The secret to a sharing business

What really makes a sharing business click? The answer to that question is a complicated one.

Take Zipcar, for example.

The company, a pioneer in the sharing space had the necessary ingredients to be a success: reusable (and rentable) resources, a ready network, and a quantifiable market for these resources .

Yet, the car- sharing company took nearly a decade to become profitable. One could argue that the absence of social networks (such as Facebook and Twitter) delayed its road to profits. The presence of a social network would have enabled the service gain greater user adoption quickly. In addition, it would have helped Zipcar craft innovative services around a new platform. Continue reading

Retailing big data

The use of big data in retail has grown over the last year. In a previous post, I discussed noted venture capitalist Marc Andreesen’s thoughts on retail. To recap, at the beginning of this year, Andreesen had predicted that software would eat retail. Quibbles with the exact meaning (and scope) of the word “eat” (Will software/ecommerce eat retail for lunch (as in remove physical stores) or will they simply provide garnishing on top of the retail experience (or enhance the retail experience?)) aside, I argued that he was wrong. Continue reading

Three Cheers For Silicon Valley? Maybe..

This is one immigration bill proposal that Silicon Valley should like, favorite, and upvote. There are, quite literally, three cheers for Silicon Valley in the new immigration reform bill proposed by the bipartisan committee of eight senators today.

First, the bill almost doubles the number of H1B work visas, a favorite here in Silicon Valley, to 110,000. That number should help grow Silicon Valley and overcome its talent shortage. Continue reading

Book Review: The Mesh By Lisa Gansky

The sharing economy has been good to me.

It helped me get free accommodation when I was broke and needed a place to stay in expensive New York City. It helped me make new friends in Portland. I found cheap lodgings during the initial part of my move to the bay area last year, thanks to a sharing website. Even now, I often use classified sites, such as craigslist, to buy cheap and useful products. Continue reading

Is India Ready For A Mark Zuckerberg? Guess Again…

Back in 2005, my brother plowed his savings into starting a business. He had saved up a tidy sum while working as a journalist in the Middle East. But, his heart was not in journalism or the Middle East. So, he moved back to India and invested in real estate, computers and network routers.

My brother’s idea was simple: a gaming cafe, where you could play online or networked games with your friends. Given lack of resources, funding options and capital, my brother, however, started small. His cafe’s beginnings were good and my brother had several customers in the initial weeks. Continue reading

The Problem With Groupon

One day after his company reported disastrous earnings that missed analyst estimates by a wide margin, Andrew Mason was fired. In a frank and humorous farewell note, Mason said he was accountable because he was the chief executing officer. For a company that was dubbed “the fastest growing company in history” and made a splashy stock market debut, the downfall has been fast and furious. As if mounting losses and a slew of competitors was not enough, the media takedown of Groupon was also swift and unremitting. Continue reading

I Am Less Talented Than Most Americans…

Or, at least that might be the case, according to a study by Norman Matloff, Professor at the University of California in San Diego.

Controlling for age and education-levels, Matloff found that foreign workers are no more talented in important areas of technology than their American counterparts. Along the same lines, he found that the former filed fewer patents than the latter and racked up the same or lesser number of dissertation awards as their American peers. On the basis of these findings, Matloff concludes that technology companies are causing an internal brain drain of talented American engineers away from technology to finance. Continue reading

Will Software Eat Retail?

In an addendum to his earlier statement about software eating the world, noted venture capitalist Marc Andreesen recently proclaimed that software will also eat the retail industry. In fact, he predicted, that retail will be out of business soon and e-commerce will be the place everyone buys. He based this analysis on the “fundamentally implausible economic structure of retail,” in which fixed capital costs such as real estate and inventory bleed a company’s bottomline when it misses a profit estimate. Continue reading

On Working From Home: A Personal Perspective

I have been working from home for some time.

I use the term “working” in a loose fashion, since my work involves a combination of writing activities, paid and unpaid. By nature, I am a social person, who likes conversation. However, lately, most of my day consists of an uninterrupted (and sullen) stare at a computer screen.

During breaks between work (which are quite frequent), I watch Youtube videos, read provocative news articles, Facebook, or search Google for whatever catches my fancy. Access to free and unfettered information about interesting subjects has not converted me into a human encyclopedia. Rather, I have become a compendium of useless half-baked facts. It has also resulted in an uncoordinated (and undisciplined) meander on the web that takes hours away from productive time. Although I get work done, sometimes, I crave the stimulation and discipline of human conversation. Continue reading

India Takes A Bigger Bite Of Apple

In an earlier post, I had written about Apple’s reluctance to enter the Indian smartphone market. Tim Cook, chief executive officer for the Cupertino-based company, had cited India’s multi-layer distribution model as a key reason for the company to focus away from India “in the intermediate term,” then. Continue reading