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Thank you for the interesting post, Julia!

TripAdvisor has enjoyed some of the advantages of being a first mover and building up strong brand awareness long before the emergence of many of its competitors. There is certainly some brand dilution happening and I’m curious how the company will handle it, particularly in the light of emergence of new competitors providing more customized and tailored offerings.

Also, in the light of ever increasing role of Social Media in building online presence and reputation, do you see players like Facebook and Google as plausible competitors when it comes to evaluating the quality of the bookings? Facebook for example has an enormous followings and many of the TripAdvisor-reviewd places have presence on Facebook.

Thanks for the post and further clarifications in answer to Alice’s question.

I’m wondering how much further leverage can Omada get by partnering with hospitals in US and abroad and collect more data that would allow it to improve the quality of its offerings? Partnerships could help it on the path to profitability and increase user engagement.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on Wayfair: Are Customers Really Ready to Buy Furniture Online? :

Thanks for the post, great!

I’m curious about WayFair’s profitability margins and how reliant they are on further decrease in logistics costs. Although the platform is technically scalable beyond US market, there is associated ramp up of shipping costs when delivering products to customers outside of US borders and I’m worried that with the further growth of e-commerce and emergence of local competitors, Wayfair wont be able to maintain its profitability without making changes to its business model. We saw a couple of other promising Home & Living vertical players going out of market, will this happen to Wayfair?

Recently, we spoke about VR and how this could help enhance customer shopping experience – I think this is one of the areas company could take the lead in to win competitive advantage over potential new entrants.

Thanks for your questions, Erik.

To your first question – from what I’ve seen, the path to profitability in these markets is very long and companies burn a lot of money in building up not only their name and educating the local consumer about the advantages of e-commerce, but also in building infrastructure (ie logistics networks) which are often underdeveloped or not present at all. Given these enormous costs, many players have gone out of business because of lack of funding and believe of some investors about the first-mover disadvantages (given the need to invest in education / infrastructure that benefit all players in the market). I therefore think only a company with big pockets can succeed and that Lazada without backup of Alibaba or another player (ie Amazon) would not be able to survive on its own.

To your second question, Alibaba is currently leaving Lazada as a stand-along entity, but has began to integrate certain aspects of the back-end, marketing, etc to leverage its deep knowledge and economies of scale. I believe integration will proceed in the future but Lazada will remain operating under its own name and rules of local markets (which as we saw in eBay / Alibaba battle are very important to grasp).

Thank you for sharing, Hao.

eBay / Alibaba battle is fascinating – deep knowledge of local markets and customization of C2C business model to the realities of China proved pivotal in this case and allowed Alibaba win over eBay.

Alibaba is slowly expanding internationally by acquiring local players and currently follows similar strategy – backing up ventures with capital and support, but maintaining the core of the businesses it acquired (example – Lazada in South East Asia). So far, this has proven to be successful and the strategy seems to be working, allowing Alibaba faster execution and capture of new markets. I wonder, however, how much capital is wasted by building these businesses from the grounds up vs using a more modular approach of replicating Alibaba “Chinese” model in new markets. Path to profitability is very long given the big logistics costs and lack of infrastructure in developing markets, and it would be interesting to see if Alibaba changes its approach going forward.

Great post, Phuong!

In line with comments above, I wonder how much of a fad the success of Kayla is and whether – despite the seemingly flawless execution – she will be able to maintain the freshness and appeal of its brand. I see (1) Low barriers to entry (2) Very crowded market (3) Very cyclical market where trends (SoulCycle and the rise of classes) plays a big role (4) while SAAS model is scalable, I question this business’ ability to target customers beyond its current target age and anticipate big churn as people grow out of it.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on 99Designs of Logos on the Wall… :

Thanks Gil, very interesting post!

It sounds like a perfect solution, particularly for new users who cannot afford the high fees charged by creative agencies. I wonder though what is the toll on the customer and their involvement in the project (i’d assume more than in traditional model as somebody needs to follow the process – similar to Tongal case) and as well, whether like in the case of Havas, this could be an acquisition target for a bigger scale creative agency to complement their offering.

Thanks for the post, very interesting and relevant.

You mention how PatientsLikeMe is transforming a traditionally siloed, competitive clinical research world into a more open system to share data. I’d be curious to know how the data collection works in practice, given the highly regulated market and often inability of patients themselves to get access to their medical records (ie hence the movements like OpenNotes that try to make the data more readily available and comparable).

