Are design schools better than MIT?

Posted by on Jun 18, 2015 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

There was an article on LinkedIn that brought to light a statistic that there more design school graduates at the top of Unicorn startups than MIT graduates. 

Firstly one should consider that this is a statistically insignificant data set. Sure it consists of most (maybe even all) the Unicorn companies, but that is not enough. Secondly Harvard and Sanford have its fair share of representation. 

But it is significant that design is getting recognition. It has been a hot field for the past few years. However in some sense I actually think this type of a comparison might not be all that helpful.

Hope there is no Unicorn bubble waiting to happen. And the worst case scenario would be if the emphasis on design gets blamed for it. 

In any case, enjoy the glory. While it lasts…

  

You’ve got merger.

Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Industry News | No Comments

It is a strange alliance when you think of it.

A company famous for its heart attack causing customer support, pays an 18% premium for a company that is known for their slow dial-up speeds. What is your take on this?

I would offer you an opinion. If I had one.

The best I’ve heard about the deal is that it involves a video advertising play and could also extend to content. Maybe mobile content.

I can’t be that certain of the content though. AOL originals are not really that great. In fact in today’s scenario, creating lasting original content is getting amazingly difficult. Patton Oswal nails this in “Comedians in Cars…”:

There are 8 second videos that I can’t watch 2 seconds of.

The quote pretty much sums up the state of content on the net today. There is a lot to choose from, but your audience is jaded and has too much to choose from.

You have less than 2 seconds in which you can capture the interest of a jaded audience. Chances that you can slip an ad into this is even smaller.

So what exactly is Verizon paying a premium for? I’m not really sure.

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Zero to One

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Zero to One is an interesting book about building companies. It has ‘Notes on startups’ in the title, but is a look at Peter Thiel’s analysis of what works and what does not in the tech industry. Some of the premises presented in the book are expanded below.

Competition is bad: Thiel actually believes that competition is contrary to the principles of capitalism and that operating in an environment where there are a number of competing organisations is bad for an organisation. They end up dissipating their energies by waging a war with each other. This does not necessary create better products. In fact it hurts profits. Thiel uses Apple, Microsoft and Google to illustrate this point. In 2010, both Google and Microsoft had more market capitalisation than Apple. But in 2013 Apple had more than overtaken the combined market capitalisation of Microsoft and Google. When you think about this, India is also facing a similar situation in almost every sector. In transport there is Uber, Ola, Meru and TFS. In real-estate, there is Housing.com, MagicBricks, CommonFloor and others. In e-commerce it’s Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. India is a war-zone as far as competing technology companies go. Thiel goes to say that the same concept can be applied to individuals within the organisation. If each person’s role is defined and they concentrate only on that task, internal competition is reduced. And appraisals are easier. People on the whole are more productive as well.

No technology company can be built on branding alone: When Marissa Mayer took over Yahoo in mid 2012, she had a one line strategy. People, the products, then traffic and finally revenue. Sounded good. And she went about in earnest executing it. Working at Yahoo was a lot cooler with free food and so on. She redesigned the logo. Almost single-handedly. And worked on products by acquiring Tumblr and re-launching core products like Flickr. These looked like steps in the right direction. But there have not been any new products or radical changes in the strategy. Thiel uses this as an example of not doing enough to impact the core company. Though a lot has been achieved for the brand. But is that enough? According to Their what is required is something like what Steve Jobs did on his return to Apple. Something that worked on the product impact directly. For example, a sharp slash in the number of products. Directly resulting in a 10x improvement.

Strong AI is like a cosmic lottery: If we win it, we get utopia. If we lose, we will be substituted by Skynet. However Thiel does not look at Strong AI as an immediate problem or opportunity to be dealt with. In fact Thiel sees the improvements in computing power more as an ally to humans. Tim Urban however thinks otherwise. And I actually think the future might be closer to Urban’s analysis.

Lean Startup does not work (not the way you expect at least): This is a slightly controversial if misunderstood point in the book. There have been talks on TechCrunch about how Thiel is wrong about this. What Thiel says is actually this “Leanness is methodology not a goal. But iteration without a goal will not take you from 0 to 1.” This does not deride the who Lean Startup philosophy but augments it. I’d also touched upon the Minimum Desirable Product in this article and it is an interesting way augment the lean methodology.

Overall the book is really thought provoking. Highly recommended.

Uber + Zomato

Posted by on Apr 23, 2015 in Industry News, Product Management | No Comments

Looks like Zomato has added a taxi hailing feature into its mobile app.
With taxi aggregators like Ola adding food delivery through Ola Cafe (Uber has tested out the same with UberFresh) there seems to be a nice synergy going on between food and travel. In any case, the integration seems like a fairly intuitive one. We have to wait and watch how the uptake will be.

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What do you think? Will you use it?

 

Lynda + Linkedin

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

There are quite a few people out there declaring that the Lynda.com acquisition by Linkedin is probably the best money it has spent so far. I agree, Lynda.com is a great content company that is focused on making sure there is quality content and presentation that is available for viewers. And most people feel the deal is a great fit. I cannot disagree. But, I’m not sure how the model will eventually scale. Linkedin is not focused entirely on technology. Will we see aircraft maintenance or clinical research emerge as topics that will get added to Lynda’s already wide set of learning resources? I’m not so sure.

However, most people have a positive view at how the partnership might work out. In fact, Kirsten Bailey has some ideas about how it might all pan out:

1) Talent Solution Value-Add: LinkedIn has stated that they will keep Lynda.com operational as a stand alone product in the short term, but they will begin piloting the sale of it as a part of their talent solutions offering.

