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On November 22, 2015, Noam commented on IBM Marketing Gets Tennis Moneyball Rolling :

Very interesting post, Vlad. I agree with you that the added layer of statistics adds interest for the viewers (I certainly enjoy it!). If IBM’s solution really does provide important and new insights (i.e. things the players didn’t know before) then IBM should be able to capitalize on these insights. In a world where a grand-slam win is worth millions of dollars, players should be willing to pay a lot for any edge they can get. I understand that IBM sees this more as a marketing opportunity than anything else, but what can be better marketing than if, after using IBM’s product, Federer will suddenly beat Nadal at the French Open?

Great post! I think HypeMachine serves an important purpose by empowering music bloggers and helping high-quality writers get more exposure. I wonder if the same concept of aggregating data and creating objective rankings to help people easily discover the highest quality content can be applied to other industries as well. In a world in which the amount of data exponentially increases, solutions like that of HypeMachine are going to be more and more important.

On November 21, 2015, Noam commented on Applied Materials- When machines talk to each other :

Thanks for a great post about a fascinating industry, Oded! Your analysis of AMAT’s value capture made me think about the competitive reaction to ADC – if the ADC server has such a huge impact on the share of DR tools which goes to AMAT then I wonder how competitors are responding to this shift, are they working on their own algorithms? Are they reducing the price of their own defect review service? It would be interesting to see how this industry evolves in the face of this innovative machine learning development.

Great post. It seems like Starbucks is pioneering customer engagement in the digital age and other B2C companies have a lot to learn. One thing I’m doubting with this app is the targeting. I buy coffee at Starbucks about once a week on average but I’m not a loyal customer, I would buy elsewhere if I had the option. I’ve never heard of this app. It seems to me that Starbucks should target customers like me and try to convert them into more loyal customers. My guess is that the active users of the app are loyal, excited Starbucks customers and not people like me. If this is really the case then it raises the question of how much incremental value can Starbucks capture with this new app.

Very interesting post. Applause is solving a pain point for app developers by enabling them to release a better product and avoid more bugs. One potential direction for expansion for Applause can be to extend its service from QA to UX testing. While fixing technical bugs is required for creating a great app, it is by no means sufficient. A great user experience is also needed for a software product to succeed. Applause can offer user experience testing to its customers and become an integral part of product development.

On October 31, 2015, Noam commented on TripAdvisor and the crowds :

Great post, Esty. I personally use trip adviser when booking hotels and rely on the data posted there when making my decision. One thing I think they can do better is help customers in the hotel discovery process. They did add some relevant filters to try and better understand the customer’s needs (e.g. whether it’s a romantic getaway or a family trip) but the amount of data on the website can be overwhelming for people who are not looking for reviews of specific hotels. If they improve hotel discovery then TripAdvisor can become a “google for hotels” and not just a website for finding reviews of specific hotels and rankings.

On October 4, 2015, Noam commented on Lending Club – Pioneering P2P Lending :

Interesting post, Christine. It’s interesting to see how they leveraged the data to better understand and to diversify risk (bringing down the risk premium significantly). I imagine that there are diminishing returns on the amount of data and there’s probably a limit to how low they can drive the risk premium. The question is how quickly does the return on data diminishes as this will determine the barriers to entry. In other words, if only a limited amount of data is required to diversify most of the risk, then other players can enter and compete with them, but, if the marginal data are still relatively important even when a lot of data have already been gathered then Lending Club’s first mover advantage is significant and the network effects are strong.

On October 4, 2015, Noam commented on Is Nextdoor the next big social network? :

While I see how Nextdoor is more convenient for neighborhoods and has more relevant features than a Facebook group, I wonder if they can effectively compete with Facebook when it comes to advertisements. It’s true that the huge number of messages creates rich data that Nextdoor can then leverage for ad targeting, but will the richness of this data ever compete with that of Facebook? If I’m a local business, will putting a dollar in Nextdoor ads have a higher return than putting that same dollar in Facebook ads? I can imagine very few cases in which the answer to these questions is yes. But, Nextdoor undoubtedly has a lot of data that are complementary to that of Facebook. Given the direction Facebook is taking with its acquisitions (Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.) maybe it will be beneficial to both sides if Facebook acquires Nextdoor.

