Yezi Peng

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On April 25, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Unity: The biggest platform for creating VR content :

Great post! Agreed that moving into B2B could be very attractive. There’s a company called Vuforia (owned by PTC) which is an AR developer platform for enterprise, with a focus on manufacturing and industrial applications. I wonder what real barriers to entry there are to expanding into other applications; do you think Unity has a shot at attracting more enterprise-focused developers onto its platform rather than these indie developers? What do you think a platform has to do to get the right content authors onto its platform?

On April 25, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on HBX Needs to Go Whole-Hog on VR Classrooms :

Super interesting. I think one of the biggest draws of VR applications in education is the democratization of education, but does HBS actually want that? Obviously HBX is already democratizing HBS content to some degree, but I wonder how much VR content (in the form of a virtual professor and virtual students) would appear to “dilute” the HBS brand, in that the perceived value of the content shifts more toward the tech and aggregation of data itself, vs the inherent and storied value of the brand and the (human) professorial talent here. It’s certainly a fascinating idea, but I bet HBS would be very wary of diluting the perceived value of its human talent and brand.

On April 25, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Lowe’s: VR, the Future of Retail :

Great post! I wonder if there’s a disconnect here between the type of customer that cares about DIY home projects and early adopters of VR technology. While I certainly agree that experiential and interactive retail experiences are becoming more important, the 13-17 year old demographic that you mention may not be the primary user of Lowe’s VR content. Further, Lowe’s isn’t a brand that you necessarily associate with high brand engagement and high levels of experiential interactions. As one of the first use cases of retail VR, Lowe’s would certainly not be at the top of my list – even though the DIY home project space certainly makes sense for VR, I think the customer mismatch and current brand equity might be detractors.

Very interesting! While it certainly makes sense that fans would want to experience live events from the standpoint of courtside seats, I think one of the biggest draws with watching live sports events is feeling the energy of the crowd and sharing the moment with others; do you think this will be lost in a VR experience? I’m sure the VR content includes sounds such as the crowd roaring behind you after an exciting play, but there’s something about sharing the experience with friends that might be difficult to replicate through a VR world. I wonder if there’s a way they can make this experience more social – perhaps by linking VR headsets with each other such that you feel like you are experiencing the same content as the person next to you, and somehow integrating your experiences?

On April 4, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Big Data and Retail :

Great post! Predictive analytics is no doubt the way of future retail; currently, ecommerce essentially serves as a mirror of your past behavior, with ads showing up for websites you recently visited (“Remember me?? Go back and buy this shirt you looked at 10min ago!”), which only seems effectual for certain situations and can be pretty irritating for the consumer. I wonder if predictive analytics faces the same pitfalls that financial forecasting does – it relies too heavily on past performance. What “black swan” events, like unpredictable fashion trends or spending shifts, can occur that will disrupt your model? Conversely, I wonder how much of this might become self-fulfilling; Zara claims to have sophisticated demand forecasting tools, but it’s become such a fashion staple nowadays that arguably it itself sets fashion trends for the season.

On April 4, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Next Big Sound – moneyball for music? :

Really interesting post! I definitely have the same question as the skeptics you’ve mentioned – given the subjectivity of music, I wonder if the predictions become somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy; after all, this is an industry where success often begets more success. Buzz and hype do matter. Taking that skepticism one step further, I wonder if artists could reverse-engineer the rankings metrics and artificially prop up their rankings based on juicing certain metrics, like social media call-outs. Given the fluffiness of some of their metrics (social media metrics can certainly be manipulated), I question if artists can work the system to their advantage.

On April 4, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on The Theranos Debacle :

Thanks for the post! Theranos is certainly an interesting case study, and I’m sure it will continue to be talked about as more information comes to light on how much and how exactly it fooled its investors and consumers. What do you think is the takeaway here, re: data? Is it that data is sometimes used as a crutch by companies to “prove” out their CVP? Is it that the power of marketing simply overtook the actual story that the data told, and that the power of the narrative swept investors off their feet? What is the cautionary tale that we can take forth with us?

