Ray Aleks

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On November 15, 2018, Ray Aleks commented on The Beauty of Crowdsourcing :

Crowd-sourcing could be the single-biggest innovation for the multi-level marketing business model. By receiving input directly from the salespeople, Natura can reduce its internal R&D efforts and focus on creating products desired by the people. When you consider that most network marketing schemes result in direct-salespeople selling to their immediate network, including family and friends, there is a sense of ownership in realizing their input impacts the products they have available to sale.

The quality of this product’s distribution channel also lies in the fragmented nature of independent salespeople. By further engaging its salespeople with a sense of ownership (and potentially compensation if their ideas do make it past concept stage), Natura becomes more valuable as its channel is reinvigorated to sell new and existing products.

Furthermore, the quality and frequency of feedback from direct sales people could insulate Natura from any imitators.

This is a great story of bringing modern-day innovation to a business model with a troubled past, potentially revitalizing it as viable model for the 21st century.

I loved this article. I believe if Houzz can pull this off, it will have found a unique platform for home buyers / sellers to generate revenue in between home sales (which typically have long sales cycles). As future home buyers review homes, they may be spurred into a few more impulse purchases before even getting a mortgage and closing on a home!

What the company has to do first is validate the concept, which is still in progress, as pointed out by the author. But not much further than whatever it takes to work (e.g. a “minimum viable product”). By fixing key issues, the company can have a sellable product to the very people who post those photos. Then encourage home sellers to do any tedious manual tagging work for Houzz, expecting the promise of commission for any items sold. Furthermore, Houzz can encourage “look-a-like” on-demand manufacturers to work on the other side Houzz’s marketplace, even supporting them with consumer data on what new home buyers are focused on when looking to decorate a home.

I am excited to learn more about this project as it develops.

On November 15, 2018, Ray Aleks commented on Your Cells for Sale :

Thank you for the insightful and well-written article! I really learned a lot.

After reflection, I believe this is a gross infraction on human privacy and miscalculation of risk.

What is not discussed in this article (and rarely discussed in big data-driven consumer applications to healthcare, defense, etc.) is the vulnerability of data. Given the sensitive nature of key information like a person’s health information, ventures like Paige.AI highlights how risk is not properly measured given the ambition of the firm to generate out-sized returns. The risk of this data being breached is wide-ranging, impacting all stakeholders, including (and most importantly) the clients. All for what – to develop drugs that will be priced beyond the means of the person who needs it? Using third-party vendors and not compensating or allowing customers to provide consent for their data usage are just two examples of ways this venture is not properly paying for the risks it takes.

While I understand how data needs to be collected unilaterally to avoid selection bias, there has to be a form of compensation and disclaimer to all patients who are served in this program. To do anything less is to expose people to risks unimaginable; if hacked, people can change their website passwords, credit cards and even banks accounts, but one cannot change their genetic code and/or other identifying health factors unique to a single person.

What confuses me about these efforts is that there is little room for iteration when cities are constructed. A/B testing a website is far different than A/B testing road placement. Further, the feedback loop for a user experience in a city is far longer when considering all the factors behind being happy living in a city vs. purchasing a product/service online.

What I think Sidewalk Labs has to do is “fast prototype” as much of the city experience as possible, likely by using modular, temporary construction from relatively cheap and durable parts, and allow people to experience it. Only then will there be credibility in resident feedback. Another idea could be to try to recreate a smaller, self-contained city ecosystem for a few people to live in a longer period of time, versus allowing everyone to chime in at the “White Board” stage.

Great article! Wunderbar! I think this article precisely hits on the difficulties of looking forward to disruptive forces that may dramatically impact a company’s steady cash flow-driven business. In the case of GE, there are many issues facing the company that would lead one to believe that there should be a focus on cash flow, yet the CEO has pushed through with multiple acquisitions. What I would be curious to understand is whether any of those recently acquired additive manufacturing business lines are on the selling/chopping block given the recent CEO shift.

I can’t imagine that one should ignore the impending disruption of additive manufacturing, even blue chip giants such as General Electric. Given the company’s vast resources, ignoring the inevitable wave would be like playing the ‘oudler’ in French Tarot, even though you have the ’21 of trump’ handy. By the time you eventually do decide to play your best cards, you may be too far behind to catch up to the competition.

I question the validity that leaning into additive manufacturing is value-added for manufacturers like Barilla. On the contrary, I think this could spell the demise of Barilla and other food manufacturers. If one extrapolates the power of additive manufacturing, couldn’t one argue that eventually all products will be produced at the end user level, with food suppliers delivering the ingredients straight to the consumer? If so, wouldn’t simple, low-risk products like pasta be among the first to be disrupted? To insulate against this shift, Barilla would have to have proprietary pasta recipes/designs that gets delivered directly and electronically to the end customer’s 3D printer.

In order for food manufacturers like Barilla to do that, it would have to be known for high-quality, great-tasting, creatively-designed pastas.