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On April 28, 2017, mahylights commented on Facebook mind reading: the ultimate VR/AR interface :

Meili – solid post – didn’t know any of this stuff was happening.
I’m skeptical of FB’s ability to dominate given it’s large installed base. I’m imagining a facebook connect login option when I go to log into my mind reading VR function. I’d probably pass and try to create an individual account. Do you have any sense of customer skepticism or willingness to accept a company like Facebook owning access to such a personal aspect of our individuality? If users do accept, then Facebook will add significant value to nascent hardware startups… if users are not interested, then Facebook’s scale might prove a disadvantage.

On April 28, 2017, mahylights commented on Unity: The biggest platform for creating VR content :

Bipul, thanks for an awesome post. Never heard of these guys and it seems like they are making waves. What do you believe is the most interesting of the three methods to expand value? It seems these guys are already generating significant revenue, even when VR seems fairly underpenetrated… what do you think it will take for them to maintain their lead as penetration grows?

On April 28, 2017, mahylights commented on Vertebrae – The Advertising Platform for VR :

Yuval, don’t want to bog you down with having to respond to comments during this intense period of transition but, reading your post I couldn’t help but get the sense that this company seems long on vision but short on specifics. Maybe I missed the specifics in your post, but is this a platform in that it enables the creation and delivery of content by other parties, or is this a platform purely in a marketing sense and are these guys really just a content creation house.

In other words, are they just creating VR ads? Or are they also doing something that allows the creation of additional value?

On April 7, 2017, mahylights commented on OpenDoor: applying big data to home selling :

Hi Meili,
Your post has had a lot of comments 🙂 – it’s super good.
I may have missed it in your post – but any insight into how much better OpenDoor’s algorithm is vs. Zestimates in OpenDoor’s target markets? Also, how do they generate their proprietary data sets and what are the limitations? I’m kind of skeptical of the sustainability of this competitive advantage because the true nuances of homes seem difficult (but not impossible) to scrape. I could imagine a computer processing publicly available blueprints to determine true square footage, but this power is lost once homes are older and have potentially been renovated. Perhaps their narrow focus is dictated more by the robustness of the data set they can gather in the drill down and not just an issue of heterogeneity. As an example, imagine condos in a single apartment building in NYC that were all constructed in the same fashion but have now been updated many times over by their owners. Could OpenDoor’s proprietary data model ever scale in such a building?

On April 6, 2017, mahylights commented on Freebird: Using data to get you out of a jam and onto a plane :

Cool post.
Are there any hidden variables here that are difficult to account for in the model? People sometimes talk about the increase in severe weather over the last 10-15 years? I really don’t have the historical experience to tell whether this is true, but are there large scale changes in the historical data set that Freebird might not see but could create huge gaps in their risk model going forward?
Second, is there any tail risk (especially in the early stages) that can bankrupt this company/destroy their ability to deliver on their customer value proposition? I’m guessing that people book this sort of experience all trying to fly a route from Boston to Denver in the dead of winter. On the travel day, a huge winter storm shuts down the airport and literally no flights get out. What does Freebird do in such a situation?

On April 6, 2017, mahylights commented on Next Big Sound – moneyball for music? :

Great post.
Any information available on the variables that are most explanatory for their rankings? They site pulling information from a lot of sources, but the circularity of the music industry (particularly in driving hit singles) makes me question the ability to drive investment to discover and promote new artists versus piggyback on artists who have already achieved a fairly significant level of success.
In other words, does this service help a musician go from aspiring cafe performer in Nashville to opening for Carrie Underwood, or from opening for Carrie Underwood to playing your own headliner tour?

I always fill out forms in allcaps because I have terrible handwriting. Not sure how I’ve gotten this far in life.

Hi Hao! Great post. I’d love to hear more about the practices of the most successful merchants on WeChat? Are they able to achieve the same level of success as AmWay merchants? Couldn’t an AmWay merchant also set up a WeChat shop for their AmWay products, and in this way, isn’t WeChat a complementer to AmWay and not a competitor?

On March 21, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on Solving Crime the Crowdsourced Way :

Hi Bansi! Fascinating idea. Without a community angle to this platform, how would you go about acquiring a vibrant and active community? Also, I’m guessing that crimes don’t necessarily occur in a high preponderance of places where amateur crime-sleuths are found – how limiting (if it all) would the evidence be if it was only submitted by those passionate about crime-solving?

On March 21, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on Financing and Consulting for Low-Income Farmers :

Super interesting post Techie. How would your platform deal with allocating funds between different farmer’s projects? I’m guessing that all farmers have fairly similar projects and I also believe creating an amazing crowd-funding campaign is outside the core competency of most small farmers. How would your platform address this issue while preserving it’s social mission?