On March 20, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Solving Crime the Crowdsourced Way :

SUPER interesting! Overeager amateur sleuths and viral dissemination of inaccurate information and figure-pointing are definitely big concerns, as seen in the Boston bombing case. I’m curious how you think law enforcement officials will perceive such crowdsourced efforts. My understanding is that many of these “call in your tips” hotlines result in false information and wasted resources trying to chase down phantom tips. But perhaps 1% accuracy in crowd-generated tips is enough to make it worth it. In any case, I wonder if law enforcement officials will view these efforts as being an encroachment on their expertise and a waste of their time. I also worry that in this age of viral media content, mistaken (albeit, well-intentioned) finger-pointing can damage and ruin a person’s reputation within minutes. There may be a lot of second-order effects from these crowdsourced efforts, even if they lead to a “solved” case.

On March 20, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Sounds of the Crowd :

Very interesting! I echo a lot of the concerns and sentiments of the other comments – the discovery process can be painstaking and arduous. I’m curious how important it is to SoundCloud’s mission to be seen as an impartial, truly democratic platform, rather than an arbiter of taste (which it might become if it launches something like Spotify Discover Weekly as NP suggested). I also wonder what you think of their paid premium model; I imagine that some people use SoundCloud as a music discovery tool on a weekly/monthly basis, and then go to other platforms like Spotify to actually listen to their curated playlists on a day-to-day basis. Does the paid premium model, which suggests that they are competing for the same music dollars as Apple Music or Spotify or Pandora, affect this music discovery use case?

Great post! I’m glad you wrote about this because there really has been so much public discussion lately on the major challenges of chatbots and other “smart” programs. It’s interesting you find the main barrier to be the ML technology itself – with so many ML applications popping up in every industry right now, it’s hard to suss out whether the major barrier to making ML truly usable and accessible is the technology itself or the quality of the data or the sheer volume of data (likely a combination of all). I listened to an a16z podcast recently that argued that startups with a relatively small dataset (as compared to a Google or Facebook) can actually do a lot with ML on the data; it really comes down to having the RIGHT data, applying the optimal type of learning technique based on your domain and use case, and building the right purpose-built stack on top of it. Sounds like Drift will have to figure all of these out, on top of perfecting the actual ML technology itself.

On February 28, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Ethereum: fueling the hype around blockchain? :

James – you’re totally right, and I think that’s where the delineation between private and public blockchains will come in (as mentioned above). It will definitely be interesting to see if open blockchains become the medium of choice (as that’d benefit Ethereum), or if these industries decide to go with more incremental change and go with private blockchains which are a more intermediate use of blockchain (in that they are not fully decentralized systems). I think the latter is frankly very likely for mass usage products, which is concerning for an open platform like Ethereum.

On February 28, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Ethereum: fueling the hype around blockchain? :

Thanks, Sidharth! I agree that Ethereum will have to be very smart and intentional about which new algorithms and functions it decides to deploy in its protocol – cybersecurity will be of utmost importance. Your second question is a really good one – Visa is actually already exploring using blockchain for payments. I think private blockchains will become prevalent in the financial sector, and it will certainly be interesting to see what types of transactions go the way of private vs open blockchain. A lot of it will be up to the users – some will feel more secure using the more familiar route with their dedicated banking institution on that bank’s private blockchain; others may eschew traditional banking altogether and go with open blockchain transfers. I think it will be a slow adoption curve with the majority going with the former approach in early years.

On February 28, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Ethereum: fueling the hype around blockchain? :

I definitely agree that this feels like a winner-take-all market. User adoption will be really key – while I personally believe blockchain is an inevitable technology that will disrupt a lot of industries, I wonder if Ethereum is too early. We may have a few years ahead of us before blockchain hits the mainstream; can Ethereum maintain momentum through that time, or will another company come in at a more opportune time and win the race for users?

Cybersecurity will absolutely be the most crucial issue. Cryptographers have been warning that SHA1 may not be totally secure for a while, and luckily Ethereum runs on a different, more secure hash function. But it will certainly have to stay on its toes to be at the forefront of blockchain security in order to be the trusted platform of choice.

