This is a really interesting article, thanks for sharing. One key challenge I see with this disruptive play is the feedback loop. I’d argue that the sample size and the time that it takes to realise returns (and therefore ‘prove’ success) are so long that the refinations to the algorithm referable to a particular investing context will only come into play at a time where that paradigm may no longer be in play.
I think the fact that there are a number of well-funded players in the space, and that VC more generally is moving this way especially with discovery and initial due diligence processes suggests there is fire under the smoke, but this feels like a significant challenge that will need to be carefully addressed.
Great article and thanks for sharing! Having read into this ‘Hinge’ thing, it looks like it’s aimed at creating lasting relationships rather than more short-term ones (e.g. Tinder). This therefore makes the feedback on ‘matches’ not a particularly great feedback loop on whether it is fulfilling on that value proposition.
Like another poster mentioned above, I think the introduction of the ‘We met’ function is a real game-changer, because now you have the company collecting data on what the interaction between the pair was like, which can then help inform how future possible matches are recommended. It would be interesting to understand what relationships exist between ‘matches’ and other on-platform activity, compare to off-platform activity that Hinge gathers from users.
While this appears in its early stages for now, in the future the company could collect detailed information on the interaction, which could significantly increase the odds that its recommendations fulfil user expectations!
Something I’ve grappled with, and I think it’s growing in recent times, is the divergence between box office numbers and critical acclaim (the classic tension between film as a commercial product vs as an art form; of course, it is both in varying degrees). Case in point – a lot of the superhero movies make an absolute bonanza, but typically review poorly (much to the chagrin of loyal fans).
My question – if this technology were adopted by players across the industry, could we use crowd-sourcing to generate the innovation and ‘art’ that we need to ensure the medium’s continued vibrancy? Or do we need the continued out-sized influence of a few very successful creative experts to continue to prop up that side of the industry?
I enjoyed the article, thanks for the read Issei! I can see the value proposition from a customer perspective, being the ability to get tailored products at (hopefully) reasonable prices, but I struggle with how the logistical side of business will work in traditional distribution. With ‘selection’ of a specific unit occurring much earlier in the product’s journey to the customer’s hands, the ability to ship bulk units, with future owners who are not tied to specific units, is removed – adding potentially significant shipping costs. By creating a meaningful relationship at the outset between manufacturer and customer, traditional wholesalers/distributors and retailers are cut out of the loop – it simply becomes a game of moving the box from A to B.
I love the idea as a customer and it’s clear that a significant amount of R&D has gone into the development of the technology, but to my mind it lacks both the ability to scale from a manufacturing standpoint (the printing time seems far too long to be viable) but moreover from a marketing angle. How could even an iconic brand like Hershey convey so many different messages and SKUs through the type of customisation described above? This would also put a lot of additional pressure on the brand to get its retail lines exactly right, and it would threaten its ability to meet unit sale rate targets from retailers.
Thanks for the article – a great read! As a couple of others have mentioned above, I think that the threat posed by “indie” startup brands is actually increased by the existence of additive manufacturing, and this is where I’d like to focus my comment:
To my mind, that additive manufacturing will remove the need for moulds and potentially re-tooling time (thereby, potentially reducing contract manufacturers’ typically high minimum volumes) will hurt big brands, because these are the big costs and cash expenses that act as significant barriers for would-be entrants. The contract make-up manufacturing facility of the future might be able to service many small orders from brands in a single day, and realise comparable profitability and output to a situation where they only ran one line in a day.
It might also make me nervous as a large contract manufacturer or distributor – we don’t know where the split of physical vs e-commerce will ultimately land, but the erosion of scale benefits could also see local retailers make many of our desired goods right in front of us, or even equip us to make things ourselves in our homes. This would threaten the business models of the scale manufacturers and distribution with a significant fragmentation of their customers.