Great company example. I think indeed the space ThredUp started out in would be a tricky one, but that the company has very much started to successfully exploit network effects: because they have a lot of buyers, they are able to accept a lot of merchandise from sellers; and because they can accept good merchandise (to your point, based on the ever-increasing amount of data on-hand) they can provide better product to the buyers. ThredUp has also been making strides to increase its position via things like branded, reusable bags; a much more effective and data-driven website with impressive search capabilities; and paying sellers the highest price for their product. These things make it easier to shop on the site as well as easier and more pleasant to sell. The thing I would perhaps worry about more is the “Craigslist-ization” of the site, in this case with companies like Kidizen picking off segments of ThredUp’s products. However if ThredUp can market to these customers successfully, and build out its product to a stronger point than that of competitors, buyers might be hard-pressed to find better items elsewhere.
Fascinating space, to say the least. VR will definitely be incredibly applicable across a staggering variety of applications, however I think the content issue is a very sizable obstacle. VR is such a different mode than anything that exists today: many people can’t actually physically handle wearing the headsets for long durations as it is so trying on the senses; the technology required on the infrastructure side is substantial given the amount of data that has to be transferred; the technology on the content-creator side is complex as many additional visual and audio qualities are necessary to ensure users won’t get sick; the technology on the hardware side has to be robust such that it can mirror human senses of hearing and feeling on all sides, not just in front of the person. Given these complexities, financing content will be incredibly costly, and runs into the issue that the hardware capabilities must be built to match the content capabilities. This chicken and egg problem will not be one that is quickly resolved.
LinkedIn absolutely revolutionized the way hiring, networking, and profile sharing happen in professional settings. The major thing I worry about with LinkedIn, however, is the complete dearth of blue collar professionals on the site. The product offering LinkedIn has cultivated simply is not set up in a way to showcase blue collar work in the same way — often more skills based than simply company name based — and the marketing and targeting work done does not at all seem to address company hiring needs of being able to easily parse through data on this gigantic work force easily. It seems to me that companies like LearnUp are doing a stellar job in this area and will soon overtake as the winner. LearnUp not only creates skills-based profiles, but links directly into employers for job descriptions and pre-interview trainings to help identify truly interested candidates, and prepare the candidates to successfully go through the interview process. LearnUp then continues to offer trainings and modules to keep these candidates engaged and learning new skills, which then are also quantitatively recorded and tracked via their profiles. The company has been able to successfully prove their value proposition in slashing hiring costs, improving new hire effectiveness, and enabling long-term growth for that hire within the company. LinkedIn seems to fall short on many of these characteristics for this gigantic workforce.
I agree that the 10-year contracts are a strong move for Gogo, and I think speak to the airlines’ view that new competitors wouldn’t be able to readily crop up in the near-term. The question for me will be whether Gogo will be able to continue improving and innovating to the point that consumers are kept happy, and what it will cost them to do so, and if not, will customers invest in their own in-flight solutions (which perhaps wouldn’t be covered by the contract). The disadvantage of being the first mover is that Gogo is the one whose brand will have to be directly associated with the poor infrastructure that exists today, which might be something they will be unable to overcome later down the road. Additionally, as they are the ones who largely have to lead the charge to improve said infrastructure, they may too deeply entrench themselves in current technology, which would likely see outside innovation, and therefore would be left behind. A major airline flight I took this past month opted to have their own in-flight service. My first thought was that that decision must have been a very intentional choice (given Gogo’s substantial presence) to own this all-important piece of flight satisfaction, especially for the all-important business traveler. I would wonder whether Gogo contracts prevent airlines from launching their own presence in the space, and how easy it would be for those airlines to do so as technology progresses.
The model DSC is pursuing to disrupt a staid market is indeed interesting, however I would personally rank them behind Harry’s for three reasons: design, razor quality, and funding. On the design side Harry’s is far more elegant and interesting, which I think makes customers proud of the product, enjoy using it, and feel as though they are getting something unique and special with their subscription, for a lower price than something one might find at The Art of Shaving. DSC on the other hand continues the industrial look of many other competitors, and therefore is not differentiated on design. In terms of razor quality, as another commenter mentioned, DSC is simply repackaging razors of another company that is separately available for sale. Harry’s, on the other hand, is now the only brand in the world that makes its own blades and sells directly to the customer, thereby completely owning the quality of their product as well as the customer experience. They also can boast an extra blade edge on their razors. Lastly, Harry’s is better funded, having raised just under $300M versus DSC’s $150M, with the latest round for both having closed this summer. My bet would be on Harry’s!