On February 26, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on YouTube: A Platform Democratizing Video :

Great post! While Youtube certainly has done a great job of winning the video platform race thus far, I’m curious if you’re concerned about competitors that are capitalizing on current trends like video game and sports streaming or AR/VR. It feel like static videos will likely be in decline as more interactive video viewing behaviors will become more popular – is Youtube thinking about how to change its platform to accommodate those trends?

On February 26, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on HotelTonight: A Trendsetter Tries to Keep Up :

Interesting post! I think HotelTonight is such an interesting company and will certainly be interesting to see how it’s able to evolve to out-compete established OTAs. When competing against other platforms, it feels like HT is at a disadvantage for both price-sensitive and price-insensitive customers: for the platform-loyal, price-insensitive segment, consumers have a “go to” platform that they use for booking hotels (for me, I generally go to Booking.com first), and if those OTAs are able to provide the same “booking now” services, HT has to overcome friction costs of the consumer mentality of clicking on their “go to” platform first across all use cases (i.e., I would go to Booking.com first regardless of timeline – whether I need a hotel 3 months out or tonight). That friction cost is hard to overcome when most consumers presumably book more often in advance than night of, so they’re trained to go to their primary platform first even if they’re booking night of. For the price-sensitive segment, they’re willing to go the extra mile to check several platforms, in which case HT is in a race to the bottom to have the best inventory and cheapest prices at all times – a difficult feat for a startup.

On February 26, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Tinder’s Growth Strategy: Swiping to Success :

Thanks for the post! While I definitely agree that Tinder did an impressive job of changing the online dating landscape toward “gamefication” and was rewarded handsomely (in terms of user base and growth) for it, I’m curious what you think their sustained differentiation will be moving forward given the onslaught of copycats in the market. It feels like the dating apps that are best equipped to capture value are the more “serious” ones where users are willing to pay a subscription fee for the service; given Tinder’s original position as the fun, “game-ified” version of online dating, it feels like that puts them in a more difficult position for monetization.

On February 2, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on Wayfair: Are Customers Really Ready to Buy Furniture Online? :

Great post! Given the big-ticket purchase nature of the items on Wayfair and the many competitors in the space (while the likes of Walmart.com and Amazon may not have the breadth and quality of furniture offerings, they may already have the online brand loyalty of many customers; taking a risk on a new website for a large purchase is a big mental impediment), it feels like Wayfair is going to have to be at the absolute forefront of the online shopping experience to maintain its competitiveness. Investments in best-of-class digital customer service and AR/VR offerings will be crucial; I wonder if you think Wayfair is well-positioned and has the managerial commitment to do all this. It also feels like the online shopping experience is going to converge for most goods, particularly for less brand-specific goods (high-end fashion brands and electronics may be the least prone to this trend), so I wonder if Wayfair’s focus on home goods is ultimately sustainable.

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

Great post! Echoing the comment above, I find Lynda.com’s most exciting potential to be in its enterprise abilities. As part of Microsoft’s software suite, Lynda could be used as an in-product learning tool – for example, Lynda could be an integrated feature in Microsoft Excel, where you can click on the Lynda button within Excel to quickly learn how to most easily build a lookup function or a pivot table, AS you’re building the actual function in Excel. I think the potential productivity applications for Lynda within Microsoft’s artifacts are immense. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s where LinkedIn / Microsoft take it; as of now, the content on Lynda.com feels a bit unfocused and much of it is easily replicated on other learning sites or MOOCs.

On February 2, 2017, Yezi Peng commented on HBO a Leap from Feature to Destination :

Totally agree that HBO’s key competitive edge is in its content – given its current premium content offerings and its strong reputation, it feels like it’s able to continually build on this content advantage by attracting the best directors and actors to create additional original content for HBO. I think HBO has been able to do this in a way that Netflix and Amazon Prime have not – while Netflix original content has become increasingly reputable, Netflix is still primarily viewed as a streaming platform rather than a content provider. Meanwhile, HBO’s brand seems to be tightly bound to its premium content abilities. Given how historically fickle viewers can be around original content, it will be interesting to see if HBO is able to continue its hold on premium original content.