Jetsetter Fail, and the problem of merchant servicing

Uncategorized 29 July 2011 | 0 Comments

I was very excited to do my first Jetsetter booking for a hotel stay in September. I travel often, but usually I can find myself deals at hotels (or use points) that I feel are better value than Jetsetter. But I gave it a shot for this particular reservation.

The response below indicates one of the major problems with daily deal / flash sales (especially in travel but also in other verticals): merchant-customer servicing. Clearly, the response to the offer, which was a good one, was far too great for the hotel to accommodate. In the case of a retail store / retail service (e.g. clothes store, salon, etc.) the result is an overwhelming amount of non-sticky traffic, at the expensive of servicing the existing loyal customer base or potentially more valuable organic new leads. In the case of a hotel, it is just not possible to service (fixed number of rooms available for a given night).

So does the model work? I’m frustrated to say it’s not working for me right now.

Good Morning Rafi,

We hope this email finds you well. We are contacting you regarding the reservation you made on Jetsetter for the [redacted] Hotel. We regret to inform you that the hotel has oversold for your scheduled dates of September 14th for three nights. We can assure you that we have been working to provide an alternative accommodation.

First, we can offer you the same dates at the[redacted] Hotel but in the hotel’s best Standard Room. The property highly recommends this option as their Standard rooms and their services are of the best in the area and nicer than many suites at other nearby hotels. We would of course refund you the room rate difference.

A second option is that we can work with you to switch the dates for some time in the future in your original room type. September 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, and 19th are available at this time. If you prefer this option please provide us with dates that would suit you.

A third option is that we can immediately cancel and refund your reservation. If you would like to apply this option, please reply with the last four digits of your credit card and we will process the refund.

We look forward to your response. You may reply to this email or call us at 1.877.JSET.USA (573.8872).

Kindest regards,

Stephanie Canora
Member Services Representative
Jetsetter, a Member of Gilt Groupe

Data as a product

Uncategorized 3 July 2011 | 0 Comments

There is a huge amount of data floating around these days, especially the inflows and outflows of web services. For example, Foursquare collects more that 1M check-ins per day. NYC taxicabs generate and report on pickups and drop-offs via GPS (as does Uber). Rdio and Pandora collect thousands of song play requests per day, as well as information on likes, dislikes, and purchases.

Data is nothing new — retailers have been collecting scan data at their POS terminals for years. But the volume of data is growing, and the accessibility of that data is as well, thanks to the API.

I don’t think enough start-ups think of their data as one of their greatest assets. For example, I recently chatted with a fashion wholesaling start-up about the idea of selling their data. Their current product is a B2B marketplace for boutiques and brands to interact. This start-up collects so much data about popularity of brands, purchase volumes, boutique inventories, etc. that would all be valuable to a number of parties, if packaged properly.

I’d be excited to see more startups thinking about data as a product, in addition to their “core” offering. And I’d love to run some analysis on this data!

Loving Rdio, with one exception

Uncategorized 22 April 2011 | 0 Comments

Following up my blog post about my Music Dilemma, a friend pointed me towards Rdio about 8 months ago. I have been using the service (and paying $9.99/month for it) for about six months now, and I’m very happy. Rdio has a very large library of songs — almost as big as iTunes, bigger than MOG and I think Rhapsody as well. Let’s look into how it stacks up against my initial criteria:

Storage and organization (offline). I’ve actually realized that I don’t care about this. I have about 8,000 MP3s, all old stuff, almost all of which is available on Rdio. I can stream what I want when I want it. This is a huge advantage of subscription services versus file-based locker systems. Perhaps the best thing about Rdio is that I can sync it to my iPhone (playlists, songs, whatever) and play it offline. No “downloading”, no files, it’s perfect.
Play on demand (online). Literally perfection. I type in the song, and I play it. If I like the song or artist, I can play more like it easily.
Discovery and memory (online and offline). Rdio keeps a history of every song I play. I love that. Where it falls short is on discovery. Pandora kills it in terms of playing similar songs and artists to ones it knows I like. The Outkast station on Pandora is completely different than Outkast artist radio on Rdio, and that sucks. I’m not sure why Rdio can’t get this right. Also, I don’t have a lot of people I follow on Rdio, so my social discovery options are limited for now.
Sharing (online). Perfect. I can share playlists, my library, and songs with anyone. And of course it is linked to my twitter.
Curation (offline). Easy. I can add songs to favorites, playlists, etc. I’d love to be able to give things stars.
Tickets (online). Doesn’t have it. But no one does. Shame.