2) Increase Consumer Revenue: LinkedIn recognizes that many of its 350m+ professionals would be interested in the professional development + learning opportunities Lynda.com provides. Because both companies have similar, subscription-based business models, it would be easy for them to incorporate Lynda.com access into a LinkedIn premium subscription. I imagine this could be a fast follow once the acquisition is finalized.

3) Strong Market Position: In addition to stepping up its game within the recruitment arena, this acquisition is a pretty clear signal that LinkedIn considers itself a strong contender in the Professional Development space. Now that LinkedIn is an education provider, you can bet that makes a lot of businesses in the professional development, L&D and corporate training spaces are nervous given LinkedIn’s position at the intersection of professionals (their clients) AND companies (also their clients). I think it’s important to reiterate the fact that, with this acquisition, LinkedIn seems to suggest that they are looking to own the Global Talent Pipeline not partner their way to the top. It’s an opportunity for players in the professional development space to take a step back, re-evaluate their SWOT analysis and think through if this is indeed a threat worth taking seriously.

I do agree the acquisition completes the talent loop by offering micro-certifications that can add to the recruiting loop. However I believe there is a different temptation at play. Over the past few years Linkedin has also become a large crowd-sourced content generation platform. The acquisition of Slideshare and the introduction of the blogging platform offers two things. It establishes Linkedin as a go to destination for personal development content and also as a platform for content creators to showcase their expertise.

I feel Linkedin will be very tempted to follow a similar path for Lynda.com as well. In the short term there will be high quality content but soon it will open up as a crowd-sourced + professional skill showcase platform. The micro-certification story might take a back seat in my opinion. What do you think?

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Apple after Jobs

I’m nearing end of the Steve Jobs biography, the one which Cook and Ive believe is better than the Isaacson one. Towards the end of what I think is more a memoir by a close acquaintance the author talks about AppleU an university that looks at developing future Apple leaders by looking and dissecting past decisions. The hope is to encapsulate the decision making powers that made Steve Jobs a legend.

While this is a laudable vision and the hope is to preserve the culture of the company. It actually functions as a way to maintain the legacy of one person. Steve. In some ironic way, this is essentially an implementation of an Orwellian big brother philosophy, albeit one that may be a little more aspirational than 1984.

So far Apple has been true to two of the three tests that Jim Collins puts to test for companies that are ‘Built to Last’. The book is not sure of the third, “Does Apple have an enduring legacy that can be displayed by across multiple leaderships?”

Having read this biography in addition to Isaacson biography, iCon, Infinite Loop, Pepsi to Apple and even the Ive bio, I really fail to see a pattern in Apple’s success. And neither does there seem to be a pattern amongst the competitors or even the individuals within the core team at Apple. Gates, for example, is an antithesis of Jobs but highly successful. And Ive, a brilliant designer that he is, could not have gained the recognition at Apple without Jobs. Even Jonathan Rubinstein who was extremely good at Apple was hardly able to make an impact at Palm. And anybody remember a genius named Avie Tevanian? 

So let’s look at Apple post the Jobs era. Despite the platform and the brand, the company has made a few false steps.  The Apple Watch was not exactly what people expected. And the new MacBook still has some naysayers. 

Others have been quick to pounce on this relatively lean period in the history of Apple. Mark Leslie, for example, talks about the innovation drought at Apple to Forbes and goes on to suggest that the problems began while Jobs was still there. Though, I personally believe that the duo of Cook and Ive have put up a rather good show. And with some upcoming rumors like the Apple Car, maybe the company could be on its way back to finding its footing.

So the question really is how long will Apple stay on this pedestal of good design and brilliant products? Want to take a guess?

Android Auto is here

Posted by on Mar 23, 2015 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

A couple of days ago Google announce Android Auto and is not available on the Play store along with a few head devices that seem to be necessary to run Android Auto. Android Auto seems to be a little better built when compared to Car Play for use in the automobile. With heavy focus on voice navigation it seems ideal. The Physical navigations are not too bad either. Having them integrate with buttons on the steering wheel  is nice. But the head device should not be a necessity. You should be able to use you phone (read phablet) as a head device and having a heads-up display is also important.

 

Here’s an old demo of the product. More reviews should be coming soon.


Meanwhile you can check my old post on connected cars.

Microsoft has suddenly gotten serious with PR

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Industry News, Product Management | No Comments

According to this article, MS is trying to regain it’s lost mojo in mobile (as is Yahoo BTW.) But what is more interesting is the number of articles praising the new MS Outlook app is appearing. Sure the app is good, but is it so much better than anything else in the market? I doubt it. I really think it is more the PR dollar talking than the actual ability of the app. Edit: I do have some feedback that people are actually using the app and liking it. Maybe you can point out some of your favourite mail apps and this will help me do an evaluation some time in the future. There are certainly a lot out there including:

  1. Gmail
  2. Inbox
  3. Mailbox
  4. Outlook
  5. Yahoo
  6. iOS

And others. What is your favourite?

Top 3 Most Influential Ad Men in India

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Design, Industry News | No Comments

The top three most influential ad men – Piyush Pandey, Prasoon Joshi and Sam Balsara – come together to discuss their journeys, trials and tribulations and of course, their messages to today’s generation.

Facebook advertising doesn’t work

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Industry News | No Comments

I’ve not done SEO personally for years now, and a lot has changed. Especially the advent of the social media as a marketing mechanism. The other day when I was in the process of looking to promote this blog, I thought of creating a Facebook page for it and then Facebook suggested that I pay some money to promote it. I decided to invest the bare minimum for it to try things out. As I watched the campaign go live and all the likes I’d received for the page, I realized that Facebook was promoting the page to completely irrelevant people. I immediately stopped the campaign as I did not want to wast the money. Soon after I found this on the web.

Also talking to a colleague I realized that this was not new and Facebook seems to have done little to do anything about it. In a job that involved promoting businesses to use Facebook to market their site, I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing.