Great post, Robert! Thanks for sharing.
I’ve been using Zillow a lot during this quarantine and in the last few weeks have seen a lot of home prices that have dropped significantly. And the trend appears to be accelerating. I wouldn’t be surprised if Zillow Offers starts to ramp back up their home purchases in the coming months to buy low and sell high in the future. As you said, with their proprietary pricing algorithms, they should be better positioned than most to identify good opportunities as the housing market becomes quite volatile.
More broadly, I think (and hope) that this COVID-19 crisis will accelerate the democratization and digitization of the home buying experience. The fact that realtors still make ~6% commissions on home sales is ABSURD given that tools like Zillow have dramatically reduced the information asymmetry / expertise that could’ve maybe justified that fee back in the day. I really hope VR/AR home viewing becomes the wave of the future, whether its Zillow leading the charge or another player.
Great post Elisa (and hello to my fellow co-parent to a very tardy HBS student!). As someone whose wedding this summer will almost definitely be postponed due to the COVID-19 situation, this post hit close to home.
From my admittedly limited vantage point, it seems like right now most players in the wedding industry either aren’t admitting to themselves or their clients how significant and long-term the impact of the virus will be on the wedding industry. For example, some of our vendors advised couples with weddings in April/May 2020 to move them to July/August 2020. Very shortsighted in my opinion. Will the world be a lot more normal by August 2020? I sure hope so. Will it be normal enough that you’ll want to spend an entire day co-located with 100-200 of the most important people in your life, many of whom have flown in crammed airplanes from far away places and/or are elderly or immuno-compromised? Highly doubtful.
For Zola, though, the 2021/2022 wedding seasons will be a huge opportunity for growth in my opinion, but less so on the registry side of things and moreso on the planning / vendor search side. I predict a LOT of small wedding vendors will go out of business by the end of the summer. Coupled with the backlog of both weddings that were postponed and engaged couples who are waiting to plan weddings until things calm down, there will be HUGE demand for the vendors that remain, meaning that companies like Zola that can help couples search for and match with vendors will be able to capture some value.
Great post, Loti!
I also wrote about a telemedicine company for my blog post, as I imagine so will several others since it’s a hot space these days. I agree with your general conclusion that the shift towards telemedicine that was accelerated by COVID-19 will likely persist to a large extent even after the current situation is behind us. I think it’ll be really interesting to see which companies end up winning out in the fight for market share when things calm down. Teledoc seems to be positioned quite well from a communications infrastructure perspective, but my hypothesis is that companies will start needing to do more do stand-out. Potential areas for differentiation could include, for example, partnerships with existing local health systems, diagnostic or therapeutic tools that can be ordered/delivered/executed digitally, etc. Will definitely be interesting to see it all unfold!
Super interesting post and company – thanks for sharing!
It’s interesting to think about this company relative to our case on Zebra Medicine. Whereas Zebra’s was really a B2B product for a very specific subset of doctors, K Health’s is a DTC product that is meant to cover a wide array of symptoms/conditions. Given this broad focus, I imagine they will face more data challenges than Zebra, in part because of the large number of symptoms/conditions involved in primary care diagnosis but also because they may have more significant issues with over-fitting models especially since their first data set was isolated to Israeli patients. I’ll be curious to see if they can maintain high levels of accuracy even as they expand the breadth of offerings and geographies.
Very interesting technology and strategy! As you point out, I think it was very smart for Overjet to focus on both DSOs and Insurance Companies given that the industry is risk-averse and fairly highly regulated. This approach of working with Insurance Companies could allow them to snowball their adoption much faster than if they only sold to the much more fragmented network of often small, private dental offices.
My primary concern is with how the product might be positioned to / perceived by the dentists. As we saw in the Zebra case, AI tools can be seen as either supplemental or complementary to the expertise of the existing players (for Zebra, radiologists; for Overjet, dentists). If Overjet is able to carefully position the product in a way that it is perceived to augment rather than undermine the dentist’s expertise, it will find an easier path to adoption.
Very interesting blog post, Leah! Thanks for sharing.
