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On May 1, 2018, Chris commented on Electronic Arts: Game On :

That’s a great point! IMO, there is definitely an opportunity for large developers like EA to take advantage of early releases and longer closed & open betas. If decide to try more early access programs, it’s important that they price down appropriately and follow through on their initial promises to the players who buy in early. And long-form beta testing is a great way to build buzz, crowd-source bug-finding and feedback, and get to a better finished product EA does run open betas for its multiplayer games, but it’s usually done on a short timeline before the games get kicked out the door. In fact, the Battlefront II “loot box” wildfire broke out during the beta — EA DICE was doing the right thing by sourcing player feedback, but the problem was that the game producers initially refused to take corrective action in response.

On May 1, 2018, Chris commented on Electronic Arts: Game On :

Thanks for bringing this up, Mike, and I totally agree that the opportunities for both AR and VR are really interesting. I think games like “Pokémon Go” have shown us that there’s already a lot of potential for AR gaming today, and I’ve heard EA’s CEO say that they (particularly EA Mobile) are working on a lot of projects that will take advantage of it.

In time, I think VR has definitely the potential to change gaming, but it will probably take several more years (and at least one more console generation) for the tech to really take hold of the mass market. Since EA specializes in big budget, triple-A games, the install base just isn’t big enough yet to justify shifting a large amount of resources toward developing VR-first games. There shouldn’t be a rush to bet the farm on VR, either, as I don’t think see EA at risk of classic disruption here: full-featured VR games are expensive to develop, and when EA wants to start making more of them, they already have most of the tools and talent to do them well. As such, the safest and highest ROI bet is probably to start with ports of some key titles that could translate well to a VR experience (e.g. Anthem, Battlefield), focusing on developing institutional knowledge and optimizing the process. EA could also partner with startup studios and experiment with smaller in-house projects to learn more about building VR-first games from the ground-up, treating it as an investment in the future.

And as for the question of whether EA should enter the VR gaming hardware space, I think your instincts are totally correct on that — they should stick to software. It’s an early market that’s already crowded with a lot of players (HTC, Oculus, Playstation VR, more) who can do it better, and EA has no hardware expertise to begin with.

On April 22, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Digital Disney: Transforming the Happiest Place on Earth :

Thanks for the post! I totally agree that Disney will need to carry out some major organizational changes if it wants to stay sharp in content creation, but I imagine there will be some serious resistance at the executive level. After years of working their way up in the entertainment industry, a lot of the senior producers and executives at Disney have the privilege of enjoying a great deal of influence and control within their professional networks. Ceding control and making Disney a flatter creative organization may be what’s right for the company, but that could definitely conflict with the personal interests of the people needed to drive those changes.

On April 22, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Pernod Ricard: digitalizing the world of premium drinks :

Thanks for this interesting post, Iryna! I wonder if Pernod has considered building out another version of the OPN platform to accommodate a full bar’s worth of liquor and spirits. There could be an opportunity to partner with bars and restaurants by selling a commercial-grade variant of the OPN to them; this could help the bars cut personnel and liquor costs by reducing time to mix drinks, track bottle usage, and prevent waste. Cocktail menus could be expanded, as bartenders could quickly refer to instructions on the app if they get in a jam. These systems could track and transmit data on drink dispensing and consumption back to Pernod, which could help them conduct more targeted marketing.

On April 22, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Wayfair – A Zillion Things Home :

Thanks for the post, Eliza! It seems Wayfair has gone through continuous waves of digital transformation since since inception, and I wonder if the company would even be alive today if not for its ability to persistently and rapidly evolve. Selling heavy goods and furniture online has always struck me as a super problematic concept — as we used to say in RC Strategy, it’s a “five-star crappy industry.” I don’t think they’ve ever made a profit; if they do, one day, manage to fully prove out their business model and show sustainable profitability, I feel like Wayfair will go down in the books as a historic case of a company totally defying the odds through digital innovation.

On April 10, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Silicon Valley’s Secretive Big Data Unicorn :

I loved this article — Palantir is such an interesting company. There’s no doubt that Palantir’s monolithic database and analytics toolset is incredibly robust and powerful. Since a considerable share of their tools can be wielded as instruments for social/political surveillance and control, the question of how to properly and effectively regulate the company’s activities is a big one. Personally, I doubt I could believe in anything in this world as much as Thiel seems to believe in the inviolable perfection of his own political opinions, and I wonder if his enthusiastic efforts to shape political outcomes could one day become a problem for the company and its other shareholders.

On April 10, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Correlation Ventures: Taking the “Gut Feel” out of VC :

I think this was such a great idea, and in a competitive field with hundreds of upstart VC firms fighting for LP funds and deals, I think the team at Correlation was really smart to find a way to differentiate themselves. While it sounds like they are still in the early stages of establishing a track record, $350+ AUM is no joke for a VC firm. Question is, as deal data becomes more easily accessible online (and through sources like Crunchbase and Pitchbook), and other VCs start building their own databases, how long until Correlation’s quant-driven edge gets competed away?

On April 10, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Nest: One step closer to creating our modern-day JARVIS :

I’m curious to see how long the Nest brand stays around as the group sinks deeper into the folds of Google’s hardware team. There are news reports indicating that Google tried to unload Nest a couple years ago, but couldn’t find any interested buyers. With disappointing revenue growth so far, I wonder if the the value proposition of Nest’s expensive product line is really strong enough to find a major market.

