In May/June: Direct-to-Consumer Models, Agility At Scale & Teaching Alexa French

Warby Parker DTC article INC

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May & June have been busy months, and therefore I am combining my favorite reads of both months in this single blog post. Again, most articles discuss business strategy in web-driven environments (Warby Parker, Zalando…) but also some stories about user experience, culture or investing in the media. 

You have titles like “P&G is in trouble” that depict an easy view of reality and disruption: nimble, innovative players will disrupt the big guys. And then you have the thorough, critical analysis that looks at reality. This Inc. article explains that/why it is not easy to apply the same Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) model to every single product category.

Many product categories now have multiple upstarts armed with tens of millions of dollars of venture capital, all targeting roughly the same users and, in the process, driving one another’s marketing costs up. [..] This undermines one of the most basic precepts of the DTC movement, that these companies are cutting out the middleman. […] In fact, Facebook and Google are simply the new middlemen.

An interesting article about technological innovation and fierce competition. What surprised me most is that the ranking of the most advances players doesn’t equate what you would expect from the amount of media coverage each of them gets.

The two clear leaders are Waymo (i.e. Google) which has “by far the lowest rate of disengagement—times when an engineer needs to grab the wheel [—and] reported fewer accidents while testing” as well as GM which “has a factory [that] will help the company get manufacturing right and lower costs without relying on partners.

On May 17th, we celebrated WiSEED’s 10 birthday, a huge achievement for a fintech like us. We invited some of our most trusted and faithful partners, investors and clients to join us in Paris, and spent a great #WiSEED10 evening all together. Besides our new branding, I have also overseen the production of the above video, which depicts a possible vision of retail investing in 10 years. Will be be there in 2028?

How should we morally see someone who squeezes out profits from a declining industry, after laying staff and drastically reducing budgets? Should we expect every newspaper investor to save and rejuvenate it, either through new digital channels or in the traditional print form? I ‘like’ the cruel but realistic conclusion of this article: “hate Randall Smith all you want, but do so with the understanding that, like the mortician, he’s figured out a way to make money off of death.

Simply the best thing that happened to me. In. My. Entire. Life. A wonderful moment spent with family, friends and colleagues to celebrate a lifelong union.

The role of the media is to report facts and to ask questions. Elon Musk was happy to have the media report enthusiastically about lithium battry factories, hyperspeed underground trains and space-floating Teslas… but he seems upset that an increasing number of media outlets critically report about his projects’ failures, as this articles explains. “We should always be wary of entrepreneurs selling utopia — even more so today, when an expanded, ever-present media fuels American capitalism.

I think that, a couple of years ago, I would have found this article utterly boring. An IT guy describing the way he scales his function, and sustains a certain culture, across a fast-growing organization. But today I can relate to it, even though WiSEED doesn’t grow the same way Zalando does, because the problems are pretty much the same. “Agility at Zalando enabled us to keep scaling our product vision, our platform vision, the scope of our business, and the extent to which we deliver [for] our customers [who] get new features faster and experience dynamism in the business.

Challenge conventional thinking, that’s what this article is about. Everyone uses feeds (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook…), but not all tools should introduce feeds nevertheless! We did, at WiSEED, and our users told us that it was a great improvement in UX. But it’s not the panacea: would you use Trello more if the Kanban wasn’t central to the tool? Would a feed be of any use on Whatsapp or Tinder? Or Amazon ? No.

A propos user interface 🙂 We haven’t introduced vocal commands at WiSEED, even though the prospective video above depicts a world where we do. This article is about Amazon’s efforts in France when it comes to adapting its voice assistant to a language with dozens of accents, expressions or holiday timezones. Noting unsurmountable for Amazon, but an interesting topic to read about. Note: I find the Alexa launch TVC (in French) really cool!

This is a long and very entertaining article, but also a troubling one, for many reasons. First and foremost, because it describes the starkly unethical activities of a PR firm that destabilized a country in many ways, directly and indirectly. Second, because of the perverse conflict between the two individuals who engineered the project.

Last, because of the level of detail that is provided, not only about business operations and exchanges, but also about personal lives of those who were involved. I feel somehow uncomfortable about the latter. Not because bad behavior deserves to be covered up, but because both aspects ought to be strictly separated.

Have a great summer!

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