As someone who went through the diamond buying process about a year ago, the pain points of the traditional diamond business that this blog post talk about really resonated with me. However, I question if Rare Carat’s approach of using Rocky the chatbot is really the best solution to the problem. While I like that Rare Carat doesn’t monetize the transactions and can thereby stay perceived as neutral and unbiased, I fear that an AI chatbot being used for such an important purchase decision is misguided. I for one would be hesitant to rely on a non-human adviser in this context. Moreover, companies like Blue Nile and Brilliant Earth have already digitized much of the diamond shopping process, while still involving human-to-human interactions at key points in the customer journey in a way that engenders trust and confidence.
It will be interesting to follow this company going forward. While its service isn’t quite right for me, it’s certainly possible that they find a large and dedicated customer base!
Great post, thanks! I think the point you made about how Drizly achieved competitive differentiation in part due to its approach to idiosyncratic alcohol regulations is really interesting. I agree that in its early days this provided them with a competitive advantage and helped them develop a creative and unique business model that threads the needle of following the law while providing a valuable user experience. However, I fear that this advantage is not sustainable, since now that Drizly has demonstrated the model a competitor –whether it be a new upstart or an adjacent incumbent like Amazon — can simply replicate the regulatory strategy while slightly improving upon the user experience in some manner.
Very interesting post! I am definitely going to check out Boatsetter on my next vacation. I think that in order for Boatsetter to continue to scale and defend against potential entrants, they really need to double-down on providing complementary services to the boat owners to keep them on the platform and reduce risk of multi-homing. For example, since ports are quite centralized in certain areas, they could set up facilities or local contractor relationships to provide cleaning, fueling, maintenance, etc… services for the boats in between rentals. This would reduce the friction for owners both at initial sign-up and during their on-going use of the platform.
Great post – thanks Bastian. I think this idea of a “SuperApp” is very interesting and has important strategic implications. While the approach has certainly led to great success for Gojek up to this point, I see a tension between focusing on doing a small number of things incredibly well versus doing a large number of things decently well. The latter strategy is attractive because it increases a company’s footprint but also unattractive in that it creates risks of competition if an up-start figures out how to do one of those things much better than you, rapidly steals market share in that category, and then starts to encroach on other categories. I think the optimal strategy for how much to focus vs. expand would vary greatly depending on market, geography, etc.
Very interesting article and company – thanks for sharing!
I used to work with a company that built surgical simulators for medical training (https://www.virtamed.com/en/) and am also aware of companies that are applying VR to surgical training (e.g. https://ossovr.com/). Given that surgery is a very 3D tactile practice and phones/tablets are 2D devices, how effective can Touch Surgery’s platform be for skills training? That is, while I appreciate that the interface is problem orders-of-magnitude better than traditional anatomy textbooks and flashcards for studying techniques academically, to what extent can it actually help close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it correctly?
Great article about Allbirds and the brilliant strategic decisions that fueled their meteoric rise in popularity.
I was admittedly a bit late to the Allbirds game, but I recently got my first pair and I absolutely love them.
A few months ago news started swirling about Amazon’s “Allbird knockoffs” (e.g. https://www.geekwire.com/2019/weve-wearing-amazons-allbirds-lookalikes-compare-real-thing/). Do you think the initial strategic choices Allbirds made that you highlighted above will allow them to cement their position of wild popularity, or will they become yet another victim of the Amazon steamroller squashing smaller players with copycat products?
Very interesting article, KA!
One thing that it made me think about is based on the combination of two facts you laid out (1) one potential differentiation lever for Macy’s to pull on is experience and (2) Macy’s is an institution at many American shopping malls, which themselves are on the decline. I wonder if there is a way for Macy’s to bolster their in-store experience in a way where the focus is not on the shopping experience but rather the overall experience.
For example, I know Lifetime Fitness is starting to buy up old anchor stores at shopping malls and convert them into living communities that include gyms, apartments, common space, etc. Perhaps Macy’s could make a play similar to that: get people into the malls for other experiential or community-based reasons and then, hey, might as well buy a polo while I’m there?