On March 21, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on TripAdvisor’s FlyScore: Not yet harnessing the power of crowds :

James, great post. What are your thoughts on whether there is a conflict of interest between the airlines (who ultimately pay booking commissions) and TripAdvisor (if they are explicitly asking customers to share negative reviews, as you propose)?

On March 21, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on 23andMe: Healing the World through Crowdsourcing :

Hi Ali, thanks for your post! How does 23andMe work to ensure that self-identified disease is actually clinically-diagnosed disease? I echo Megan’s concerns that there is a chance for ill-defined data to creep into studies and potentially obfuscate findings. Furthermore, is there a broad sampling error created when all the data comes from individuals who opt-in to a $199 genetic test?

On March 21, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on Vetr: Crowdsourcing Stock Ratings :

Hi James,
Great post. Having worked on the buy-side, sell-side analysts and their estimates are often depended on to reflect the sentiment of the “street” (or the general ownership). I’m not sure that estimates from the crowd will really change this sentiment, thus, I don’t think there really is competition between Vetr and traditional sell-side research. In the best case scenario, Vetr will simply become a source of additional input into the buy side’s process!

On March 21, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on Slickdeals – Monetizing frugality :

Hi Yun! Great post – hopefully there are some diaper deals on Slickdeals in the future! Any idea how big Slickdeals is in terms of revenue? I’m wondering whether the upside to a business like this is capped because companies don’t want to have too much of their sales going through discount sites like slickdeals in order to make sure they retain some margin. At the same time, there’s always a need for companies to clear inventory, and with a rabid user base at slickdeals it seems the perfect platform to run your best deals (where you don’t care so much about margin). Any sense of whether slickdeals allows users to gain notifications on their favorite products/categories so they can always be sure to take advantage of deals on their top interests?

On March 21, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on BrandNewHats: Proposing a Crowdsourced Hat Brand :

Hey Yun! Thanks for the response. I agree a huge portion of the market likely belongs to licensed hats – I’ll definitely be looking to segment someone’s closet in order to determine the potential market size. Out of 10 caps I own, 8 of them are for sports team/events and the other two are corporate swag. What percentage of your hats aren’t for a team or corporate sponsor?

Hi Alex, great post.

A few questions though:

1) Do you have a sense of the revenue mix between advertising and paid subscription for Spotify? Even with 25% paid subscribers, it seems unlikely that Spotify’s revenue would be majority driven by subscription? I think there may be a confusion of correlation with causation here. I think there is a correlation between high advertising revenue and a focus on free subscribers. But I think the causality is a poor business strategy/value creation choice of not identifying the proper experience that will convert users to paid subscribers.

Spotify made a different choice – interpreting customer desire for on-demand songs available through mobile as an experience that could create paid subscribers. Pandora on the other hand – interpreted customer desire as wanting to discover new music – apparently this customer value proposition is not strong enough to create paid users.

One other thought – do you think the Music Genome Project is easily replicated now through user generated music listening patterns? Streaming services like Spotify simply collecting music listening habits and running big data analytics to create music recommendations and discovery stations. In this way, perhaps Pandora’s investment in the MGP was simply a waste of time and energy. What do you think?

On February 2, 2017, Alex Mahylis commented on The Hottest Sporting Goods Company You’ve Never Heard Of :

Solid article Cameron.

Do you believe the advantage here is sustainable? I’m not sure what BSN’s right to win sustainably is here, the fragmentation of the local market makes me feel as if the model could easily be replicated – would love to hear your thoughts on whether a company with iPads, inventory management software, and supply chain relationships found on Alibaba could capture a significant segment of the market.

Computing power does seem to be a democratizing factor; however, returns still seem to be 25-40% per annum each year – pretty solid.

Great post Sonali!

A few questions on TripAdvisor concerning threats as well as competitive response.

1) How do you think TripAdvisor should react to the threat posed by Google ( The app has some beautiful design and leverages google reviews (arguably not as strong as TripAdvisor) and google maps (likely stronger than TripAdvisor) to seamlessly create a personalized travel guide. What should TripAdvisor focus on to continue to stay ahead?

2) I’ve never booked a hotel, flight, or experience through TripAdvisor. I generally reach out to hotels after researching them on TripAdvisor. I think investors have become concerned as to whether TripAdvisor can fully monetize their platform (share price down ~50% over the last 12 months) – what is TripAdvisor doing and what should TripAdvisor do to enhance their capability in this regard?