Weekend Reading

Purpose

  • Amazon slated to open pop-up retail store in upscale San Francisco mall: http://bit.ly/1v901BK {GeekWire}
  • Snapchat – Third-Party Applications and the Snapchat API: http://bit.ly/1v912K6
  • Yahoo says its Bug Bounty Program has paid out $700,000 in rewards during its first year: http://tcrn.ch/1v97iBy {TechCrunch}
  • Would you trade a little bit of your smartphone battery life for some bitcoin? I propose an exchange of barometric sensor data for btc.: http://bit.ly/1v98UeB {Reddit}
  • GE: We’re going all-in with the public cloud: http://bit.ly/1v9aahP {InfoWorld}
  • HBO is finally going to let you watch its shows without cable: http://bit.ly/1vfi9de {The Verge}

Process

People

  • THE EDUCATION OF MARC ANDREESSEN: http://buswk.co/1riXjnp
  • The Best-Performing CEOs in the World: http://bit.ly/1CectjK {Harvard Business Review}
  • Google’s Eric Schmidt In Berlin: “Really, Our Biggest Search Competitor Is Amazon”: http://selnd.com/1CekLrZ
  • A rare survey of elite tech CEOs shows what inspires and frightens them about the industry: http://bit.ly/ZDBQiJ {VentureBeat}
  • With the Matter reboot, has Medium actually pulled off what Pierre Omidyar only promised?: http://bit.ly/1vfkzbS {PandoDaily}
  • Watch our full PandoMonthly fireside chat with Bessemer Venture’s Jeremy Levine: http://bit.ly/ZFqyKE {PandoDaily}
  • In win for tech industry, White House nominates ex-Googler Michelle Lee to lead Patent Office: http://bit.ly/1oehyrM

Product

Platform

Venture Capital

Miscellaneous 

Can Beacons Save In-Store Retail?

I consider myself someone who is pretty on top of tech news, but I have to admit, I hadn’t heard much about “beacons” before reading this piece. That’s surprising, because I think beacons stand to really revolutionize a lot of industries:

Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware — small enough to attach to a wall or countertop — that use battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet. They are poised to transform how retailers, event organizers, transit systems, enterprises, and educational institutions communicate with people indoors. Consumers might even want to deploy them as part of home automation systems.

In my opinion, the coolest application for them has to be the ability for airport and subway stations to communicate directly with travelers about delays and travel times.

But in addition, in-store retail could conceivably experience a resurgence if the technology is embraced correctly. Imagine if you received a coupon every time you walked into a clothing store? There are so many strategies that could be employed to incentivize consumers to come into the store and to boost sales once they’re there. Even restaurants can be more competitive if they start thinking now about applications for the new tech. The innovation is likely to be in place very soon, so it’s worth thinking about what this could mean for your business.

Event: Responsive Finance

 

Undercurrent

We’re in the middle of an unstoppable unravelling of the banking industry: trust in ‘scale’ is gone; massive leaders lag behind tiny upstarts in all measures other than sheer size; transparency has become a cost of doing business; global regulatory pressures and public expectations are turning traditionally profitable models on their head.

On 10/22 at New York’s Soho House, Undercurrent Partner, Clay Parker Joneswill explore the way out with the help of: Luvleen Sindu, BankMobile, Louis Beryl, EarnestBen Walsh, Reuters, and Scott Roen of Black Rock.

Limited seating. RSVP here.

 

Ikea Simplifies Assembly

FINALLY! Ikea is famous for how horrible its at-home furniture assembly process is, and I honestly cannot believe it’s taken them so long to respond to the complaints with updated designs. The simplification of its products has been a really, really long time coming.

Ikea furniture can take hours to assemble. The complicated assembly instructions and occasionally missing pieces have triggered domestic disturbances and inspired hundreds of memes and parodies.

So the company has come up with a new line of goods, including a bookshelf, cabinets, and a coffee table, that can all be assembled in less than five minutes.

Have to say, I’m going to miss the Ikea jokes. But good for them.

Is There a Market for “Smart” Credit Cards?

Have to say, I totally agree with the assessment of this FastCo article — Plastc seems like it would have been a great idea, but it’s quickly becoming irrelevant as Apple Pay and Google Wallet prepare to take over the payment process. More importantly, it just wasn’t smart for Plastc to think that it could charge so much for a simple credit card, no matter how “smart” it may be.

Plastc costs $155 ($55 more than Coin). When you consider the materials and engineering inside, that’s not an absurd cost. But who will want to pay $155 for the privilege of paying for stuff? Just the sort of early adopter who will have bought the latest iPhone instead. Plastc and Coin are both excellent design solutions in search of a business model–and a market–that can sustain them.

Now, I’m of the opinion that there’s going to be a lot of pushback against the mobile payments thing as people become more and more concerned about security. So the idea of a smart card isn’t necessarily dead in the water. But it’ll have to be cheaper, and it will likely need to be another company that launches the effort. This article suggests that major credit card companies will be the ones to do it, since they’ve already got access to scale, but I think that if Apple and Google are responsive (and we know they are), we should probably expect them to be the ones to do it. I can even foresee that a card like this would eventually come either free of charge or as a cheap accessory to your phone.

