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Showing posts with label AOL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AOL. Show all posts

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Marissa Mayer: Going Down?

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just came across this article in the New York Times. Just a few days back I read another article like it. What do I have to say?

The media builds you up, then the media breaks you down. That is their bread and butter. But the questions I am asking are:

(1) Is/was Yahoo ever salvageable? Did it ever have a chance to become a Google/Facebook/Amazon/Apple again? Or had it descended permanently to an AOL status?

(2) Is two years enough time? Maybe it is. I don't know.

(3) Marissa never was Steve Jobs. She has no track record of having invented an entire industry in her early 20s. So this never was like a second coming of Steve Jobs. But I did think then and do think now she was Yahoo's best hope. Blaming Marissa now would be like blaming Barack Obama in 2010 for the sorry shape of the US economy. Although, let me make it clear, I do not think Marissa Mayer is Barack Obama.

(4) And all along I am looking at Jerry Yang's master stroke of having invested a billion dollars in Jack Ma. That move was as brilliant as the founding of Yahoo itself. Are more such moves possible? I would like to believe so.

What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs

Friday, October 04, 2013

Tech In Jackson Heights

English: Looking northeast across 74th Street ...
English: Looking northeast across 74th Street at Jackson Diner on a mostl cloudy midday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(published in Vishwa Sandesh)

Tech In Jackson Heights
By Paramendra Bhagat
www.paramendra.com

March Andreessen’s advice to the New York Times – and this was a few years back – was to kill the paper and go 100% digital, Andreessen being the guy who gave the world the Netscape browser back in 1995 that ushered the dot com era. He is now a top venture capitalist. The Huffington Post that was sold to AOL for 300 million dollars does not have a paper edition, never did. It would be hard to have a comments section in a paper newspaper, don’t you think?

But in Jackson Heights, the most famous Desi part of North America, there are a whole bunch of paper newspapers that are doing a thriving business. What gives? There is a lagging behind element to it, but there is also a counter current element to it.

Ecommerce is swell and grew like crazy through the Great Recession. But the intimacy of shopping in person will never go away, and I think the best ecommerce solutions of the future will enhance rather than wholesale replace that in person shopping. I dream of a smart mall. A smart mall is smart the way a smartphone is smart. There are dumb phones, and then there are smartphones.

The lagging behind element can be seen out in the streets of Jackson Heights. Smartphone penetration is not as much as it can be. With some carriers offering four phones with unlimited talk, text and data for $100 a month – which comes to $25 per phone per month – you can argue maybe it is not the monthly bill that is the roadblock. It is the hardware. There is a lot of room for smartphones that might cost less than $50.

The counter current element is that in this foreign land when you are 10,000 miles away from home and where all the road signs are in English, a newspaper written in your language that you can hold in your hand, take home with you perhaps speaks to your homesickness. But then it is not like newspapers from home are not online, all the good ones are. And the top newspapers in Jackson Heights are all free. They are ad supported. You pick up your free copy and take home to read.

I have been walking the streets relentlessly for weeks now, I have had numerous meetings with local merchants. There is this mild cloud of despair that you sense. The neighborhood has been losing business year after year for a few years now. There is a saying in the US South in states like Alabama about snow that falls from the sky. God brought the snow, God will take it away. As in, they are not big on snow ploughs down there, like they are in places like, say, Connecticut. Many merchants in Jackson Heights have that Alabama attitude about the downturn. It will go back on its own, they seem to suggest. I belong in the snow plough school of thought.

I believe use of tech can help put the entire neighborhood on the upswing. There is no place quite like Jackson Heights in all of North America. Jackson Heights has a special appeal all over NYC, and across the tri-state area. Tech can help the local merchants cash into that.

Jackson Heights has a ton of the old economy mindset. The place reminds me of a small town like Sitamadhi in Bihar, not the Connaught Place in Delhi. There has to be a collective effort to break out of that old economy mindset and try out new things, and new ways.

