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On December 14, 2015, sijwang commented on Haidilao Hot Pot’s Success :

Great post, Yao! I went to Haidilao in Beijing and loved it (especially the noodle dancing). I appreciated that it was a premium hotpot experience. I was really excited when I heard that it was opening up in Arcadia (east of LA) but I never ended up going, as the Yelp reviews were pretty mediocre compared to other hotpot places:

It is interesting to me that the chain has had a difficult time at its US location, whereas other Chinese hotpot chains (Little Sheep comes to mind) have been quite successful. I think one of the primary reasons is that there is a lack of consistency in service and quality of food at its US location compared with its Chinese locations. Another reason may be that there is a lot more variability in quality of food (especially meats) in the Chinese market; US consumers expect high quality meat no matter where they go, so they are less willing to pay for a premium hotpot experience. You can read more about it here:

I hope they can figure out their operations in the US, as I would love to have the same type of experience as I did in Beijing here!

On December 14, 2015, sijwang commented on Netflix — Winning the Moment of Truth :

I think you make a great point about their two business and operating models. I have talked to some Netflix employees in their Beverly Hills office, and what I think is interesting is that as Netflix started to move into creating original content, one of the key questions that they began asking was: how should Netflix value one hour of content watched on the service? For example, does it matter if a user watches original Netflix programming vs. an older documentary? Does one hour watched have equivalent value across all types of programming, or does the type of content watched matter to Netflix?

I think this question is important to Netflix going forward, as they will have to make tradeoffs between spending on original content vs. rights to other studios’ movies and shows. Even more difficult, they will also have to figure out what genres of shows and which international markets to invest in based on their data.

On December 14, 2015, sijwang commented on Stitch Fix: Personalized Retail at Scale :

Super interesting, Ravneet! I have always wanted to try a service like Stitch Fix, but the hurdle for me was always the hassle of dealing with shipping. There have been numerous times when I have ordered clothing online, and although I don’t love particular items, I keep them because the effort involved to return them is high. I know that Stitch Fix and other companies make shipping as easy as possible by providing you with prepaid packages, but I still find it such a process to bring the package to a mailing center.

I also wonder how good Stitch Fix’s algorithms are for individual preferences, particularly when they acquire a new customer. I think it would be difficult for them to retain customers if their customers don’t like the first couple of shipments that they receive. I also think that this may be a better business opportunity for men vs. women. There are so many more styles involved in women’s clothing than in men’s clothing that it may be more challenging to pick out clothing that suits a particular woman’s preferences. In addition, I think the fit on women’s clothing is much more difficult to get right. Interested to see if this service really starts to take off!

On December 14, 2015, sijwang commented on Drybar: “Turning Hot Air Into Big Business” :

I totally agree with your two points. I noticed that the quality of service was fairly inconsistent and how good your blowout was largely depended on how talented your individual DryBar stylist was. As the brand grew more popular, I also noticed that I had to book further in advance in order to secure an appointment for the desired date and time (for example, I usually had to book Friday lunch time appointments at least a week in advance and perhaps even earlier if I requested a specific stylist). I think at the end of the day, I value consistency and convenience the most for a blowout so any competitor that is closer in location, easier to book, and has a reasonably reliable service would gain my business, especially if prices are comparable.

It seems that over time, Priceline has shifted its focus more towards the traditional online travel agency model and away from the name-your-price model in the hotel industry. I think the name-your-price model has decreased in share of revenue over time due to a couple of reasons:
1) There is a supply issue because hotels are afraid of cannibalizing their existing loyal customers by heavily discounting through Priceline. Savvy travelers were able to figure out which hotels were being discounted based on general descriptions and location and able to take advantage of the model to book the hotels that they wanted at extremely low prices.
2) The less travel savvy consumer segment that didn’t want to expend the effort to figure out which hotels were being discounted through the “mystery” descriptions preferred booking through the traditional model to guarantee a specific hotel. The idea is that not all 4-star hotel properties in a given area are created the same, so these consumers wanted to ensure that they had all the information available before booking, even if it meant not receiving the lowest possible price.

On December 14, 2015, sijwang commented on Twitter at a Crossroads :

Great choice for a failed business and operational model. I remember when I was in undergrad, Twitter was a sexy startup to work for and attracted high quality talent, but as the years passed by it increasingly became a place that few engineers wanted to work for due to the lack of an effective monetization model.

Going forward, I think Twitter should concentrate on a couple of areas of opportunity:
1) Create a platform that easily allows users to track events as they happen – To me, one of the major value-adds of Twitter is being able to find out news more quickly than any other information source. For any sort of major announcement (such as elections results, athletic commitments, awards ceremonies), Twitter should develop a platform that easily allows users to search the event, and follow Tweets and videos in real-time before news articles are written. I’ve tried to follow major announcements through Twitter, and the interface as it currently stands is extremely clunky and hard to navigate.
2) Work with companies on advertising announcements – There is a strong incentive for users to follow companies on Twitter if they use it as the primary method for announcing flash sales. For example, if JetBlue is having a too-good-to-be-true promotion with limited supply, then following JetBlue on Twitter actually has value for users as they can find out about the flash sale in real-time. I think the Business Development team at Twitter should focus on developing relationships with companies like JetBlue to create more value for Twitter users.

On December 14, 2015, sijwang commented on PICARD, French gastronomy everyday for everyone! :

Picard sounds really delicious, and reading this post made me want to have something like this in the US. In line with Charles’s and Richie’s comments, I wonder if there are markets outside of France that Picard could expand to or if other firms would be able to replicate this model in different countries.

Since the margins are so high, I am guessing that Picard charges a premium relative to other grocery stores. It may be difficult to charge premium pricing in other markets if consumers do not care as much about having Michelin chef-inspired food products or associate frozen items with lower quality. NYC really stands out as a location where I think this business model could work, as grocery shopping in NYC is an incredibly painful process, grocery prices are very high, and shoppers have high standards for food quality.