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On April 21, 2021, MMD commented on Knewton Personalizes Learning with the Power of AI :

The answer to this is certainly up for debate. My sense is that adaptive and personalized learning become tools to supplement teachers and redesign what that role looks like, but not a complete substitute for human instruction. Essentially, picture 50 students working through their adaptive courseware individually, where the professor gets notified when someone is struggling and intervenes 1:1 in more of a tutor / coach role than in a lecturer role – a few schools are already doing this for some courses like math (GSU and ACC are the biggest I know of).

On April 19, 2021, MMD commented on Darktrace: Cybersecurity of the Future? :

The Darktrace value proposition is really interesting. In particular, I’d love to understand how “turnkey” the solution, vs. having to be trained on what is normal behavior for each and every individual client. Similar to our discussion about DeepMap, their may be clients who don’t want to have their data used to train up an algorithm that benefits other companies, but Darktrace would certainly benefit from training across clients to increase their sample size. It’s also interesting to thing about the sensitivity and specificity of their technology; the benefit of the technology dims if there are a lot of false positives, but the cost of a false negative can be so high that Darktrace has to really walk a thin line.

Gong’s value proposition seems like a really powerful coaching tool. What would be really interesting to understand is how their algorithm could link into broader CRM tools to not only provide generalized coaching for salespeople, but sales lead specific tactics (e.g., this customer segments responds better to x vs. y tactics). It seems like a really interesting partnership opportunity with a company like Salesforce or Hubspot, especially given those CRM companies may have incentive to compete with them eventually if they are not invested in some kind of co-development.

On April 19, 2021, MMD commented on An Algorithm…with a Record Deal? :

This is so fascinating! I feel like we often hear about how the role of computers and AI is relegated to science, so it’s really interesting to see how AI is being leveraged in art. I do think the value proposition is supported by the fact that the “art” in this case serves a very specific, and measurable, use case in creating calm. Who knows, one day maybe an AI can also compose music that is simply beautiful as well!

On March 22, 2021, MMD commented on Disney Magic with Big Data :

The point you raise about how Disney responds to Covid is particularly interesting. Re-engineering (re-imagineering?) the Magic Bands and the data from them could in particular help the recovery of its theme parks. While the Magic Bands so far have been useful in improving resource utilization, you could see a world where the same bands were used in real-time to enforce caps on headcount or enable contact tracing with higher levels of precision and risk analysis (e.g., length of interaction).

On March 22, 2021, MMD commented on Whoop: Operationalizing Fitness Data to Help Athletes :

Love a good Harvard success story! This product seems targeted toward a very niche segment of people who need personal data at this level of depth. It seems like the vast majority of potential users would probably get enough from their FitBits or Apple Watches to meet their needs with a product that integrates into their daily lives more seamlessly. It’ll be really interesting to see how Whoop evolves over time and whether they stay in this “up-market” niche or try to get broad appeal (e.g., partnering with other hardware providers to be a data backend).

On March 22, 2021, MMD commented on How Instagram Keeps Users Scrolling For More :

It certainly feels like social media is potentially on track with a dramatic change in the amount of freedom companies have to operate. It would be interesting to understand the actions Instagram may be able to take proactively to preempt more sweeping legislation changes to the amount of data they collect and use. In particular, it seems as though Instagram should think through the worst case scenario of a “minimum viable product” for their data collection and plan out how their business model would need to flex in response to demands for privacy from the world.

On March 1, 2021, MMD commented on Intellifluence: Connecting Influencers with Brands :

Similar to Jibran, I’m really interested in how Intellifluence maintains its relevance over time. Not only are new influencers cropping up all over the place, but so too are new platforms that any comprehensive platform of this kind needs to be aware of. In addition, the ability to manage an influencer over their lifecycle (as they move from rising star to has been) would be incredibly challenging. It seems like those 20+ value added services are focused on the brand side of the platform, so it would be really interesting to understand what they do to keep influencers happy.

