Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.
🎰 The week in figures
$3.5B - valuation of Germany-based fintech startup N26 after raising $170M Series D; provides a smartphone app that lets users manage their finances
~$2.2B - valuation of FlixMobility, which operates transit apps FlixBus and FlixTrains, after raising ~$561M; CEO Jochen Engert said the round would facilitate expansion to Asia and Latin America; currently operates in 30 European countries and operates a long-distance bus service in the US.
$2B - plans to raise Didi Chuxing; the company expects to maintain the same $62B valuation it achieved when it raised $500M from Booking last year
175M - items sold during 48-hour Amazon’s Prime Day; its most successful shopping event to date, up from 100M during last year’s (which was 36-hour); top-selling products were the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, the 23andMe Health and Ancestry kit, and the Instant Pot DUO60.
$104M - raised by Barcelona-based business travel management platform TravelPerk in Series C; serves 2k-plus clients.
📰 What’s going on
Apple plans to fund original podcasts and has spoken with media companies about buying exclusive rights to existing podcasts; original and purchased content reportedly would be unique to Apple’s free Podcasts product; Apple has similarly secured exclusive content for its Music service.
Uber open-sources the Plato Research Dialog System, a platform for developing, testing, and deploying conversational AI; works with various deep learning and modeling frameworks to reduce coding requirements; now available via GitHub.
Facebook launches an ads reporting tool in the UK that lets users flag scams and other fraudulent marketing; a dedicated team will investigate reports and remove ads that contravene Facebook’s policies; follows action by MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis whose image was used without permission in a range of Facebook ads.
Facebook patents a moderation tool enabling group administrators to inhibit the visibility and spread of comments by specific users; the feature does not notify affected users of their status; the technique is commonly known as shadow banning.
Facebook hires former Vine GM Jason Toff to serve as product manager for an initiative under New Product Experimentation, an LLC focusing on community-building apps; Toff joins from Google’s Area 120, where he was a partner; he previously worked as director of project management at Twitter.
Twitter starts rolling out web redesign; features a simplified navigation bar on the left of the feed with access to Explore, Notifications, and more; Trends and Search are on the right of the feed; Twitter has been testing the new look for more than a year.
Google Maps adds support for bike sharing station info; lets Google Maps users find nearby locations and see how many bikes are available; the system is underpinned by data from transportation insights firm Ito World; available in 24 cities including New York City, Barcelona, Chicago, and Mexico City.
YouTube Music adds a feature to let premium subscribers seamlessly switch between audio and video on mobile; users can move between a song and its official video without delays or restarting the track; YouTube has time-matched more than 5M songs and videos.
Microsoft unveils HoloLens tech that generates an avatar of the user that speaks various languages in the user’s voice; the company scanned VP Julia White’s body at a Mixed Reality capture studio and analyzed her voice to create the hologram.
Neuralink shares its plans for brain-machine interface tech; the company is developing a system to place flexible “threads” onto people’s brains, allowing them to connect with external devices; the system may be used to treat a range of ailments or assist amputees; Neuralink indicates its tech could be ready for human testing as early as next year; Elon Musk revealed details of the R&D process, the machinery used to place the threads onto a brain, and said the intention is to create “a symbiosis with artificial intelligence”.
YouTube Marques Brownlee showcases purported dummy models of the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Max, and iPhone 11R, all featuring a redesigned camera bump; iPhone 11 and 11 Max will have three lenses, while 11R will have two; Apple is expected to announce the devices in September.
Netflix says it will officially launch a mobile-only plan in India later this year; price details unknown, but the company started testing the service earlier this year charging users $3.60 per month.
Instagram expands a test that hides the number of likes and video views in the main feed; the firm is testing the change for some users in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand.
Instagram introduces a warning to let users know their account may be deleted; the notice will appear for those who have violated rules on several occasions, and includes a history of infringing posts, comments, and stories.
Current YC startup Rent the Backyard builds studio apartments in customers’ back yards for rental; the company constructs the sustainable units mostly off-site; handles permitting and listings and takes half the rent; the homeowner pays nothing up front and owns the studio after 30 years; currently limited to the Bay Area.
Autonomous driving tech company AutoX, which previously focused on grocery delivery, partners with Saab asset owner NEVS to launch a self-driving taxi service in Europe by the end of next year.
The British government plans to introduce a digital services tax on overseas tech firms; the draft legislation would require companies pay a 2 percent levy on profits generated in the UK; the proposal would apply to firms earning more than £500M globally, and £25M in the UK. France presented a similar proposal two weeks ago.
Vienna, Austria’s transit authority pauses an autonomous bus trial following an accident involving a pedestrian; Paris-based Navya was piloting two buses on public roads; witnesses said a woman wearing headphones and looking at her phone walked into the side of one bus.
Chinese facial recognition company Megvii updates its app with a feature for tracking lost dogs; owners can scan their dogs noses to register them in a database; when a user finds a lost dog and scans its nose, the app identifies the animal and connects the users; claims 15k reunions and a 95% accuracy rate.
PuppTech is finalizing its debut product, a cloud-connected environmental monitoring device designed to keep a dog safe while left in the car; determines pet comfort levels with an algorithm that takes breed and weight into account; a mobile app notifies the owner of discomfort; raised $46k via Indiegogo, expects to ship soon.
💰 Q2 financials
Netflix ($158.5B market cap) Q2 mixed: $4.9B revenue, up 26% YoY ($4.9B expected); lost 126k US subscribers (expected to add 352k); added 2.8M international subscribers (4.8M expected); shares dropped 10%.
Microsoft ($1T market cap) Q2 beats: $33.7B revenue, up 12 % YoY ($32.7B expected); $13.2B net income, up 49% YoY; Azure revenue grew 64% YoY; forecasts revenue of $10.3B-$10.5B for its intelligent cloud unit in Q3.
👩🏾💻 Good reads
How Duolingo built A $700 million business. Duolingo has hooked everyone from Bill Gates, my dad or Jack Dorsey to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Forbes talks to its genius founder Luis von Ahn. I also recommend this 2016 audio interview with Luis by Tim Ferris.
The GEM model: Prioritizing growth, engagement, and monetization to keep organizations aligned. Gibson Biddle explains how they applied this strategy prioritization model during his tenure as VP of Product at Netflix.
Stop just looking at your Net Promoter Score! A better way to utilize NPS. During the last few years, advocates and detractors of NPS seem to be polarizing more and more over the usefulness of this metric. While executives push to adopt it, product folks tend to find shallow and often meaningless. Elsa Ho gives some ideas on how to better leverage it to improve product.
Mastering the art of the Outcome. First Round talks to Guru’s co-founder and CEO Rick Nucci. “Are you paying attention to the metrics that matter to your clients’ success? If you spend more time talking about lagging indicators like ARR — rather than metrics like DAU or feature-specific engagement — stop saying you’re customer-oriented. You’re sales-oriented.”
Managing innovation portfolios — principles before tools. Before choosing their tools, a surgeon knows exactly what they have to do and what they want to achieve. No one wants a surgeon just cutting away without a clear objective. The same is true for innovation managers and CEOs.
Rich Mironov on The Product Experience podcast. When a PM does not have direct contact with the users of his/her product, there’s something wrong. Saying that x part of the org is a proxy for the customer voice indicates that the PM will not have good understanding of the customer problems and will spend most of his/her time on useless features that “the business” think they need. This and more topics on this inspiring interview highlighting product leadership challenges Mironov has gone through in his +30 year product career . “ How do we get things done in organisations where we have all of the responsibility and none of the authority (as we do), without — forgive my French — pissing everybody off or getting fired?”.
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