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On April 21, 2021, Merrill commented on The AI-Powered Sales Rep :

This type of coaching is incredible. It seems that white collar jobs are increasingly within the sights of AI applications. Will be interesting to track how these functions which we thought would take longer to be impacted by AI transform over time.

On April 21, 2021, Merrill commented on How Spotify Knows Your Music Tastes Better Than You :

The technical elements of songs really seems like a unique and differentiated approach over the long term. The natural progression seems to be leveraging that data to create music, helping to separate their streams from the record labels and expanding margins in a manner similar to what Netflix did with original content.

On April 21, 2021, Merrill commented on ThyssenKrup – Steelmaker Transforms Elevators using AI :

Super interesting. Not an industry vertical I would’ve predicted to be using AI in core operations but the use case makes sense. I wonder if there’s an opportunity to gradually pivot to being a software company by using their elevator distribution as toe hold to building a broader “crowd management” software

Super interesting. I’ve always wondered to what extent Netflix incorporates data in the production process. For example, I get that Netflix used customer segmentation to determine that House of Cards would be a good fit for their audience given its broad strokes (drama, politics) but do they ever get so specific as to use certain actors/actresses? Do they select certain film sites? Given the creative nature of show production I think this is an interesting dynamic to balance.

On March 24, 2021, Merrill commented on Starbucks: From Coffee Machines to Machine Learning :

Super interesting. To your question of “what else can they do” I’ve always wondered if there was an opportunity for Starbucks to white label their digital payment and app technology. Basically becoming the AWS of quick service restaurants. It could start through providing just a simple front-end, but your post shows the far reaching impact they could have across the business.

On March 24, 2021, Merrill commented on Whoop: Operationalizing Fitness Data to Help Athletes :

Thanks Omar, as a Whoop user I enjoyed this post. One thing I’ve always wondered about is the next frontier for Whoop. As a user I would say my insights top out after ~3 months and I feel like they’ll need new categories (beyond HRV, RHR, Respiratory Rate) to aid my learning.

On March 2, 2021, Merrill commented on Fundrise: Private Real Estate Investment For Everyone :

Fundrise is a fascinating business that is undoubtedly creating value for both sides of its platform. My concern with businesses like this one is that their commodity status prevents them from capturing a commensurate share of the considerable value they create (PeerStreet fell prey to this). It will be interesting to see how they evolve over time.

On March 2, 2021, Merrill commented on MindBody: the playbook for SaaS-enabled platforms :

Mindbody is a premier example of the trend animating the venture capital and middle market PE space right now: vertical software. As you discuss, by building for niches SaaS companies can avoid many of the traditional pitfalls companies with small absolute customer bases face. It will be interesting to watch this trend spread to other verticals that were previously considered too small to warrant their own solution.

On March 2, 2021, Merrill commented on OnlyFans: Revolutionizing the Online Sex Industry? :

Karl – super interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

While I agree with you that OnlyFans faces little risk of disintermediation I struggle to see their platform moat in the long run. The cross-side network effects are relatively weak as creators generally bear the burden of acquiring customers through other channels. I believe this could expose OnlyFans to challengers who attempt to compete on platform take rate, which can threaten their profitability in the long run.

On February 10, 2021, Merrill commented on Redfin: The Dream Quarantine Makeover :

Shekeyla – great article! In addition to your strong points I have long believed that the listing and closing agents have taken too large a share of a home sale (5-6%) relative to the value they provide. They hold a lot of regulatory sway which has weakened efforts to displace them but the pandemic provided the catalyst needed for people to seriously rethink the whole home buying process. Will be interesting to see when that other shoe drops!

On February 10, 2021, Merrill commented on Color: a unicorn born amidst the COVID-19 pandemic :

Vartan – fascinating article. I’m curious what percentage of their business at maturity will come from B2B testing sales. Do employers have meaningful incentives to fund genetic testing above and beyond what insurance covers? How will their willingness to pay for expensive testing with a long term payback period change as the employer/employee relationship continues to fray in the new gig based economy.

Fascinating angle on the prompt. While the prevailing narrative on COVID’s impact has been about how its helped big businesses and hurt small businesses there are definitely plenty of small businesses which have been able to use the disruption to catalyze and grow their business. Related to your post has been the emergence of the “side hustle”. It will be curious to see how many of the next generation of successful small businesses will be able to trace their roots to this.