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Great article! The reduced WTP of customers is a serious challenge for dating companies especially amid the pandemic. I wonder if offering video chat features should have been a priority for these companies though given the many alternatives we have (Zoom, hangouts, and if people are comfortable sharing numbers Whatsapp..). I think they should be focusing on a great matching algorithm which would be the key differentiator that will be able to drive the WTP.

Great article DA! wow I didn’t know MAF was that innovative. It’s impressive how they managed to quickly introduce an online marketplace to respond to the COVID crisis. You pointed out to the different ways MAF could differentiate itself from competitors and reduce multi-homing tendencies, but I wonder it could respond to its competitor Emaar: another giant that also owns malls, hotels, real estate, and now Emaar is basically following the same strategy MAF is following and already has a jump-start given its recent acquisition of Noon which is leading the e-commerce space alongside Souq. Emaar can even be a bigger one stop shop given its ownership of hotels and residential properties. It will be interesting to see the dynamics between these two. Can there be more than one player in such a small market like the UAE?

On May 1, 2020, Petra commented on Shopify: A Pandemic Proof Platform? :

Great article! Wow the Mega Shopify app is genius! I really believe that the only company capable of disrupting the giant Amazon is Shopify. I think this solution addresses only one of the challenges though: loss of customers to AMZ. It should still solve the problem of declining commission revenues due to decline in total GMV on its platform (the cyclicality problem will persist post COVID), and relying on subscription revenues might not be enough. One way SHOP can address this issue is by providing marketing/CRM services to its SMBs (similar to Mailchimp and Klaviyo) which helps its customers acquire more customers leveraging existing data that Shopify already collects on its website leading to an increase in GMV and hence revenues for Shopify. Shopify can monetize these services in a competitive way that SMBs don’t mind paying this additional fee which would still be more affordable relative to services provided by Mailchimp for example.

Interesting read! Macy’s is definitely making huge bets to survive in this industry. In addition to digital transformation, Macy’s is focusing on introducing new store concepts to cater for Gen Z’s interest in experiential retail.For example, Macy’s opened a new concept called “Market by Macy’s” which is basically a small store that sells curated local products offering both branded and private label merchandise from local designers. I wonder if they this is where the biggest value add of their AI models would be i.e. in using AI to curate the best merchandise.

On April 21, 2020, Petra commented on Affectiva: building AI that reads human emotions :

Great Article! I am a huge fan of Affectiva and I see many applications for their service such assessing emotions in an interview, lie detection, analyzing speeches, and even dating! That’s why I am not really worried about their growth potential, but i do see the risk in the other challenges you mentioned.

On April 21, 2020, Petra commented on Rare Carat: The Kayak of Diamonds :

Super interesting article! Actually Matt my fiance and I bought our diamond from rarecarat and were very comfortable speaking to bots. We felt that a robust machine learning model built on solid data would actually give us the best results.
@Lea I agree with your concern about sustainability of their business model given their ad-based model. I wonder if they could monetize their machine learning capabilities. For example, the models could constantly check for dimaond upgrades for their customers and “sell” their recommendations to customers for a small fee.

On March 22, 2020, Petra commented on Zencare: Modernizing the search for mental health care :

Super interesting and very well written blog! I agree with all your scalablity concerns. It seems that the value proposition they are offering is not that strong making it susceptible to disintermediation. Maybe they can strengthen their competitive advantage but providing services beyond just “matching”. For example, they can add proprietary online self-help online courses (for a charge) or maybe plan meditation trips somewhere. I love the idea of digitizing mental health services and would love to see Zencare succeed!

Loved the blog very well written! We always talk about having a first-mover advantage but Friendster is a clear example of how sometimes being a first mover in the market comes with bigger risks and hence, bigger costs to pay. Your lessons learnt are on point and I would emphasize the importance of scalability for any startup. They should have focuses on the technology and satisfying customer needs before expanding geographically.

Very interesting article! I have used a similar service in Lebanon and I really enjoyed the convenience of doing a manicure at your own home. I do see two major risks however to their business model. First, they are extremely exposed to disintermediation risk. Once you get used to a service provider, what prevents you as a customer to call them directly especially if you can save 20%? Another risk I see is the availability of supply i.e. service providers (as you have also mentioned) as they scale. Not sure how attractive this gig is for providers since they have to pay for transportation and split the revenues with Beaver. May be net net it’s easier for them to just work at a traditional B&M spa and maybe one day own their own.

On February 11, 2020, Petra commented on 23andMe: Losing at digital privacy :

Wow, as a 23andme user, I am really concerned! I wonder if sharing information with pharma companies would be negatively perceived by customers though. At the end of the day, the pharma company will (ideally) use the data to invent new medications and advance science. At the end of the day, these customers did provide consent..

very well written! I wonder if this is a truly “winning” business model though… it seems to me that their value proposition is not that differentiated and could be easily disrupted by other competitors. How can they ensure a sustainable competitive advantage?

Very well written blog! I wonder what the implications on CRM be now that Sephora is omnichannel. How are they tracing the behavior of customers who are interacting with Sephora at multiple touchpoints (offline and online). If a customer added a product on their wishlist and then visited the store, will the employee at the cash register remind the customer of these products? I guess the next step would be to maximize value of being omnichannel as opposed to cannibalizing its sales.