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Great post on a fascinating company! I think the direct to consumer strategy is a great way to collect a large sampling of data and can be empowering for individuals. I do have 2 concerns about this strategy: 1) Does the $199 really make this service that accessible for all? I think this price tag could deter a lot of people from actually taking the test. If there is such a huge potential to make money off of this data later on, why doesn’t the company give away their testing kit for free? 2) Some people might not understand the implications of getting predictive results on their health, especially when the results are negative. How can 23andme mitigate the risk of causing serious psychological harm or other adverse side effects from negative results?

On November 22, 2015, SDS commented on Walmart Exchange: Using Data to Go from Retail to Media :

Great and informative post! It’s really amazing just how many strategies Walmart has in place to monetize its collection of customer data, and it seems like it is really creating a win-win-win for the suppliers, Walmart and the customers. Another strategy that some Walmart stores are beginning to use is motion-sensing beacons to track where customers spend time in stores and send targeted messages encouraging customers to check out certain discounted items depending on where they are in the store. I imagine that the insights gained from using this beacon technology will enable Walmart to better understand the impact of their ad spend in real time, and could be added to their analytics offering to other companies.

Interesting post – agriculture is definitely a prime area for using big data to capture value. I find it interesting that Climate Corporation used U.S. weather data from the government’s open platform to build their business and went on to sell to Monsanto. I agree with your hesitation about what it means for the farmers that Monsanto now owns their data and may become integral to their success.

On October 31, 2015, SDS commented on How the Crowd Saved LEGO :

Great post! It’s interesting to see that in the toy industry, which is known for its extreme secrecy and surprisingly slow pace of change, crowdsourcing is emerging as a differentiator for LEGO. I think the next big challenge is for LEGO to navigate the transition from physical to digital play. The LEGO Ideas site is a first step in this direction, helping the company develop a strong online community of people who are brand loyal. Can LEGO further connect this online community with its offline toys to create customized play experiences and compete with its major competitor, MATTEL, which is already entering the digital space?

On October 31, 2015, SDS commented on VerbalizeIt – Emerging from Failure :

Really great post! I hadn’t heard about VerablizeIt until now. There are a lot of parallels between VerbalizeIt and Duolingo’s crowdsourced translation models, and now that VerbalizeIt has pivoted to serve business clients with repeat customer needs, it seems like they are competing for the same supply. VerbalizeIt seems like it has a leg up on quality assurance by screening all translators before allowing them to accept projects, and also by providing financial incentives for translators to do a good job (Duolingo provides no incentives for its community of translators). VerbalizeIt could further differentiate its offering by introducing a rating system for its translators to allow companies to quickly find the skill set they are looking for and to increase the stickiness of their translator community. It will be interesting to see if translation is a “winner takes all” type of market or if there is room for multiple big players to sustain success.

Great post! It’s interesting that Duolingo plans to generate revenue from the efforts of its community of translators without providing any direct incentives to them. One idea for Duolingo would be to adopt a TopCoder model and run translation competitions, offering the community a chance to win prizes and building on Duolingo’s strong gamification culture. It would also attract more skilled translators and ensure a certain level of quality to the company hosting the competition. From the perspective of CNN, Buzzfeed and other companies that use Duolingo’s translation services, I would be concerned about privacy issues for content that is not yet meant to be shared publicly. How does Duolingo respond to concerns about sensitive content and ensure that companies maintain privacy?

Interesting post! I think another key piece of Eventbrite’s network effects strategy is to allow users to connect through their Facebook accounts. This helps them scale their potential user base and making purchases through their site more of a social experience. I’d be curious to see how many people land on Eventbrite’s page through a social media site. If it’s a high percentage, then the strategy of Eventbrite itself becoming a discovery platform may not work, since users are “discovering” their desired events off of the site. One alternative strategy would be to partner with Uber and opentable to help build out the experiences that generally accompany attending events. It will be interesting to see how Eventbrite plans to offer more differentiated services and maintain its network strength, especially as sites like Tilt become the standard for organizing smaller social gatherings between friends.

On October 5, 2015, SDS commented on Old School Network Effects :

Really interesting! I think you’re spot on with the tension between the promise of online learning to provide broader access to education for more individuals, and the perception of exclusivity that elite institutions like Harvard generate. This will be a major issue for HBS to confront as more and more students graduate from the new HBX CORe program and put “Harvard Business School” on their LinkedIn profiles (although technically they are not allowed to do this). Should we think of the HBX community as separate from the HBS or Harvard communities? If we don’t, what impact will this have on the current ‘installed base’ of users who may be concerned about brand dilution? And will HBX continue to be able to charge a high price for its online offering in the face of this changing perception?

On October 5, 2015, SDS commented on Reddit: When bigger isn’t necessarily better :

Great post! I also wrote about the risks of a strong, tight-knit network, especially when they grow unhappy with your offering. The other big risk I see for Reddit is that their product (an online forum) is easily replicable and a lot of similar alternatives exist. So there’s even more incentive for Reddit to try and keep its users happy in order to prevent them from posting elsewhere.

On September 14, 2015, shireen commented on theSkimm: A Digital Weapon for the Modern News Consumer :

I love the Skimm! And as a devoted daily reader, I disagree with the comments that suggest the Skimm would be better served through an app. Translating Skimm into app form would require a lot more content than what we currently get in the newsletter, and I’m afraid this would dilute the quality. I also feel like there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with the newsletter format (i.e. reading it all the way through and then moving the email to the trash folder) that would not be possible to replicate through an app experience. I hope the Skimm maintains its current bite-size format and doesn’t become a cumbersome news app. I never want to have to skim the Skimm.

On September 14, 2015, shireen commented on Staples – The Fight for Survival :

Great post! Unfortunately I don’t think anything can save Staples – especially with the advent of spend management services like Coupa ( Instead of just providing office supplies (and moderate services) to businesses and consumers (like Staples currently does), Coupa goes further and helps its customers think through inventory management and procurement in the context of the company’s larger cost structure -translating to both supplies and savings. I doubt Staples will have the ability to compete directly with these more advanced, cost-saving services. I’m also skeptical of the potential customization strategy, especially since at-home printers and personal design tools become more advanced, making it more likely that small businesses will soon be able to design and print their own stationary and supplies instead of going through Staples. I see only grey(er) skies ahead…

On September 14, 2015, shireen commented on Nike: Building Communities through Digital :

Really interesting post! I have no doubt that Nike will be able to stay ahead of the curve in terms of creating new athletic experiences that blend together the digital and physical. Your point about customization is key- one of the main the reasons I buy Nike shoes is the ability to customize the design. I think Nike has a great opportunity to extend this idea of customization beyond just designs and data to offer an even more integrated and personalized experience for their customers. With the advent of 3D printing, Nike has the opportunity to move towards customizing the structure of their shoes to fit a customer perfectly and drive optimal performance. This move to printing customized sneakers and other athletic gear would allow Nike to give their customers new/more tools to collect data about their own physical performance (e.g. how they run, their step, etc.) and then connect these customers back to their physical product line and experience more results.