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.