlike Alipay and Wechat Pay are transforming China into a cashless society, it seems that the offline payment market via mobile is still an untapped market in US.

This is a very interesting post! Thanks for sharing. I worked in J&J and Genentech before, and I understand how difficult and risky the bio-pharmaceuticals R&D is. Leveraging AI to accelerate the drug development will create a huge value for the whole society. Do you have any thoughts of the future of such AI-based startups? It seems that many biotech/pharma companies are cooperating with these startups to try the new technology. Do you think these startups will be eventually acquired by large biotech companies, or do you think some of them should leverage its core AI capability to sell drugs by themselves and capture all the value (becoming another Amgen or Genentech)?

On February 1, 2018, Ting commented on Amazon | To Go Or Not To Go :

Great post Juan! Thanks for sharing your first-hand experiences with Amazon Go with us!
I actually hold a different view of licensing technology vs. keeping it in house. I believe Amazon will be in a better position if they license the technology to other retailers. On one hand, the huge retail market (not only grocery, but also apparel store, home appliance store…) will be very interested in such technology, because it can help reduce labor cost and theft, and the retailers cannot do it by themselves. On the other hand, I think Amazon can gain a lot from the partnership, the massive data they can collect to analyze/predict customer behaviors and then leverage it in Amazon.com, and an Amazon payment system they can promote to replace cash and credit cards. I feel the value generated from data and payment system is much more than that generated from grocery business.