On October 3, 2015, Noam commented on Easy Taxi: “Disrupting minimizing the disruption” :

I thought Easy Taxi’s decision to accept cash is an interesting one. I get your point that it creates an easier, less threatening adoption, but I wonder whether it will hurt them in the long-run. If cash payments are an option then the drivers and the users are less dependent on the platform. They will still need it to optimize matches in real-time, but it gives drivers the freedom to not use the platform for longer, planned rides, or worse, to game the system more easily. There’s an interesting balance here between expanding the network rapidly and creating a high-quality network in which Easy Taxi’s value capture is guaranteed.

On September 13, 2015, Erika Peterson commented on Analyzing facial expressions to increase emotional resonance of video ads :

This is brilliant and scary at the same time. I think the implications of this can be much greater than smart TV recommendations, for example, it could influence results of elections if political candidates adapt their speeches based on the audience’s emotional reactions.

Since we’ve been talking about Google and its strategy a lot in the class, it will be interesting to see whether Google enters this market and if it does, whether it will be through acquisition or organically. I think this technology can really improve Google’s ads targeting and customization making it even more powerful. But, in the wrong hands this can become the Thought Police Orwell envisioned.

On September 13, 2015, Erika Peterson commented on Kickstarter: kicking the habit of turning to angel investors :

Interesting post, Asaf, I agree with you that Kickstarter’s value loop is a very powerful one. Thank you RC Strategy for the gift of value loops.

One thing your post made me think of is the impact Kickstarter has on traditional funders of consumer products (VCs, angels, etc.). With the significant traction Kickstarter has, I would expect more power to move to the hands of the entrepreneurs in their negotiations with investors. It will be interesting to look at data and see whether price/equity for consumer products startups has increased since Kickstarter is around. There might also be some sort of synergy between the traditional model and the crowd-funding model in which founders use Kickstarter to demonstrate demand and thus raise VC money more easily.

On September 13, 2015, Erika Peterson commented on OnePlus One, Redefining the Math of Smartphones :

Thanks for your comment, AP. I might have not made it clear enough in my original post, but OnePlus is NOT trying to build an ecosystem and attract 3rd party developer like Blackberry and Microsoft. They use the Android platform. They are building their own version of the Android OS, similar to Samsung (with its own unique interface and pre-installed apps). The point I was trying to make is that they are not solely a hardware company and they have the capabilities to develop software, which they will later be able to monetize, through the Play Store or through other channels (e.g. subscriptions).

As for your second point about scale, this is exactly why I think they are well positioned. While scale is definitely still an advantage, as time passes and hardware becomes more and more a commodity (like we saw in the Samsung TV case), margins will shrink and competing solely on scale will not be a good strategy. OnePlus is trying to stay ahead of the curve by getting a loyal fan base in the near future, when cheap hardware is still an attractive value proposition. Once they get a significant footprint and start monetizing through software they will be in an advantage compared to players who compete only on hardware which will struggle to survive in a market with razor-thin margins.

I think it’s still too early to compare the OnePlus brand to Apple’s and Samsung’s, but I do think they are doing a great job in building it. I believe that a couple years from today the OnePlus brand will be well known, and they will be able to create the brand premium you referred to in your comment.

In any case, as OnePlus is still a young company, we can only make predictions and many things can still go wrong for them. The point I was trying to make in my post is that they are doing a good job at reading into digital trends, which, in my opinion, makes them well positioned to adapt to these trends and emerge as winners.

On September 12, 2015, Erika Peterson commented on Does Best Buy live up to it’s name? :

Interesting perspective. Your point about going to Best-Buy to experience the product made me think that maybe it’s not too late for Best-Buy. If they can find a way to combine the online and physical world and deliver a great customer experience they might still be able to compete in the digital age.