On March 27, 2018, Chris Haak commented on A Blockbuster Failure and the Changing Media Landscape :

I loved this post, and Blockbuster will always be one of my favorite cases of a business getting caught with its pants down in the midst of changing industry dynamics. As you mentioned, many factors contributed to the end of Blockbuster; even if high-speed digital streaming had taken more time to roll-out, I wonder how long the business would have prospered. The stores were ridiculously large, with multiple staffers and DVDs laid out like trophies across the shelves. Dozens copies of the same new release movie sometimes took up an entire wall. And then, about fifteen years ago, Redboxes and other express kiosks started to appear inside grocery stores and 7-Elevens—providing much of the same value as a Blockbuster, but with minimal investment requirements, reduced rental costs to customers, and increased convenience. At the same time, new DVD prices were plummeting at retailers like Best Buy. I can’t believe it took Blockbuster so long to realize the forces working against it.

On March 27, 2018, Chris Haak commented on The New York Times’ Impressive Digital Transition :

Nice article, Laura—very cool to hear the story from someone who was a part of NYT’s digital transformation! As someone who started subscribing to the Times a few years ago, I feel like I’ve gotten more than my money’s worth. The NYT apps have always been slick and smooth, making for a great user experience, and I get the sense that other papers like the WSJ, WP, and FT have really followed NYT’s lead in developing their own digital platforms.

On March 26, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Fitbit: From Winner to Loser :

Fun fact—Fitbit launched a new watch today (the Versa) that looks exactly like the Apple Watch. It only took them three full years to come out with the copy. At this point, I wonder when shareholders might start pushing management to return the remaining cash on the balance sheet and run the business for cash into the twilight.

On March 26, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Drone Racing League :

This is super cool. I do wonder, though, how realistic DRL’s estimates are of future consumer demand for competitive drone racing. Why pay to rent stadiums, set physical courses, and invest in recording/streaming tech when this could all be rendered digitally? I think the young market DRL is going for will instead be overwhelmingly dominated by e-sports leagues like MLG and services like Twitch. Today, e-sports fans seem more interested in MOBA, FPS, and Battle Royale games than the racing genre, but if a killer competitive racing game emerges, there will no doubt be a mass audience for it.

On March 26, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Roku: The little player dominating Apple and Amazon :

I really enjoyed this post, and it has been cool to see Roku’s success navigating such a highly competitive market over the past few years. I do wonder if it’s stuck in a highly precarious position: to one side, there’s Amazon, Google, and Apple, as you mentioned in the post. But I’m also worried about some of Roku’s current TV hardware partners—i.e. Samsung, Sharp, Hisense, etc. If they realize there’s a mint to be made in controlling the streaming software, what’s going to stop them from developing their own software platforms and cutting out Roku?

On March 26, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Valve: Turning the Spigot on Product to Platform Transformation :

Great post. It’s incredible how long Steam has dominated the digital distribution market for PC games. Valve was so far ahead of the curve here, and I totally agree that they have created a tremendous amount of value for players (rapid downloads, a massive library, user reviews & even a recommendation engine) as well as developers & publishers (decreased barriers to distribution, a high-margin delivery channel, and DRM support). Despite the efforts of EA (Origin) and Ubisoft (Uplay), Valve has managed to essentially retain on a monopoly on the PC distribution market—yet they run the business cleanly enough that it doesn’t feel oppressive, I think, to the most of the PC gaming community.

On March 26, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Volition: Democratizing Beauty :

No expert on beauty products, but I think this is a really interesting venture. Agree with the author that Volition may want to think about strengthening its presence on social media platforms to drive better user engagement. Volition is barely present on Twitter (~1000 followers), but if they are really interested in increasing feedback quantity, it could be worth the effort to acquire more followers on Twitter and begin posting polls on their for new products under consideration. I also poked around on the website a bit — honestly, it seems very quiet, and unless you want to submit a product idea, all you can really do is vote for your favorites on a bulletin board or click around a shopping page. No “creator community” to speak of, and there’s no way to communicate on a P2P basis through the site. I suspect they will need to build out more features if they want to kindle any sort of continued growth.

This is why we can’t have nice things! Just kidding—NERC’s choice to shift the “Boaty McBoatface” name to the dumpy little autosub was super weak. The people spoke, and there was nothing offensive about it, so slap the name on that big red hull loud and proud. NERC forfeited a chance to cultivate a long-term fanbase in the general public because they were afraid of a tiny whiff of impropriety in the moment.

On March 26, 2018, Chris Haak commented on Wikipedia: The Ultimate Crowdsourced Knowledge Tool :

I loved this blog. As Wikipedia depends on its volunteer editors and writers to lend apply their time, effort and expertise for nothing in the way of financial rewards, I think switching to the non-profit model was the right choice for the site. It helps to nest incentives in a more natural manner. If I’m volunteering my time to build out the site and its articles, I want the full amount of any value produced to go toward the public good.

This is such an interesting case. The question of whether Quora’s reported 2017 valuation of $1.8 billion is justified is a real head-scratcher. On one hand, they’ve grown a valuable repository of knowledge; their 200+ million unique visitors per month is no joke; they’ve finally rolled out native in-feed ads, which IMO are small-footprint and non-disruptive; and it looks like they’ve begun to pursue avenues of growth more aggressively (there’s some 50 open jobs on their careers page). But, on the other hand, I somewhat doubt whether the vast majority of Quora’s visitors are remotely engaged with the platform. While I know there’s a community of devoted contributors, when I use the platform, I’m personally looking to quickly find the information I’m looking for and then move on with my day somewhere else, limiting my time on Quora to a few moments—and I imagine this is true for many other visitors as well. The potential rewards for providing a top answer (the satisfaction of being a know-it all, I suppose?) don’t make the work seem like any less of a chore. While there is definitely a lot of value created by the platform, I totally agree that capturing a greater share of it will be tough.