I am definitely a believer in companies like wealthfront and betterment. For now, their technology is probably best suited for younger investors who have less complicated financial situations (fewer accounts to consider, not planning for retirement, etc.) but I think the technology can evolve over time to keep pace with its customer’s needs. While these companies haven’t undergone a downturn like 2008, they are also buffered from the emotional and sometimes irrational decisions humans make in stressful times. Their portfolios are pretty well diversified in terms of geography and asset class and don’t differ very much from more traditional asset managers so I don’t think they’ll do any worse in a downturn.
I really like Lyst’s universal shopping cart and the concept of personalized fashion. I wonder how they are able to personalize the choices they show you. Is it based on items you purchased or clicked on to get a better view but didn’t purchase? If you bought a Rag and Bone sweater, do they show you more sweaters, more Rag and Bone products, or more winter gear? It is probably a combination of all of these factors plus others like your age and if you live on the east coast vs. west coast, etc. I’m sure Lyst doesn’t disclose this type of proprietary information but its interesting to think about what drives the personalization. The current shopping experience is so broken, if Lyst is able to get the personalization right, I think they could have real potential.
Thanks for your comments. I also like when I receive more specific advertisements and agree that the differences are probably generational. The wealth of data Target has is a real competitive advantage because they can use analytics to test how best to deliver the advertisements. They could easily create an A/B test and send (A) very specific coupons to one group of pregnant shoppers and (B) specific coupons mixed with irrelevant products to another group of pregnant shoppers. They could then evaluate the results to see if they had a better response for one of the two groups. Since they have demographic information like age, they could refine their analysis further to see if there are differences between age groups.
I agree Yelp has become less relevant and needs to create more personalized suggestions. I think a quick follow up asking if you liked the food is a great idea. You could even follow Uber’s approach of forcing you to review something before using the app again. I suggest this because Open Table always sends me an email asking about the food and I never bother to rate it but if I needed to rate it quickly before searching yelp again, I rate the food. I have come to rely on Yelp’s photos more and more. I wonder if there is a visual way to display photos before or after you click on a restaurant so you can get a feel for the ambiance and food faster than reading through reviews on it.
I really enjoyed this post on Google’s latest app. While I agree with your assessment of the opportunity to add context to why people make decisions, I also think it’s a play to boost their social network presence. Most would consider Google Plus, their last social network attempt, a failure and Google has seen its advertising dollars flowing to Facebook. This meetup feature is something Facebook enables through their group boards, people post about events or meeting up to play basketball but the user experience is poor because those posts are mixed in with so many others. I like “Who’s Down” because it solves a specific problem for college students looking to meet up and gives Google a larger social network presence while simultaneously using the data to add context to how decisions are made.
I enjoyed reading through these comments. As it relates to the issue of privacy protection, HourlyNerd has a services contract that basically limits the sharing of confidential information. I don’t think it’s feasible for HourlyNerd to really enforce this policy so I assume they largely rely on the ratings system to police the sharing of confidential information. I agree with the comment about multi-homing, nerds will be incentivized to multi-home. The ratings system will make the platform a bit stickier but nerds can easily advertise their HourlyNerd ratings through competing platforms. Companies may be less likely to multi-home though, due to the convenience of using a platform that (1) they are familiar with and (2) has already been approved. I also wondered if companies like GE would push out the SMEs but think they provide a level of validation to a relatively new concept. As long as there is plenty of supply in the HourlyNerd marketplace, large companies like GE shouldn’t pose a threat to SMEs.
That’s a great point that they could follow Facebook’s approach and expand the network so users who are traveling can access reviews on restaurants, grocers, etc. And perhaps through some sort of partnership with Airbnb? The company doesn’t publicly disclose how many users they have which is why I said they are “rumored” to have 1 million. Since they’ve been around for three years now, I’d love to know how many users they have to really evaluate user adoption.
As a member of the SoulCycle cult, I loved reading this post! They have done very well but I am concerned with two things. First, I’m concerned that their growth potential is limited because there are only so many wealthy regions across the US where riders are willing to pay $30 for a class. I think there is opportunity to expand into other areas like merchandising as you mentioned but I wonder how many more studios they can really open. Second, we’ve seen so many waives of fitness fads and particularly for trendy ones like SoulCycle. I think interest will eventually wane and SoulCycle will be left with a smaller group of committed riders. I’m curious to see if SoulCycle has created a sustained interest in cycling or if they’ll have to reinvent themselves at some point in the future.
I enjoyed reading this post. I completely agree that simplicity and a strong product (filters) drove initial growth. I think another contributing factor was that users could essentially re-set their friend group. While facebook users have hundreds of friends and their news feeds are cluttered with everything from political rants to cat pictures from friends they can barely remember, Instagram allows users to more carefully select those they want to follow. It will be interesting to see how their monetization strategy works out. The ads on Instagram feel a bit intrusive because they take over your entire phone screen and leave the user feeling tricked into even looking at the advertisement. I wonder if they should have taken an approach similar to pinterest where advertisements are curated and are more difficult to differentiate from regular pins.
Nordstrom has a history of innovation. They started as a shoe store in Seattle for miners going up to Alaska and in need of the appropriate equipment. They are also known for their commitment to customer service and it will be interesting to see how they integrate this into their digital space.
I wrote about Wealthfront and found your blog about Betterment very interesting. From what I can tell, there is really no difference between the two as both automate the portfolio building process and invest in ETFs to minimize the cost. Did you find any important differences? This certainly isn’t a winner takes all market and the two together have over $5bn in assets under management which is pretty impressive.
It’s interesting to compare Venmo’s strategy to Square’s. Square started on the merchant side by offering really low credit card processing fees to small businesses with the hope consumers would then get on board but consumers haven’t and Square has been struggling. Venmo started with the consumer side and has been very successful and is now hoping to get more businesses to adopt. Businesses could be forced to adopt if the consumer-base is large enough but other factors that will lead to adoption will be their rates, ease of use, and availability of their API.