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On December 14, 2015, Vitali commented on BlackBerry: How to Destroy $75 Billion of Value :

Great questions, Thomas.

I think RIM could have competed against iPhone and Android if it focused on innovating its software (including apps platform) before it became too late. The Storm was a flop, but at that point BlackBerry still had a very strong position with the Bold. I think the company still had a chance until the horrible execution of the Z10 release.

The Chinese companies did want to buy BlackBerry but the transaction would have never been cleared by the Canadian or US governments. The US government was actually one of the most loyal BlackBerry customers and they would never use a product that allowed a Chinese company to monitor its information. A number of non-Chinese companies thought about acquiring BlackBerry as well, but were either scared off by HP’s failed acquisition of Palm or had no interest in BlackBerry’s hardware business (they only wanted the enterprise software business).

As far as BBM, it’s another example of a major failure by the BlackBerry team. BBM was the most popular and most secure global messaging platform, yet the company failed to monetize it in any way. BlackBerry never viewed BBM as a business messaging platform (it was actually blocked by many enterprises, at least on Wall Street). Other companies created messaging platforms that firms accepted, so clearly there was a market for it…

On December 10, 2015, Vitali commented on ClassPass: Serving a Two-Sided Marketplace with Class(Pass) :

Very interesting post, Jean. I’m a big believer in ClassPass and I think that it’s a great business model. I had many friends who used Classpass and were very passionate about the platform. I do see two concerns, one from each side of the marketplace. From the consumer side, I wonder if this platform will be as successful outside of densely populated cities, such as NY and SF. One of its main value propositions is the variety in classes and number of studios that you could take classes at (since you’re limited to three classes per studio per month). Once you leave NY/SF, I’m not sure if you can still find multiple studios of the same type in a close-by geography. For the studios, my concern is that as ClassPass becomes more popular, studios may start losing customers that used to purchase directly from the studios to ClassPass. At that point, I’m not sure how excited about the ClassPass partnership studios will be. But these are not major concerns – overall, I definitely believe in this business.

On December 10, 2015, Vitali commented on Iora Health: Redefining primary care medicine :

Nicole – very interesting write-up. I’ve never heard of Iora Health before but sounds like a very innovative model that focuses on quality rather than quantity in patient care (as well as cutting down costs). As you said, the health coach is one of the key innovations here. I was curious, so I googled and it seems that anyone can become a health coach (I saw that some of Iora’s health coaches were cashiers before). I would think that it’s a big risk for the company that non-qualified individuals are providing medical advice. For this system to work long-term, the health coaches have to be carefully selected and have appropriate training. I also wonder if the health coaches can be sued / can get malpractice insurance.

On December 10, 2015, Vitali commented on BlackBerry: How to Destroy $75 Billion of Value :

I completely agree about the apps. BlackBerry thought that their advantages in hardware would be enough, and thus didn’t anticipate the importance of apps and didn’t focus on the developer community until it was too late. I agree that hardware can be imitated, but it’s much harder to imitate the software).

On December 10, 2015, Vitali commented on Shake Shack winning in fast casual :

I think this is a great example, and you’ve outlined their operating advantages very well. I’ve seen people wait over an hour in line for Shake Shack, and I’m not sure that there are many (or any) other fast food chains that people would do this for. I think that prime locations have been at least part of the success and I’m worried that they have been jeopardizing this factor recently. For example, Shake Shack opened a location in New York on 3rd and 40th, which is not a prime location. There isn’t much around that location and I’ve never seen a long line there. I’ve also seen them open many locations in airports and I’m curious as to the economics of those stores. Is it purely a marketing play or are the margins behind those locations attractive?

On December 10, 2015, Vitali commented on Pizza-Pizza or Win-Win? Little Caesars, A Slice Above The Rest :

Great article, Thomas. I’ve never had Little Caesars before as they don’t have any locations in Manhattan (they’re smart – there is actual good pizza there and they probably wouldn’t survive). Jokes aside, I have a couple concerns about their business model. First, I wonder how profitable a $5 pizza is to franchisees. When you factor in labor, ingredients, rent, etc, and then add in a royalty (assuming this is a franchisee business model) how much margin is actually left? Second, I would guess that pizza sales are declining nationally. Some fast food chains have revamped their menus or added items to allow for healthier choices. Based on your analysis, such changes would go against the company’s operating model.

Great post, Rafiq. I’m a big fan of Blue Bottle (am actually drinking a Blue Bottle coffee right now). I agree with you that their business model and operating models are mostly aligned, and as a customer, I appreciate their focus on quality and freshness. What I don’t understand is, why did they pull out of the wholesale business while keeping their subscription business? Their justification was that stores not under their control wouldn’t do their coffee justice. I’m not sure how that’s different from selling directly to consumers at their homes. If other coffee shops can’t make good coffee with Blue Bottle beans, how will a consumer at home be able to do that? I would also guess that their wholesale business has higher margins (definitely higher than retail), so as their VC backer, I would question this decision as well.