The pie has to be expanded. The local merchants will have to reinvent themselves in ways so more people from near and far show up to shop. If the neighborhood is going to look the exact same that it did 10 years ago, that inflow is not going to happen.

Tech is the way out. Much of the rejuvenation will come through use of tech. There’s also a ton of room for social cross pollinations across the various country groups that are represented in the area. New kinds of businesses will have to sprout out. A further diversification in the local economy would be a good thing.

It is surprising how many of the local businesses don’t even have a simple website online. No business however small can afford to not have a website. A lot of businesses have only token websites when they need interactive ones. There are businesses that should but don’t have ecommerce sites. Only one out of 16 jewelry stores on 74th St has an ecommerce store, and even that one is a dud because it does not do active, monthly online marketing. People have to know you exist. There are businesses that could use business software but don’t. There are businesses that should be looking into mobile apps.

Some of the basic tech steps require only small investments but go a long way. Some of the more ambitious moves are bigger investments but pay for themselves many times over if done right.

Tech can drive up the local commerce. Tech can help build a more close knit local community. Tech can do what bricks and mortar simply cannot do.

A few months back Patel Brothers, perhaps the largest store in the neighborhood, completely redid its checkout lines for the better. Now buyers move faster, and that is a good thing. But there are better, cheaper software solutions that would take the store’s business volumes to whole new levels. To that the local manager says, “We don’t need it!”

That mindset gets in the way and has to change.
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Facebook's Sad IPO's Wide Toll

I think Facebook's sad IPO was a wakeup call to many. The mobile trend is unmistakable. But I don't think it is wise to write off the web. Mobile is hottest, true, but the best applications will be platform agnostic.





Fred Wilson: What Has Changed
VC funding of consumer web and mobile companies is down 42% in this first nine months of 2012 (vs the first nine months of 2011). ..... google, facebook/instagram, amazon, microsoft, apple, twitter, ebay, yahoo, AOL, craigslist, wordpress, linkedin together make up a huge amount of the time spent online, particularly in the english speaking world ..... tumblr and pinterest have risen a lot in the past couple years ..... the consumer is moving from desktop/web to mobile/app ..... most new consumer internet startups need to build for iOS, Android, and web at the same time ..... distribution is much harder on mobile than web and we see a lot of mobile first startups getting stuck in the transition from successful product to large user base. strong product market fit is no longer enough to get to a large user base. you need to master the "download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen" flow and that is a hard one to master. ...... We are small on purpose ... We want to invest in a tiny slice of the early stage ecosystem where our thesis collides with great teams and unique and differentiated products. ...... we are seeing fundraising challenges everywhere, even in our very best portfolio companies .... it is a tougher time for early stage consumer internet companies than I have seen since the 2001-2004 time frame. And I think we are still in the early innings of this more challenging environment. ..... the wind that has been at our back for 7-8 years in consumer internet is no longer there
Wall Street Journal: VCs Still Chasing Web Companies, But With Less Cash
Overall the amount invested in consumer information services was off 42% in the first nine months as the difficulties of newly public Internet companies such as Facebook and Zynga cast doubt on the business models and valuations of social media companies.
Dave McClure: What Hasn’t Changed: The Internet Keeps Getting Bigger.
most VCs switching from consumer to enterprise are clueless about why they’re doing so ..... The number of recent internet services that have grown from nothing to hundreds of millions of users is frankly rather astonishing – Pinterest, Instagram, Groupon, Zynga – all of these took less than a few years to get to hundreds of millions of users and in some cases billions of revenue. ..... what we are seeing with the smarter funds – they’re waiting until Series A or B when companies have clear traction before they jump in, when they may require larger amounts of capital to finance growth. ...... many companies can get to break-even without raising big rounds of venture capital, and may simply choose to operate on their own cashflow, or perhaps debt-based financing. ..... monetization keeps getting better and better, and exits are getting earlier and more often. ..... as online payments and monetization improves, again we will see less need for venture capital to finance customer acquisition for successful internet businesses. ..... There will be thousands of small wins, but larger funds can’t handle the scale required to do so many small investments. Maybe we need something like the SBA small business loan equivalent, but on the the equity side
Om Malik: Who Says Startups Are Easy?
The economics of attention is much more ruthless and unforgiving than the real economic underpinning of a product. Just as it is hard for a movie to recover from a bad opening weekend, today’s “apps” lose if they don’t make a good first impression.
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

eBay, Come Back

Image representing eBay as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
I have not used eBay in years. I had no idea it needed a comeback. I just read about it in my hometown newspaper.