Oftentimes, timely collection of medical data could provide powerful insights and basis for research – with a (more) uniform data collection systems across hospitals and medical centers (unfortunately not the case in US now) and access to that data, companies like PatientsLikeMe could use the power of crowdsourcing even more and contribute not only to advancements in medical research but also better treatments for patients.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on Gym Rat: Crowdsourcing Personal Trainers :

Great post, Ravneet

I really like the idea. Personally, I found that a lot of people whom one can describe as “gym rats” are highly internally motivated to exercise but also time constraint and might therefore not have the capacity to provide extensive in person coaching. Perhaps a platform that virtually connects two sides of the market with very limited (initial) in-person interaction could reduce the time commitment required to address “newbies” needs while capturing interest and participation of a large pool of “gym rats”. It is important to reduce any tractions preventing potential providers of the service to engage with the platform and a move to virtual environment could be one way of doing it.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on Nike+ … “They make shoes and stuff, right?” :

Very interesting post, Noorin.

You mentioned Nike’s failed attempt in the wearable fitness trackers space while succeeding in providing an alternative use-case for customers to generate data on their platform, and hence use the collected data to add value to company’s existing businesses.

I wonder what type of partnerships – aside Apple – should Nike establish to extract value from the collected data beyond its current applications. In particular, customer habits and activity data could be combined with other measure of health and well-being to generate meaningful insights and actionable takeaways for leading more healthy and sustainable lives. Whether that’s through partnerships with innovative companies like STRIVR or larger data owners like Facebook / Google could they build a wholistic platform that incorporates health data from more aspects of life and provides valuable takeaways outside of company’s current walls.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on Facebook: Social Media and the Rise in Public Suicide :

Thanks, Ian.

A lot of research talks about the negative effects of Social Media on mental health, including its causal effects on depression and increased suicide rates. As the biggest Social Media platform, Facebook is at the core of these discussions and it’s refreshing to see that company is using its resources to fight the problem.

I wonder though whether post-mortem addressing of the symptoms of social media use is the most effective way to solve the rising mental health problems or can Facebook utilize its research, technology and resources to address the root causes by changing the way people consume social media that results in lower impact on mental health.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on WHOOP: A wearable to unlock human potential :

Thanks for the article, Alex. Very insightful!

Similar to Lidiya’s question, and in the light of some of the criticism received by FitBit, Jawbone and the likes, I’m concerned that the abundance of data consumers have access to often doesn’t translate into actionable takeaways or significant insights beyond data itself.

You mentioned how WHOOP takes data to the next level by attempting to read the health impact and recommending actionable steps. Given the variety of factors affecting our health, wellbeing, etc I wonder what type of collaboration is needed to grasp the synergies of services WHOOP and other companies operating in adjacent areas provide and whether individual disruptors have a competitive advantage compared to walled gardens like Google and Facebook that already collect a myriad of customer data. It will be interesting to see whether walled gardens enter into this space or it will remain fragmented going forward.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on Amnesty International: Doing Good with VR :

Great post, Will!

I wonder how much the efforts of using VR by Amnesty Int and other NGOs / charitable organization are hindered by technology’s relatively low awareness levels among the general population. I can see the value of bringing a more immersive and vivid experience to drive donations, but as you mentioned in the post, would be curious to know the associated costs at this point in time.

Would it make sense for Amnesty to spend the money elsewhere and pause VR initiatives until costs of campaigns are lower and VR reach significantly higher?

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on STRIVR – Sports Training In Virtual Reality :

Great post Anish, thank you!

I’m curious when / if STRIVR will move away from pure team sports focus and expand into other sport disciplines. It’s a fascinating tool to improve one’s performance on the field, but I also see its potential to improve athlete’s technique. The move to technically-depanding disciplines like gymnastics, certain parts of track & field (javelin throw, pole vaulting, etc), high diving, etc. could therefore bring a lot of value. I imagine the budgets of those sports teams are significantly smaller and hence probably it represents less lucrative value capture model, but with the improvement of technology and cost reductions, it will hopefully be possible (&profitable) to expand into those areas too.

On April 28, 2017, Katarina commented on AR/VR‘s Today and Future in Alibaba: In Retail and Beyond :

Thanks for the post, Yao!

I find VR particularly interesting in the e-commerce context, given its potential to bridge the gap between brick & mortar and online experiences. Although Buy+ currently serves primarily as a marketing tool for Alibaba / its retail partners to shape their brand perceptions, I’d be curious to see whether integration of AR actually allows retailers to onboard new customers (ie those putting high value on “in-person browsing” side of shopping / “experiencing” the products) and/or reduces trust issues when it comes to product characteristics and quality.

Largest share of Alibaba’s GMV comes from fashion vertical, where more detailed “look” into the product could help customers choose the right size and reduce returns (& subsequently costs for Alibaba / merchants). Also, it will be interesting to see if VR can help our mental transition to purchasing groceries online – arguably one of the verticals where (in-person) browsing of products is currently seen very important by customers and the category is fairly underdeveloped in the e-commerce context.