Employee Loyalty

In case you missed it, here’s an extremely inspiring story of a company whose employees staged a protest when their CEO was forced out — in order to get him back: 

After Market Basket’s board of directors ousted Demoulas this summer, thousands of the supermarket’s employees risked their jobs to march outside the company’s headquarters in Massachusetts. The protestors weren’t asking for more money, better benefits or additional time off. They just wanted their boss back.

I’d like to spend a day in the life of one of Market Basket’s employees, just to find out what’s so great about the company culture there, and why the employees love their CEO so much.

How to Address “Unignorable Moments” that Indicate a Systemic Problem

I really enjoyed this read about what the authors refer to as “unignorable moments.” Using the NFL as a prime example, they discuss those tricky scenarios in which a pain point for an organization reaches its peak and explodes very messily in public — for instance, with the NFL’s recent scandals around its culture of violence and domestic abuse.

Unignorable moments don’t only happen for organizations and stars that live in the spotlight; there are critical times in the life of every organization when it faces challenges that cannot be sidestepped. Sometimes the crisis is months, or even years, in the making – but when it explodes, it does so spectacularly. An unignorable moment signals that at some profound level, the culture of an organization – that is, people’s tacit, shared understanding of “the way we do things around here” – must be addressed. It is running up against the reality of a changing world, and cracking. When culture is challenged in this way, and people start questioning what their organization stands for, things can go either of two ways. There can be organizational paralysis, or a release of incredible and productive energy, and which of the two happens depends mainly on leadership.

The authors make two extremely important points about these unignorable moments: that although they may seem like isolated incidents, often they are indicative of a systemic problem, and that they can cause both staff and customers to question the identity and purpose of the organization.

Sweeping these sorts of problems under the rug is pretty much guaranteed to fail. The good news is that these moments can present a great opportunity for a company to put itself into the spotlight and take control by firmly establishing what it stands for and how it will adapt to tackle its shortcomings. It might even be able to put itself in front of the competition, with the work of some really talented PR folks. But that’s the least of it; what it’s really about it the direction and guiding values of the company — sooner or later, a lack of these things will ruin a company. No time like the present to make sure it’s all in order.

Team Workcation, Anyone?

Start-up Kimono Labs tells about their experience moving their team to work from Tokyo for a month. There were definitely some drawbacks, but overall the founders feel like it was a success and say they would do it again.

Some of the best moments came from deep, late-night conversations about the future of the company on long walks in the residential area they were staying in, the Omori district. Ranade said the team “did some great creative thinking that refined and honed our strategy and product roadmap.”

“And now, there’s this shared bond and experience, and we still have a pretty tight team as a consequence of that,” Ranade said.

It would definitely take the right kind of team for this to work, but it’s not a bad idea for jumpstarting creativity and strengthening team dynamics.

The Rate of Change

The world has been abuzz lately with talk of driverless cars. It would have been extremely hard to miss. But when we talk about major technological advances like this, most of us don’t have any context for understanding exactly when we can expect to see the changes. Personally, I assumed this would happen within my lifetime, but it seemed like it was probably 20 years away. Experts are saying that’s not the case for this particular innovation:

Driverless cars and the end of individual ownership are coming faster than anyone thinks, he says. A great disruption is coming, and the message to his industry is clear: adapt or die. “In the internet of things, the automobile is the ultimate ‘thing’. Without embracing the change, we have no future as auto analysts,” he writes.

Well that changes things. It also makes this expert’s command — “adapt or die” — all the more urgent. Technological change is accelerating every year, so when we talk about being responsive to these changes, what we mean is that your company should be responsive right now. Today. And that applies to all kinds of different changes affecting all kinds of different industries.

As to this particular technological advancement, it’s important to note that while it will obviously affect the auto industry, the tech sector, and Wall Street, there are countless other businesses that should consider how this might affect them, as well. How would driverless cars affect the fast food industry, for example? How might customers’ behaviors change?

Social Enterprise Can Be Smart Business

Unreasonable and the Nike Foundation have announced that they have founded an accelerator called The Girl Effect Accelerator, which focuses on businesses that view young girls earning less than $2 a day as both their primary market and the “beneficiaries” of their social missions. These social enterprises include a for-profit school and a company that manufactures affordable sanitary pads, among others.

But while these companies have a very well-defined purpose at the center of what they do, they’re also not meant to be charities:

It’s good business, too, she believes: “We’re unleashing huge, hardest-to-reach markets. We think of this market as something that is necessary to address, not just nice to address. It’s not, ‘That’s just about girls.’ It’s about transforming the way businesses operate.”

The companies know that if they can uplift young women in developing markets by providing them with affordable, essential goods, they stand to benefit for two reasons: 1) A market already exists. They have to reach scale for it to be viable, but even the poor will pay reasonable prices for essential goods. 2) Once their target market begins to work its way out of destitution, the company will have a foothold there, should they want to introduce other products at scale that their target market can now more easily afford.

Purpose = profit. It’s about being responsive not only to the wants of well-to-do Americans, but also to the needs at the bottom of the pyramid.