Behind eBay’s Comeback
EBay, Yahoo and AOL, the dominant Internet triumvirate circa 2004 ..... eBay’s success has big implications for struggling companies like Yahoo and AOL, not to mention more recent sensations that have already lost some luster, like Zynga, Groupon and even Facebook ...... “One of the unique things about the Internet is a company can be a white-hot success and become a global brand and reach global scale in just a few years — that’s the good news,” he told me this week. “But then somebody can turn around and do it to you. There’s constant disruption. One of the first things I had to do here was face reality. EBay was getting disrupted.” ...... So thoroughly has eBay been transformed that he didn’t even mention its traditional auction business ..... Excitement about eBay’s prospects has little to do with its traditional auction business, or even its core e-commerce operations ...... Most of its growth came from mobile retailing and its PayPal online payments division, a business it acquired in 2002 for what now looks like a bargain $1.5 billion. ...... “Mobile is revolutionizing how people shop and pay.” ..... EBay is offering a one-click payment solution. .... Mr. Spitz said he was recently stopped at a traffic light and the sun was bothering his eyes. By the time the light turned green, he had used his phone to order and pay for sunglasses. ...... “We saw the mobile revolution early and we made a big bet across the entire company. We saw that mobile was an important factor for our customers. It was becoming the central control device in their lives. We didn’t worry if it cannibalized our existing business, because we knew it was what our customers wanted.” ..... The smartphone “has blurred the line between e-commerce and off-line retail,” Mr. Donahoe continued. “Four years ago, you had to be in front of a laptop or desktop to shop online. Now you can do it seven days, 24 hours. We’re going to have to drop the ‘e’ from e-commerce.” ...... Amazon continues to invest in its delivery systems and it, too, has an effective mobile app and one-click payment system. ..... EBay and PayPal apps already rank among the top 10 mobile apps .... EBay stresses, without mentioning Amazon by name, that it doesn’t compete with its retail customers. ...... “We spent three years fixing the fundamentals and tried not to worry about what everyone else was saying.” ..... “We’re more technology- and innovation-driven than we’ve ever been. Mobile gave us the opportunity to start with a clean slate from a technology perspective.” Less than two years ago, eBay acquired Critical Path Software, which was helping to develop eBay’s mobile apps. “We thought they were the best, so we bought them and got a couple hundred of the best software developers in the world working exclusively for us,” Mr. Donahoe said. ...... PayPal Here, a new payment system, would allow customers to “check in” in advance at a shop, be greeted by name when they arrive, complete transactions without a mobile device or credit card and get a text message as a receipt. ..... Mr. Donahoe has been chief for just over four years, and has replaced most of eBay’s top management.
Looks like PayPal is doing the trick.

Looks like John Donahoe is a role model for Marissa Mayer. Yahoo also needs a turn around.


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pando Monthly: Finding The Groove

Sarah Lacy
Sarah Lacy (Photo credit: jdlasica)
Drama and Mike Arrington go together, or did when he was a blogger. His selling of TechCrunch to AOL to a lot of TechCrunch oldies breaking off from the mothership when he got fired from AOL: drama.

Pando Daily entered a crowded space. It got funding, alright. It had talent, fine. But the space was crowded. But I saw room for some long form journalism. And Pando Monthly fits the bill. Although I have yet to watch any of the Pando Monthly videos, it feels like a Charlie Rose thing.

PandoMonthly Presents: A Fireside Chat with Ben Horowitz

Pando Monthly is the most outstanding thing Pando Daily has done so far. It is an innovation.
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