I never knew this type of business existed! It seems like it lives at a really interesting stage in the development of a brand between a start up testing out things on a platform like Etsy and a more established brand with its own proven DTC channels. It looks like Faire charges a 15-25% commission on all sales it sources, so brands would have an incentive to branch out as soon as they reach sufficient scale / virality. It seems like all the value added services Faire provides are meant to create stickiness. However, it would be really interesting to understand how successful they have been with brand retention to date, or whether they even encourage brands to outgrow them as a sign to future brands of what they can achieve with Faire.

On March 1, 2021, MMD commented on Slickdeals: Treasure Hunting :

This sounds like a super interesting business that I have never heard of before! What’s interesting to me is how the services provided by Slickdeals interact with and compare to other retailers. For example, Walmart prides itself on every day low prices in a way that would make this platform almost moot. For other retailers like a Target, this would almost seem to encourage price pressure in a way that seems counterproductive. It almost seems like a way for those Target-like retailers to compete with the old bargain hunting value proposition of some dollar store brands or thrift stores. It seems like this business model would then only be sustainable for retailers if Slickdeals only stays small enough where it serves that thrill-seeking need and doesn’t grow to cannibalize traditional consumers who may be less price sensitive / higher margin for retailers.

On February 9, 2021, MMD commented on Nurx: Healthcare Finally Revolutionized! :

One really interesting roadblock that telehealth, or even similar services like televet, faced before the pandemic was an issue of regulation – specifically, whether or not virtual visits would be reimbursable by insurers and whether or not practitioners can practice across state lines. When the pandemic hit, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services relaxed its policies on payments for virtual care, leading the way for many private insurers to follow. In addition, federal and state regulation on practicing across state borders were relaxed. However, there are no guarantees those relaxations will last. What will be really interesting to watch in the coming months and years will be how pure telehealth players like Nurx can maintain its customer base profitably if insurers decide to take less of those costs on. I think the most important strategic question it can answer now is which specialties and services will be the most safeguarded against changes in insurance and regulatory policies, either by being already uncovered areas where customers are used to paying, or services that are so low cost to serve that customers are able to cover the incremental cost themselves.

On February 9, 2021, MMD commented on ViacomCBS: Here to Stream, Here to Stay :

ViacomCBS has had a really interesting trajectory over the last few years. They were one of the first traditional networks to launch their own streamer in CBS All Access instead of selling content to pure play streamers like Netflix or Hulu. CBS All Access created some critically acclaimed, exclusive content for their online subscribers in shows like “The Good Fight,” but it never seemed to get a strong following among users. What is really interesting to me is their shift in strategy from a CBS All Access streaming service to the Paramount Plus offering. With the same exact pricing model and few truly new content offerings, I question whether Paramount Plus will be able to find footing where CBS All Access failed, especially given the proliferation of competitors since CBS All Access first launched. To your points above, it seems like they are relying on a classic or “iconic American titles” to draw in customers, supported by an aggressive marketing and re-branding push. It will be interesting to see how the success of Paramount Plus plays out, especially as it is likely to draw comparisons to the recent launches of streamers like HBO Max, Disney Plus, or even Quibi!

On February 9, 2021, MMD commented on How Zoom Won the Pandemic :

The question of “why Zoom” has been really interesting to me during this pandemic. It seems like Microsoft had such a clear advantage with Skype, and even Cisco with Webex seems to have had a better starting point than Zoom. These were acquisitions made for $8.5B and $3.2B respectively, so it seemed like both Microsoft and Cisco were willing to make substantial investments in video conferencing. I have periodically checked to see what the drivers were of Zoom’s success over competitors, waiting to see a behind the scenes look into some brilliant marketing or distribution channels, but it really just seems to come down to Zoom having a better technological product! In particular, what seems to have set them up for success was not just ease of use, but more specifically ease of access. In a global pandemic with tons of new users looking for any solution, having a one-click solution that doesn’t require an account became a real advantage. To me, the success of Zoom really does feel like an argument for specialization and focus over corporate synergies and investment dollars.