Reading

December 22, 2011

While I just started a new book, I found myself spending a lot of time this week on two articles and all the related comments, posts, counter-arguments, etc.:

-Marc Andreessen: Predictions for 2012 (and beyond) – From CNET. Yes, I still check out news.com, although not as much as I once did. The article is a follow up to Andreesen’s WSJ article from August about Why Software Is Eating The World. I had a bit of a problem with a statement I thought he was making that because of smartphones “we saw the rise of a whole category of e-commerce category killers in verticals that 5 or 10 years ago couldn’t support high growth companies because the markets weren’t big enough,” but I’m probably just reading the article wrong. In any case, Software is Eating the World. He makes the great, albeit obvious case for why we’ll see more verticals eaten by software in the coming years. 6 billion smartphones in the next 3-5yrs. Wow.

-CEO of Forrester Research, George Colony put forth the thesis that the Web is Dead during his talk at Le Web (see above video). Fred Wilson picked up on it. And Mark Suster said ‘don’t bet on it.” Great to have George Colony put out something different and hear Suster walk through software development over the past 30 years in his criticism.


Alfred in the News

December 9, 2011

Alfred, your friendly neighborhood recommendation app, is in the news this morning amid rumors that Groupon is in talks to buy the company behind the service.

I like the concept of Alfred because it mirrors parts of my Intelligent Agent. Amid talk of machine learning, Alfred’s Extraction Engine and Serendipity Engine gathers your interests from multiple sources: your inputs, friends’ inputs, facebook data, twitter data, location data, etc. The service then makes smarter recommendations of what to eat and drink, and where to be merry.

While the current incarnation focuses on basic Yelp-esque information – food, drink, nightlife – this type of technology will be used for smarter, timelier purchase recommendations.

There are many reasons for Groupon to acquire Alfred. The most obvious is just to surface Groupons in the serendipitous discovery process (as opposed to more direct the Groupon Now! sell). Easy. Makes sense. Unfortunately, if the deal goes through, I can’t imagine Groupon allowing the Alfred team to play around with futuristic machine learning recommendation opportunities as they’ll be stuck integrating Groupons into the food, drink, and nightlife experience for a while. Sure, under Groupon Alfred will eventually cover new verticals like travel, but I have a feeling that the innovation will somewhat diminish.

Alfred, you’re off to a great start. Take an up front sponsorship payment of $500K and work out a revenue share deal to integrate Groupons into your discovery engine. Or if you have to sell, just make sure to somehow guarantee your pseudo product independence.


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