Haibo, I visited China on a consulting trip earlier this year and was very impressed by WeChat. Iryna notes an interesting point here about WeChat as monopoly. I worry about the same issue, but less from the consumer protection side of things and more on how that monopoly position will affect the growth in additional innovations. While our fragmented app landscape in the US is frustrating in the short-term for the end-user, it rewards the best innovations as consumers can switch their P2P payments app without also switching their messaging app. It seems to me that WeChat’s major innovation is not any particular feature (most of which existed in other markets prior to being brought to China by Tencent), but rather their ability to a) wrap existing features in a single app, and b) deliver that app to a huge Chinese market. In the long term I worry that without healthy competition, WeChat will be a “me-too” developer.
The “gig” model for professional services is a well-worn path and you do a nice job of highlighting the approach that Catalant has taken in the management consulting space. One worry that I have for the business model is the challenge of quality. Given the fact that Catalant has chosen to favor scale over quality, their client results may be inconsistent and challenge long-term ambitions. On the spectrum from BTG (a highly curated gig business) to Upwork (a platform where buyers/sellers engage independent of Upwork’s management), I think the winners at the end of the day will fall more toward BTG’s end of things. Only with a sophisticated sales force that can rival those of the top management consulting firms can these lower-cost models hope to win the high value work that will energize their human capital and encourage them to stay.
A critical part of solving the digitization challenge for would-be digital startups is a concept known as “growth-hacking”. Uber got its start by plugging into the existing black car infrastructure. Airbnb began by scraping Craigslist ads and posting them (without owners’ consent) onto Airbnb. In both cases, an existing infrastructure helped catalyze the much larger disruptive event through clever growth-hacking. Do you have a theory on how Turo could inject quick growth in stock so that consumers who entered their app had more choice?
This is a really interesting deployment of technology. However, a large part of the digitization challenge is the ethics of bringing the digital into everyday life. Few people would argue that surveillance cameras on every street corner is a desirable use of technology – despite the fact that crime would likely decrease. As I see the police body-cam argument, we are inverting the “1984” world that was imagined at the advent of digitization. In 1984 the powers-that-be surveilled the disenfranchised under the auspices of crime reduction, and that dystopia was immediately recognizable. I think it is an interesting conversation to consider how the ethics change when it is instead the disenfranchised who surveill the powers-that-be under the auspice of abuse reduction.
Given the large cost of the investment I think the ethical conversation is an important one to have, but I’m glad you started the conversation here!
The growth of Live Nation in particular and live music performances in general, is an interesting corollary to the decline in record sales during the same period. Where concerts were once a way to drive consumers to purchase recordings, recordings now are viewed as the loss leader that generates live ticket sales. Spotify/Apple Music/Tidal are of relatively little value as compared to the worldwide tours that the biggest stars embark on.
One thought – given the closeness of Jay Z and Live Nation (see here: http://www.theverge.com/2015/4/9/8366967/apple-live-nation-tidal-streaming), could there be an interesting partnership play between Tidal and Live Nation to further cement the online-to-offline business model that streaming and ticket sales represent?
As an AR evangelist I think your post does a great job of helping us imagine some real-world applications of Augmented Reality. AR is hard – it requires the creation of rich 3-D content, it needs a clear line of sight to a marker onto which it projects the digital image, and it requires significant AR infrastructure to reach scale. Retailers and apparel makers will have plenty of AR applications (e.g. “virtual try-on” services), but I worry that the state of the technology is too premature for Wayfair to reap anything but some reputational benefits from their project.
Further – have you considered how mixed reality (MR), the likes of which is being developed by Magic Leap as we speak, could enrich the e-commerce experience here? There remains the adoption challenge before any of this reaches scale, but the ability to more realistically interact with digital objects in the real world (e.g. physical-digital obstruction) could aid the virtual showroom application that Wayfair is attempting to build.
Neil, I think your choice of industry leads to some really interesting questions about broader climate change impacts, but if I am in the film industry, do I really need to worry about short-term implications from climate change to my business? It seems to me rather well-insulated from regulatory pressures, cost rises due to climate change, and demand shifts due to the same. Further, I am not clear on the true impact of the film industry on the environment. I would argue instead that the film industry’s most valuable contribution to the environment would not be in minimizing their own wasteful practices, but rather on turning into a “propaganda machine” that supports climate change activists by putting out thoughtful movies on the issue.
Nicole, I am no sommelier, but I have watched a documentary or two. As I understand it, somewhat arid conditions can produce high quality wine, as the plant is more efficient at converting resources to the fruit as opposed to the leaves. Further, wine regions vary in their temperature ranges, with some cool regions producing some stellar vintages (e.g. New Zealand or Germany). Is it possible that climate shifts will create new winners in the wine industry, and that major players today need only to diversify their land holdings?
As previous comments have noted, the market for motorcycles is a peculiar one. The culture is one that prizes a DIY approach to motorcycle maintenance (I could here cite Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). To convert the core motorcycle user to electric motorcycles to me seems to be a difficult if not unrealistic task (as a motorcyclist myself). Rather, I would be interested in how the technology could bring in non-riders to the category. For example, motorized bicycles have become a favorite of deliverymen in New York and many other professions in China. In addition, tip-proof motorcycles have recently been introduced to the market, lowering the barrier to entry for many would-be riders who are afraid of the 2-wheel format.
Regardless of the marketing feasibility of the electric motorcycle program, I fail to see the environmental uplift of the project. Motorcycles are relatively efficient given their low weight profile, and as such do not represent major sources of green house gas emissions. I worry that pursuing this segment may not lead to any meaningful environmental change.
Majken, it seems to me that you’ve chosen a really interesting topic. Water bottlers both provide access to water, which becomes increasingly important in a world affected by global warming, but there is a darker side to this seemingly socially-positive business. Especially in highland areas, transporting water is an energy-intensive process, and the by-product of producing large amounts of plastic waste is environmentally dangerous. One study found that bottled water is 2,000x as energy intensive as tap water! (http://phys.org/news/2009-03-energy-bottle.html). I would be interested in understanding regulatory threats to their business given the general social swing against bottled water.
Jodie, it seems to me that Daiken is in serious danger of being on the wrong side of economic and regulatory pressure. Contrary to Anto’s comment, I think that they are in a long term losing situation. If we take it as a given that HCF’s will be outlawed in the near term by international regulatory bodies, and we further assume that growth in emerging markets will be key to their mid-term strategy, then it will be imperative that they not only develop more sustainable air-conditioners, but also that they do so in a way that minimizes the cost to emerging market customers. These customers are extremely price sensitive and are only becoming consumers of the units because the price has fallen relative to their buying power. I would be interested in seeing some price/cost data behind more sustainable technologies to understand if it is possible for them to meet both the demands of regulators as well as the demands of these price-sensitive customers.