So I love Rdio. But at a dinner party, I’ll always play Pandora. It’s easier, and the stations are better. But I love Rdio when I want to play new music, listen to songs, and create libraries socially. I am waiting for them to improve the service but will remain a happy customer for now.

Table at 5pm or at 11:30pm?

Uncategorized 14 April 2011 | 0 Comments

The NYC restaurant scene is fantastic. If you like good food, long waits, and dealing with some obnoxious reservationists. There are a few types of NYC restaurants, broadly speaking, that I eat at:

1) Large, mid-to-high end commercial establishments (e.g. Chinatown Brasserie, Kittichai, etc.): Easy to get a reservation night of for 4, but do you really want to eat here? These are places that have little character, average food, and you feel like you’re eating at a nightclub. Not ideal.
2) Large, high-end branded restaurants (e.g. Jean-George, Gotham Bar+Grill, etc.): usually not too hard to get a reservation a week in advance, but you pay the price.
3) Small-medium size restaurants that accept reservations (e.g. Osteria Morini, Prune): Must make reservations several weeks in advance if the place is any good. Recently had dinner with 6, and we ate at 9:45pm. I had to reserve 3 weeks in advance.
4) Small-medium size restaurants that don’t accept reservations (e.g. Cafe Habana): You have to go and wait. Live around the corner? Call me when there’s a table? Put my name on the waiting list? No, no, no. Unless you know someone, which I now do at some of my favorite places (e.g. Dell’Anima)
5) Tiny places that don’t accept reservations (e.g. Fedora): Show up and wait. Or call and see if you have a shot and then go and wait.

So, what’s with the 5pm or 11:30pm question? Why isn’t there the availability at the good places in NYC? Not sure, but maybe I’ll go open a restaurant and see if I can replicate the demand.

The Death of the Point and Shoot

Uncategorized 8 April 2011 | 1 Comment

I finally sold my soul and got an iPhone 4. Moving from Blackberry to iPhone has been, at best, painful. More on that in a different post. I also recently purchased a Canon D60 DSLR camera. This purchase I love, and the combination of these two additions I think spells death for my point and shoot camera. I’ve got an app on my iPhone called Camera+ which gives me all of the advanced features I need for daily shooting. Let’s have a look at the use cases:

1) Around town / going out: never going to carry my DSLR with me unless it is a special occasion. Always going to have my phone. Winner: iPhone

2) Vacation: obviously going to take my DSLR with me, will usually have my phone as well but not always on. Winner: DSLR

2a) Active portion of vacation (e.g. long hike or trek): will probably want my DSLR with smaller lens, but maybe this is the case for a point and shoot. Winner: Point and shoot.

3) At home: love to have my DSLR handy to snap cool candids at Friday night dinner or other parties. Winner: DSLR

So it looks like my DSLR wins, and my point and shoot stays in the drawer. The data seems to support this as well. The NYT had an article on this back in December. A quote:

While smartphone sales in the United States continue to skyrocket, unit sales of point-and-shoot cameras fell nearly 16 percent from 2008, according to the market research firm NPD Group. That corresponds to a decline of 24 percent in dollars, to $1.9 billion, from $2.4 billion.

Creating valuations on Trefis

Uncategorized 28 January 2011 | 0 Comments

In my work, we deal with assumptions all the time. What is the projected size of the internet advertising market? What market share could be captured by 2020 if a product was introduced today? What is the average credit card spending by consumers under 30?

These are interesting questions which help drive the analysis and recommendations I work on every day. Some of the time there is good data available to calculate these assumptions, but sometimes they are just assumptions supported by more (or less) intelligent logic.

