Ian C.

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On May 3, 2017, Ian C. commented on Littlstar: The YouTube of VR? :

Michelle, I loved your post and agree that Littlstar is an incredibly interesting company in the space currently. They have definitely had serious success to date and have a major backer by way of Disney. I would love to get your thoughts on whether Littlstar can retain its place in the market as companies such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, who each play across the VR value chain, continue to push efforts at creating VR ecosystems on their platforms. Google and Facebook both recently announced new developer tools and SDKs to encourage content and app production on their platforms. Do you think VR application companies such as this will continue to thrive or will there be a consolidation as larger players become increasingly involved?

On May 3, 2017, Ian C. commented on NVIDIA: The future Nokia of PC gaming? :

James, awesome post, I really enjoyed reading it. Given the overlap of NVIDIA’s end customer in the gaming market and the VR market (at least currently given the popularity of VR gaming), I agree that there is a huge opportunity for NVIDIA to shape the direction of VR hardware across tethered, console, and mobile. One question I have is whether NVIDIA is worried that there efforts and success in VR will ultimately cannibalize their success in the traditional gaming market. Depending on whether the Company thinks that VR gaming is a complementary or substitute behavior, there could be real concerns that they are not actually growing their portion of the overall gaming ecosystem pie, but rather, just shifting it to a new medium.

On May 3, 2017, Ian C. commented on Penrose Studios: The Pixar of VR? :

Nupur, great post as always. One of the major challenges facing VR creators at the moment is how to monetize while being careful not to reduce consumer interest due to cost. Do you know if Penrose has consider alternative sources of monetization, outside of consumers? Some creators in the industry have begun to consider charging VR platforms and even hardware producers to be able to have access to their content. A second question I continue to think about is will these VR native content creators be able to compete once the major studios begin to put a full effort around content creation. While there are certainly first-mover advantages, it is hard to imagine a world where consumers loyalty to Penrose would trump that of Disney. Will be very interesting to see how these animators/creators evolve as the industry grows!

On April 7, 2017, Ian C. commented on Netflix: Reinventing Hollywood with Data :

NP – great post (as always). Clearly, Netflix has done an amazing job at leveraging data to create original content for users and differentiate itself from traditional studios. Would love to get your thoughts on the recent announcement that Netflix will soon be leveraging its data to create alternate endings for different users based on their Netflix profile and past viewing preferences. This seems like a pretty fundamental shift away from video-based storytelling as we know it, and a move away from collective content-based experiences that speak to current cultural issues or important shared themes. How do you view this move?

On April 7, 2017, Ian C. commented on Next Big Sound – moneyball for music? :

Daniella, loved your post! Really interesting company. I am curious about the purported accuracy of the service – 20% margin of error seems pretty high to me; do they provide any statistics of what their competitors (or traditional A&R employees at record labels) are able to predict? Would be any interesting comparison given the difficulty of identifying the next big hit. My other major question is related to competitive response – what is stopping a large, more-well funded competitor (e.g. Spotify) from doing this themselves? I believe that Spotify already has a tool for artists to analyze their streaming data to identify trends and see which types of listeners are connecting with their music. Do you think Next Big Sound would be acquired by a larger competitor in the longer-term?

James, thanks for the great post. Palantir is certainly an interesting company. I am curious what your thoughts are on the role that Palantir has played in helping expand and accelerate the NSA’s global spy network, and the broader implications for “technology” firms such as this could be playing in allowing global governments to intrude upon the privacy of the very citizens that they are purporting to protect. Palantir has frequently stated its commitment to protecting the “fundamental rights to privacy and civil liberties”, and yet, its partnership with the NSA has included building tools to enhance the use of XKEYSCORE, one of the most intrusive tools wielded by the NSA, capturing nearly everything that users typically do on the internet by collecting emails, chats, pictures, web searches, social media traffic, etc. At a time when many tech companies are pushing back against global governments to defend users’ privacy (e.g. Apple), it seems that Palantir’s products have been specifically designed to co-opt any hope of private citizens having true digital privacy.

Christy, great post! I myself am a huge fan of HotelTonight and have used it on numerous occasions while traveling abroad (not sure what that says about my time management skills…). The team has definitely found a huge area of opportunity given the US hotel vacancy rates that you mentioned in your post. I would also add that the simple and streamlined UX is a huge strength of the platform, as it is very easy for users who are new to the platform and are booking a room immediately after downloading the app (also me!). A couple of questions came to mind after reading your post. First, turning Meili’s question on its head, what is to stop more traditional online travel sites from moving into the “last minute” booking space? Is this part of the reason for the launch of the Aces Virtual Concierge? Do you think it would be palatable if HT offered a lower commission on the hotel side in order to gain exclusivity of the “night of” booking window? Second, as HT continues to grow, how does it avoid over-saturation in existing markets? It seems like at some point, it could begin to cannibalize the core benefit that it provides to existing partners.

On February 27, 2017, Ian C. commented on YouTube: A Platform Democratizing Video :

Nupur, I loved this post. In addition for all of the reasons we discussed in class, YouTube is such an interesting platform case study given that many people on one side of the platform can also simultaneously exist on the other side (i.e. users who upload content can also consume content generated by others). I am definitely bullish on YouTube and I am an active daily user; however, I have recently been mulling over two questions related to recent events. First, how does YouTube’s push into original content creation impact the value of the platform for external creators? Do you think that YouTube’s efforts here will damage relationships with external creators who are either currently very successful or are growing in popularity? Second, what do the recent events concerning PewDiePie’s anti-Semitic posts reveal about YouTube’s relationships with external content creators in the future? The ability of individuals to easily create and upload content has historically been one of YouTube’s greatest strengths; going forward, however, what do you think is YouTube’s role in screening for content that is potentially offensive, hateful, etc? Would love to chat offline and get your thoughts!

Lulu, I really enjoyed this post! I admittedly had never heard of Farfetch and your post was very illuminating. It seems like Neves has built a great platform and has been very smart in terms of building out a UX that preserves the luxury feel of its boutique partners and products. Of course, fashion is a very competitive industry and you mentioned the ongoing risk of new competitors; how do you think that Farfetch would respond in the event of a new entrant, either in the form of a new business or an existing one like Amazon? Given its relatively high commission currently, do you think Neves would be inclined to lower that amount, or do you think Farfetch’s existing vendor relationships insulate it from this type of action? In that event, what types of other value-added services could Farfetch offer to retain vendors and customers on its platform?

On February 2, 2017, Ian C. commented on The Fabulous Demise of Fab. :

Meghana – great post, I really enjoyed it. I also appreciate the fact that you chose a digital “loser” and demonstrated the fact that even with a great digital strategy, the remainder of the operating model and business model must tie together. A couple of questions came to mind as I read your post. First, given the idea to focus on selling eclectic and quirky hand-picked goods, do you think the business may have been doomed to fail from the start? Seems like that choice does not really provide a large, or consistent, enough target market to go after. Second, why do you the VC firms who invested in the company paid so little attention to the operations side of the business? I understand that they would be primarily focused on top line growth, but seems like a strange oversight particularly in the later fundraising rounds. And lastly, do you think the inventory management and turnover issues would have been ameliorated if Fab had focused on more mass produced type, rather than “unique” products? Your post definitely highlights the importance of having a fully integrated business and operating models, as well as physical and digital strategies.

On February 2, 2017, Ian C. commented on musical.ly strikes the right chord – to the tune of 40M MAU :

Libby, awesome post – I realized that musical.ly had experienced serious growth but not at such a rapid clip. I am concerned less about the “fad” aspect of the app/user experience given the increasing popularity of short-form and non-scripted content, particularly in China, which it can always fall back on given that its based in Shanghai. My concern is whether other social media players, in particular YouTube and Snapchat, begin to develop a mobile UX that copies many of musical.ly’s features. With their massive scale, do you think there is a risk that musical.ly users begin to create similar content on those platforms? Alternatively, musical.ly seems like it could be a great acquisition target for a competitor such as YouTube (a la Facebook/Instagram).

Alex – I really enjoyed your post. I think your analysis on the importance of focusing on paid-users is spot on. It is interesting to see that despite the fact that both streaming services offer free and paid tiers, Pandora focuses on free-tier customers as a result of its dependence on advertising revenues, while Spotify deploys a “freemium” approach: leveraging the free tier as a gateway to drive people into becoming paid subscribers. I also find it very interesting that Pandora has been very successful in monetizing the assets acquired in the TicketFly acquisition. Many observers believed that Pandora would be able to vertically integrate the data generated from listener preferences to push targeted concert advertisements to consumers depending on geography, preferences, etc. However, it does not seem that Pandora has fully leveraged the value embedded within the TicketFly assets