Building content loops, Apple’s Sept event, Twitter “unfollow” suggestions, Uber’s multi-transport strategy, Youtube charity features, Wrong automation & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto!
🎰 The week in figures
$2B: Online survey platform SurveyMonkey has filed for an IPO, with plans to trade on NASDAQ. The Palo Alto-based company was last valued at $2B following a $250M private equity round in 2014. SurveyMonkey has 600K paying user accounts. The 19-year-old company is currently unprofitable and indebted ($317M in debt, roughly $100M more than it had in revenue last year), though it is increasing sales.
$500M, Toyota is investing in Uber as part of a strategic partnership; the companies will collaborate on driverless vehicles with plans to launch a pilot program in 2021.
25% of Dubai’s new buildings will be made using 3D printers by 2025, as part of an aggressive 3D-printing initiative begun in 2016 by UAE prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The effort aims to reduce labor by 70% and cut production costs by 90% across industries, as well as to make Dubai the world’s first “3D-printing hub.”
4th: This week Apple acquired augmented reality startup Akonia Holographics, a developer of AR glasses. This is Apple’s 4th acquisition of the year, alongside digital magazine platform Texture, data science consultant Silicon Valley Data Science, and cloud service platform BuddyBuild. The tech giant is allegedly preparing to ship an AR headset or device as early as 2020.
📰 What’s going on
Apple sends out press invites for its next hardware event, scheduled for Sept 12; rumors indicate the company will unveil several new iPhones, including a more affordable version of the iPhone X, and a redesigned MacBook Air and Mac mini, though those could be revealed at a later date.
9to5Mac leaks images of 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch OLED new iPhones, and of Apple Watch Series 4, also expected to be announced during the event.
Google’s lightweight search app Go adds a built-in text-to-speech feature for listening to web pages; supports more than 25 languages; features play/pause control and playback at up to two times the regular speed; Google VP Yossi Matias suggests the company may add the tool to more of its apps in the future.
Google updates Duo for iOS; adds support for iPads; features side-panel contacts list and more.
Google launches its Titan 2FA physical security keys; Google is selling the product directly; the $50 bundle includes a Bluetooth key fob and a USB dongle; Google developed the keys in-house; they replace SMS codes and apps for identity authentication.
Google hands over control of its open-source Kubernetes project to the community; as part of the move Google is giving $9M worth of Google Cloud credits to Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) to cover infrastructure costs.
Google to update Wear OS with a new UI and a new Google Assistant feed; also promises faster access to Google Fit and more information-rich notifications.
YouTube adds a tool to let users see how much time they’re spending watching videos; Time Watched shows viewing for today, yesterday, and the preceding seven days.
YouTube announces Giving: a suite of tools for charitable fundraising; Fundraisers (beta) enables creators and nonprofits to embed campaign information and Donate buttons next to videos; Community Fundraisers (beta) enables multiple channels to co-host campaigns; Campaign Matching (beta) facilitates automated contribution matching.
Bookmark It (Chrome) lets users create and save bookmarks and annotations for YouTube videos; clicking on a bookmark opens a video at the precise point.
Amazon opens its second cashierless store in Seattle; as with the first Amazon Go, shoppers pick up and leave the store without having to interact with a store assistant or physical checkout system; the company is also set to open stores in San Francisco and Chicago.
Facebook’s Watch service rolls out worldwide; the company is also opening up monetization for creators in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand; monetization will be available in an additional 21 countries from next month.
Instagram announces new features aimed at countering bad actors on its platform; profiles will display ads they’re running and any username changes that have occurred within the last year; the date and location for account creation will also be shown; additionally, Instagram is opening up applications for account verification.
Twitter is testing a feature that suggests accounts users may want to unfollow; the pilot focuses on accounts users don’t engage with regularly.
Microsoft was developing a VR headset for Xbox but has put those plans on hold; the company is reportedly hoping there will be significant advances in the tech before focusing on it again, while also waiting to see if there’s a significant demand from gamers.
Microsoft launches Bing Spotlight, a news aggregation tool within Bing search; shows the latest headlines for developing stories and relevant social media posts; also promises to present a diversity of perspectives.
PayPal introduces a redesigned iOS app; the new interface features more prominent options for sending and receiving money; the app competes with other peer-to-peer payment services like Apple Pay Cash, Venmo, Zelle, and Square Cash.
Santa Monica’s Shared Mobility Device Selection Committee permits Lime, Bird, Lyft, and Uber’s JUMP Bikes to operate electric scooter services in the city; Lime and Bird are authorized to deploy 750 scooters each; Lyft and JUMP are cleared to deploy 250 scooters and 500 bikes, each. San Francisco Municipal Transport Authority issues one-year permits for Skip and Scoot; each company can deploy up to 625 scooters within the first six months, and a total of 2.5k within the year; 12 companies applied (JUMP, Lyft and Lime applied, but will be out of the pilot).
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the firm will begin to focus on bike and scooter sharing schemes for inner-city travel; Khosrowshahi says individual transport methods are better for short journeys in built-up areas; he notes the strategy will likely lead to increased losses in the short-term but will be good for the company over time.
Uber says it’s considering five more markets for the launch of its Uber Air flying taxi service; the company is looking at locations in Japan, France, Brazil, Australia, and India; Uber previously announced Dallas and Los Angeles as launch markets; Dubai was set to be the first international market, but plans fell through; Uber says it will demo the service in 2020, with a full launch set for 2023.
The Chinese government says it will crack down on ride-hailing services following the murder of a Didi Chuxing passenger; the National Development and Reform Commission says multiple agencies will be involved in the reform and the country’s social credit system will be expanded to the transport sector; Didi has suspended its Hitch service; it’s the 2nd killing by a Didi driver his year.
📚 Stuff to think about
Supply side is the king. Andrew Chen on why “Uber for x” startups fail. What is the nature of the demand, and how does it match supply expectations and availability? How much does it cost to onboard supply, and what is the feasibility for unit economics to lead to a break even point? These and more invaluable question that Andrew Chen encourages us to ask.
How to dominate the subscription economy. Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes walks us through their journey towards a subscription model. By providing fast SaaS access to its solutions; constant product innovation; and lower, more flexible pricing options that expand its customer base from individual consumers all the way to large enterprises, Adobe has proven that foresight, calculated risks and seamless execution pays off. Since 2012, Adobe’s market cap has increased by more than 87% to $108 billion-plus, as of May 2018.
When report and dashboard automation leads to nowhere. Avinash Kaushik sharp as always on the reasons why reporting automation fails, and what can we do about it.
Here’s a quick checklist for you to make: 1. Go look at the most important report or dashboard you’ve automated. 2. Does it identify which actions need to be taken, based on the data in the report/dashboard? 3. Yes = celebrate. No = cry.
Pinterest and Grubhub’s former Growth Lead on building content loops; a frequently overlooked approach by startups. Casey Winters makes the case for driving growth through a content loop, comparing it with other models and walking through how he successfully applied this approach to scale GrubHub and Pinterest in their early days. His approach takes 5 steps:
- Find ways to get content from your users.
- Give users an incentive (and a mechanism) to share that content.
- Find where your community lives and double down.
- Trace traffic back to the source to tweak your product.
- Convert, activate and add some friction to feed the loop.
Content loops involve publishing and sharing media, which is then shared by the business, its users or partners. That action triggers signups, activations and user engagement, which leads to more sharing of the media. This completes the “loop” or cycle.