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Personally, I welcome this change. I believe it helps to democratize and make the admissions process available to everyone. For many of us, test centers aren’t even located in the same country. Having the time and the money to fly and stay abroad can simply be barriers too tall to overcome. I hope this change enables more students from rural areas and challenging backgrounds to apply to graduate programs.

On May 2, 2020, Leo commented on Zoom: Can “Zoom” become a verb? :

Absolutely agree with you: Zooms competitive advantage lies within its superior connectivity, especially for folks with medium to weak internet connections. That said, I am not sure I share your sentiment about Zoom being frictionless. In the market it seems to be one of the few players that pushes natively installed clients rather than browser implementations. I’m sure that helps with connectivity, but certainly hurts onboarding success. As other players with extensive infrastructure experience and cost advantage (e.g. Google) are starting to focus on the space, this advantage might disappear in the near future. I love your third and fourth recommendation around turning Zoom into a platform, rather than a product to build out their value differentiation.

Absolutely agree with you on the monetization and engagement issues the company will face going forward.

Monetization – Running a video streaming and conferencing service isn’t cheap for the operator. Houseparty has the benefit of living under Fortnight’s P&L to support its explosive growth. Going forward Houseparty will either need to generate its own revenue (ads? more premium content?) or improve conversion and user experience for the parent company. As it stands, Houseparty appears to be a money-pit.

Engagement – Much of the appeal of Houseparty is the spontaneity of calling others and joining group calls. Conveniently COVID-19 has cleared many people’s schedule, making matches frequent and convenient. It’s questionable to me how well this usage pattern will work once our days are filled with meetings and meals.

On April 22, 2020, Leo commented on BetterUp: Personalized Career Coaching For All :

Curious to get my hands on BetterUp and try it out myself! That said, I am a bit weary of their claims on efficacy. Surely, they can measure a lot of leading indicators (e.g. survey results, engagement with the app, requests for a different match, overall retention), but I wonder how they are doing on lagging indicators that are required to effectively train an algorithm. What is considered success in their model of coaching? Do they track the professional success of their members? That may only pay off years down the line.

On April 22, 2020, Leo commented on Digit: Saving you from Not Saving :

Excited to see Digit featured in your blog post! I’ve been a huge fan of the application and been able to save thousands without a single thought. Unlike many other financial applications, Digit is barely noticeable in your everyday life. We are inherently wired to dislike saving (pain now, reward later), so the more it happens without my attention the better. Every had Mint reprimand your for going over-budget in five spending-categories a day? It sucks. So kudos to Digit for understanding consumer psychology and taking a step back.

Two things to add for folks worried about overdrafts: Aside from the guarantee Digit also anticipates if other services (e.g. your phone bill) will overdraft your account. In response, the app transfers money back into your account, just in time. Lastly, you can also set a minimum threshold you want Digit to stay above.

On April 19, 2020, Leo commented on Tik Tok: Using AI to take over the world :

Thanks for putting this overview together! I’ve been a huge fan of TikTok’s product for some time (I frequently un/re-install the app to manage my craving ). While I personally love the product, I wonder how much true staying-power it has: With an advertising budget surpassing $1B in 2018 and more than $3M/day in 2019 much of this growth has to be bought. How sticky is the average users? Are many of them burning out or does TikTok have enough discovery built into their algorithms to keep folks entertained in the long run. For comparison, Snap spent $30M in 2019 and has a bit more daily active users.

On April 1, 2020, Leo commented on Spotify- More than a Music Streaming Platform :

Great piece on a service that has become ubiquitous for millennials and gen-z. Another benefit of Spotify’s success in algorithmic and manual curation is trend generation. Rather than being at the mercy of third parties (e.g. labels, radio, other external media), the company can choose to diversify and push artists that benefit their cost structure. “Fresh finds” are for sure a lot cheaper for Spotify than yet another hit from Taylor Swift.

On April 1, 2020, Leo commented on GrubHub: Slimy or Satisfying? :

On the note of UberEats, I wonder how GrubHub (or any other service for that matter) could possibly compete with them. Unlike all other food delivery services, UberEats can combine food delivery and taxi services to maximize utilization on their most expensive assets – the drivers. If the battle is to be won on price, I am just not sure how another service can compete on food alone.

On March 30, 2020, Leo commented on Alphasights: Purveyors of Knowledge :

Thanks for sharing! I’ve worked in the same industry as you, consulting, and wondered about the value of experts. I agree that they are tremendous in getting a lay of the land, understanding industry dynamics, and assessing strategic positioning of players. Sometimes their opinion get aggregated to inform growth projections and inputs for market maps. While this used to be the predominant way to get an estimate, newer data vendors are popping up every day. With their ability to observe the markets by aggregating thousands of data points, I wonder how long we will resort to using a few experts to guide our recommendations.

On February 11, 2020, Leo commented on Venmo – Winning a Larger Share of Consumers Wallet :

Similarly to Jen, I wonder if Venmo is truly profitable, or if it relies on subsidized payment processing through Braintree/Paypal. It may be anecdotal, but I don’t know anyone who uses either Venmo Offers or Instant Transfers.

Another puzzle for me is Venmo’s newsfeed. How does it generate user value? And how did we become so complacent with our privacy to be okay with out daily transactions to be on display by default? PSA: If you haven’t sent your transactions to private, you might want to go into settings and do so 😉

On February 11, 2020, Leo commented on Fitbit: Weathering the Storm? :

Thanks for putting this analysis on Fitbit’s gloomy outlook together. I struggle a bit with the lack of efficacy of fitness trackers. While multiple studies have shown that the current product simply has no lasting impact on consumers, I wonder if that is due to poor design. I imagine the product managers there optimize by engagement metrics (especially post-IPO) rather than health outcomes for the users. To be fair, the later is extremely difficult to achieve and might require longitudinal healthcare studies. Not really the bread and butter of silicon valley PMs.

I’m with you. I don’t believe that many other companies will follow Allbirds’ footsteps (haha) and iterate on their product design based on customer feedback. It seems too expensive to be a leader and experiment, when you can simply be a fast follower and copy whatever worked. As Matt points out above, there are currently a ton of copy cats in the market that Allbirds is litigating against.