A friend recently pointed me to Trefis , a financial analysis site that applies the same theory to stock price and market cap valuations, allowing the user to drill down into the component parts of a company’s valuation (see AAPL below), understand the major line items, and change the underlying assumptions that create the valuation (e.g. how will smartphone adoption change in the next 10 years). This not only exposes the assumptions and sources that drive the valuation, but also allows you to tweak them based on your own views. There is a DCF model that Trefis has built behind each of the models, but the interface is so simple that you just need to click and drag lines to change your assumptions and see the result. Very cool.

My only concern is about how this will scale. Currently, Trefis only has about 30 companies analyzed that you can play with. How will they cover the entire S&P 500? Seems like it would take a while. But perhaps they have developed a scalable methodology / intelligent software to do so. I look forward to seeing it happen.

My music dilemma

Uncategorized 23 November 2010 | 2 Comments

I have several different objectives with my music, and I want to find as few solutions (services, applications) as possible to handle these — I am willing to pay but not much. I know the music world has complex copyright rules, but I really don’t know why a service that does all of the things below doesn’t exist today. Please let me know your thoughts.

Storage and organization (offline). I need a library to organize my current collection of 8000+ MP3s. I want to be able to have all the album art organized, the ID3 tags cleaned up, and everything accessible by a great search tool or in a folder hierarchy. There are lots of tools that can do this, including iTunes, but haven’t found one I like yet. Currently using iTunes on a central mac mini in my living room, which syncs all our iPods.

Play on demand (online). When a friend tells me about a song, I want to listen to it right then and there. The full song, not a sample. So Pandora doesn’t work but Grooveshark might do it. Rhapsody maybe. iTunes could do it as well, except I’d have to buy the song to make it happen.

Discovery and memory (online and offline). I want to find new music that I like based on music that I already like, as well as hear about what top tracks and new tracks others are discovering through blogs, charts, and new releases. I like doing this as a stream, so I can work while discovering new music, or put on a player that will continue to intersperse songs I like with new ones. Then, when I like a song, I want to tag it to a list that I can purchase or download later. I also want to be able to access the new songs I have discovered (or a subset of them) when I am offline.

Sharing (online). I want to be able to tweet or blog about a song that I love, preferably in one click. It would be great to see (within this music app or service) a list of the tagged tweets of my friends sharing their songs (a la watch later from Boxee).

Curation (offline). I want to be able to self-curate my collection, and for it to smart-curate based on my play behavior. Similar to Genius and starred songs in iTunes. But I want it to work for my offline collection (library), things that I discover, and songs that are shared with me. Then I want to be able to pick what plays based on my ratings.

Tickets (online). The holy grail would be to understand my music listening behavior and also know when concert tickets were going on sale. I want it to give me 12 or 24 hours of notice and maybe a calendar invite for the onsale time. Then I can go and buy them and see the show.

John Oliver

Uncategorized 14 November 2010 | 0 Comments

Went to a great show last night with friends which included a bunch of comedians, but most notably John Oliver of The Daily Show and Community (the British guy). He was pretty impressive, giving the audience a 1.5hr set of nonstop material. His comedy was intelligent, witty, and verbose. Totally my style. Here is a clip of Oliver doing some of the same material as last night at The Economist’s World in 2010 conference. I loved his “idiots” sketch which comes about 2 minutes in.

One of my favorite comedians (or storytellers) of all time is Mike Birbiglia. He’s actually a friend of a friend, which I only found out many years after first hearing him in SF. Check him out at an upcoming show or buy his book of stories, they are great.

Tacos at Fonda Nolita (Tacombi)

Uncategorized 1 November 2010 | 0 Comments

Exchange and Notes hate each other

Uncategorized 31 October 2010 | 0 Comments

At BCG we have Exchange, and my current client has Lotus Notes. The interaction between the two is horrible, especially on the calendar side (e-mail seems OK). Instead of “New Time Proposed”, Lotus sends “Countered”. Instead of “Updated”, Notes says “Information Update”.

Thank goodness the important parts of the invite are stored in .ics, otherwise I wouldn’t believe the starting time of most meetings that come through Notes. The standardization that exists on start and end time information compatibility should be extended to the rest of the invite. Please?