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On November 23, 2015, AS commented on Stitch Fix: Mastering Personalization Through Data Science :

Great post! I’ve never tried Stitch Fix personally but my sister has, and I remember her being a little put off by her first few experiences, where she felt like a lot of what she was being sent was in fact the opposite of what she had mentioned in her initial style preference survey. I wonder how they’ve managed to improve this over time (e.g. maybe larger inventory selection or more sizes, etc.) and if they’re actually using the “bad” boxes to measure how likely a customer is to actually return something even if it’s not necessarily their size. It could be a cool way to test customer stickiness and the ability to push through inventory to unlikely customers who may not have purchased those items individually at a store.

On November 23, 2015, AS commented on “Also recommended for Sarah…” – Thanks, Netflix. :

Thanks for a great post — I had no idea how much data Netflix was collecting on me when I watch, but I’m not necessarily surprised. I wonder if something else they might move into is connecting Netflix accounts between friends (or adding “friends” on Netflix), and then combining viewer data to start suggesting movie / TV nights as social gatherings based on what you and your friends have in common. That might also impact the way in which they think about releasing new content as well as pitching viewership to content creators in order to license their content. Netflix might also be able to do this internally within the different profiles in a single account (I believe you can create up to four profiles under one paying membership).

On November 23, 2015, AS commented on Bikes, Data and the Crowd :

Great post! I’ve never used Hubway so found it really informative. Also loved the Tableau visualizations!

I agree with Sara around the missing data around actual biking routes. I feel like getting a sense of most common routes and how traffic patterns affect how long someone has a bike out could actually help Hubway better suggest routes for their bikers and/or indicate during what time of day a user is most likely going to find a bike available at their preferred Hubway location. I’m not sure if Hubway has a mobile app, but maybe users could enter in their trip information ahead of time (pick up and drop off locations), and Hubway could provide suggestions on when they should plan to travel and how long commute times are likely to take based on data from other users. While this doesn’t necessarily change how Hubway is internally managing its bike inventory across locations, it might help manage user expectations around bike availability.

On November 1, 2015, AS commented on TripAdvisor and the crowds :

I am a huge fan of TripAdvisor! I’ve used it regularly over the past few years and especially this past year organizing travel while at HBS. The one thing I found a bit overwhelming was the amount of things TripAdvisor throws at you when doing a basic search of what there might be to do in a particular city or area. Similar to Noam’s comment above, I feel like it can be tough to maneuver through TripAdvisor’s search results or pull together a tactical itinerary. Given the amount of data they have both from other travel sources as well as travelers themselves, I wonder if there’s an opportunity for TripAdvisor to begin pulling together sample itineraries for future travelers, complete with top recommendations on what to see, how to travel between attractions, and where to stay. They could then open this up to travelers themselves to start contributing itineraries based on specific locations, number of days, etc., to help provide future travelers with a very strong starting point on planning their next vacation. As of now, TripAdvisors does a great job in providing recommendations for one-off aspects of a trip, but there might be potential in becoming a more holistic travel aid.

On November 1, 2015, AS commented on Finding the Next Unicorn with Product Hunt :

Thanks for a great post! I used Product Hunt quite often this summer working to better understand what type of consumer app trends were gaining traction in the market to support the start-up I was at. I found the comments to be very insightful, and now it’s even more apparent as to why! My one thought around having a very exclusive comment community however is whether the general opinions coming from Product Hunt will become too polarized as a result. Obviously, a new product will need to convince skeptics that it can work (and I assume Product Hunt users will be a hard audience to convince), but I wonder if perhaps the opposite effect could result as well; the most sophisticated technology participants might think something is innovative or breakthrough when, in fact, it might be that the general public may not be ready for such an offering. By limiting those who can participate, I wonder if important opinions may be excluded.

On November 1, 2015, AS commented on Genius: Annotating the World, One Rap at a Time :

This is a great post! I agree with Jeff’s points above around having artists themselves engage in “grading” the annotations to improve user engagement. I wonder if Genius could partner with iTunes to feature an artist’s tracks and easily link to purchase in order to incentivize an artist to take the time to engage with the platform. On the user side, I could see Genius potentially holding some type of limited time competition encouraging users to submit annotations, where the selected winner by the artist gets a different Genius IQ prize badge or something similar to help indicate their strength on the platform. In terms of other partnerships, I wonder if even forming relationships with websites such as and others could be a good starting point for Genius IQ to improve its brand recognition and improve its SEO rankings via increased links from trusted websites.

On October 5, 2015, AS commented on LevelUp: A Rewarding Network $$ :

Great post on LevelUp! I used it quite a bit in the past. I had never really thought about direct network effects on the consumer side of this application before. I understand why merchants would want other merchants to adopt LevelUp in order to incentivize consumers to download the app, though I’ve also wondered if too many merchants on the app may limit the appeal of the rewards at a particular merchant, and therefore would increase competition. On the consumer side, I personally found that my friends only cared if others used the app to get the initial referral bonus, after which it wasn’t really something they ever thought about. My usage of the app really only depended on if I was getting enough rewards to warrant me going to the places LevelUp suggested (or if they were subsidizing purchases I would have already made anyway). But, interesting point around the data collection piece, and consumers wanting better suggestions in the future! I see the value in this from a consumer stand point, and definitely will think more about consumer adoption from this angle in the future.

On October 5, 2015, AS commented on WeWork is betting on network effects in networking :

This is a super interesting concept! Having never been an entrepreneur, I’ve always wondered what the dynamic between start-ups is like in terms of sharing resources — especially those vital to the success of your business like funding and mentorship/knowledge transfers. As you’ve outlined, the direct network effects that WeWork seems to be based on is that start-ups/freelancers are generally open to collaboration and the sharing of resources. I wonder how these social and professional dynamics play out in reality, and if competitive forces may eventually drive out more successful companies from this model in order to protect their own resources and assets.

Regarding the indirect network effects, I agree this sounds like a pretty compelling platform for service providers hoping to capitalize on a large group of previously untapped customers. I wonder how WeWork prevents against these providers like Amazon, etc. poaching or building other types of direct relationships with the entrepreneurs/start-ups once they reach scale and may be able to tap affordable pricing outside of WeWork’s existing partner relationships.

On October 5, 2015, AS commented on Snapchat at School :

Interesting post! Totally agree that they’ve capitalized on a new way to communicate both directly and more broadly via direct snaps and stories which is more engaging than traditional text and also provides visual insight into what a person is doing. I think Snapchat’s big advantage over other social platforms in the future will be its advertising offering (which you’ve alluded to) and the way it can capitalize on indirect network effects. It currently offers full video advertising to a very targeted millennial demographic. While Facebook can target as well, I think Snapchat’s offerings will also be more engaging given the way in which Snapchat content is shared (brief and in-the-moment) — users may be more willing to see out the ad to make sure they didn’t miss something interesting or funny which they might enjoy, compared to Facebook or Instagram, where the user can simply scroll past any ads they see.

On September 13, 2015, AS commented on Venmo: Rapidly Replacing Cash in the Pockets of Millenials :

Thanks for the great write-up on Venmo and laying out why it’s achieved so much success thus far – I absolutely agree about the great customer experience, simplicity/convenience/mobile, and network effects. Like others have mentioned, I think it’s important to note that Venmo has other competitors both directly (Square Cash, Google Wallet, etc.) and indirectly (bitcoin wallets like Coinbase, Circle, Xapo, etc.) that accomplish similar tasks and have built up large user bases as well with their own network effects, highlighting the tremendous competition in this space. Furthermore, bitcoin wallets have the advantage of international usage, whereas Venmo requires as U.S. banking account. So, as much as we use Venmo here at HBS (I myself use it multiple times a week), I wonder what will differentiate Venmo in the long-run compared to the other offerings out there. For example, Apple Pay will likely end up becoming an easier process for users than opening up the Venmo app — is the social aspect of Venmo enough to keep me using it? I’m curious to how other players will also innovate in this space and how Venmo’s position in the market will change accordingly.

On September 13, 2015, AS commented on Quip and the end of the paper communication protocol :

I absolutely agree that Quip is a company creating and capturing tremendous value, though I guess I came to that conclusion a bit differently. You mentioned that Quip differentiates itself from Microsoft Office and Google Apps by ignoring “the same, analog constraint as did the typewriter: the printed page.” I definitely agree that a printed page is not always the most efficient way to communicate information. But I also believe Quip’s lack of a printed page is simply the design aspect of its larger goal mentioned by Bret Taylor, to do for mobile what Microsoft Office did for the PC. Given shifts to mobile platforms, Quip is advantaged over Microsoft and Google since their legacy businesses started on the PC rather than starting from mobile like Quip did, and that can cause misaligned incentives. To me, Quip’s product differentiation stems from its focus on collaboration, mobility, interactivity, and seamless online-offline transitions with documents at any time.

On September 13, 2015, AS commented on Not Slacking off in the office :

You make some great points that Slack has done a great job with its freemium business model and that growth has been exceptional (and incredibly viral). I’d also add that Slack benefits from network effects, as the platform becomes more valuable as more users join. This leads to a sticky customer base and high switching costs. Slack has added to this stickiness by allowing developers to build on its platform.

With regards to Angela’s comment, I agree that it seems like most of Slack’s early customers are tech companies. However, I think that’s more a testament to its early, viral, word-of-mouth growth that they achieved with practically no marketing, and think the pace of their adoption actually benefited from seeming “exclusive” when they launched. That being said, since Slack has delivered better productivity software applicable across industries, they have a large addressable market and should be able to increase market share.