Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Generation Gap: Venmo

Last week I was having dinner in NYC. We were a table of four, and the table next to us, in cramped eating conditions in Koreatown, were two girls whom were in their twenties.

When it was time to get the cheque, we split the bill using cash and card. When it was time for the table next to us to pay the bill? One paid it, and the other said “OK, how much do I have to Venmo you now?”

Generation gap! I don’t even have Venmo. It was also timely to read this New Yorker piece, The Venmo Request: A New Wrinkle In Modern Dating, which apparently suggests that this is also becoming prevalent when it comes to dating! Choice quote: “A guy who seeks recourse through Venmo the morning after is a guy who doesn’t think he got his money’s worth the night before.”

I’m all for going cashless and splitting bills using something like Venmo. That was in effect the promise of the PayPal mobile app. My friends and I still end up using cash, and if its a bigger road trip, bank transfers. It seems that Venmo is currently USA only, but considering Braintree acquired Venmo in 2012, and PayPal got Braintree in 2013, its kind of a shame that its 2016 and they’ve not branched out of the USA.

Austin ridesharing reminds me of Chinese protectionism

Its no secret that a lot of the Internet economy in China is fuelled by protectionism. A reddit user managed to post some service equivalents.

In May 2016, I landed in Austin to see that there were no more pickups in Austin. I took exactly two cabs during my stay (to/from the airport), and walked everywhere I needed to go. It wasn’t a great experience as the weather was pretty bad as well, and Paul Graham also chimed in. Apparently there are hacks to get around to using Uber in Austin, but I’ve never bothered to use them (that article also talks about the requirements beyond just background checks BTW).

People get creative naturally – they started a Facebook group, so much so the police have started to crackdown.

But I’m starting to see all these other services crop up that presumably abide by whatever Austin asks for:

  • at the airport, ads at the baggage carousel for FARE (some news about their launch)
  • at the hotel I saw a brochure for Wingz which promises pre-booking, flat rates, surge-free and around town you pay a minimum of $20, and to get to/from the airport its a $25 minimum.
  • at the hotel again, I saw a brochure for Fasten with a $20 off my first ride promo code as well (their font initially made me look for “faston” instead of “fasten”).
  • Get me via an email from the hotel informing me that I wouldn’t be able to use Uber/Lyft in Austin.
  • zTrip was also in said similar email as above.

So its not that Austin doesn’t like ridesharing. And with time, presumably enough people will complain so we will see Lyft and Uber make their way back. This week I’m walking around Austin as well (its 38C, but thats better than rain I guess). But it sure feels very protectionist.

Evolution of Bitcoin

As videos go, I enjoyed the short and sweet Panel on The Evolution of Bitcoin held at Goldman Sachs.

Bitcoin selling points by Balaji Srinivasan, CEO of 21 Inc and Board Partner at a16z:

  • packet based money
  • protocol
  • unified way of transferring value
  • every entity can have a bitcoin wallet
  • four-sided network: miners, developers, merchants, users

I highly recommend watching the video.

Evernote significantly increases prices – has the product improved?

I have been an Evernote user since February 2009, and I believe I found it extremely valuable and useful that I have dutifully paid $45/year for probably that long. Sara practically lives in the application on her Mac, iPad and iPhone. As of this writing, I have 18,198 notes.

Today they have announced changes to their pricing plans. For what I’m using, it would be $69.99/year, which is nearly a 56% markup!

I’m going to continue paying, but I fear many will be thinking about alternatives. The real discussions are at the forum which I encourage you to read. There are more alternatives these days — Microsoft’s OneNote (has an importer), Apple Notes is getting better, and so on.

There are still deficiencies with Evernote. Try exporting your scanned business cards as a CSV? Try two people editing the same document – you’ll notice locking. We’ve seen premium users go from “unlimited” to 10GB storage per month (not that I use all of that space). They’ve killed apps like Hello, Food. They’ve arguably made Skitch worse. They’ve once even lost data from Sara’s iPad – drawings from Penultimate disappeared. There was no resolution beyond the PNGs and JPGs I managed to extract.

If you ended up purchasing merchandise, like the Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap Evernote edition or a Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook you would have received points in your Evernote account. 10 points buys you a month, 120 points buys you a year – its unclear if this will change (it probably will), but I just spent 160 points to extend my Evernote account.

Phil Libin once talked about how Evernote would be a 100-year old startup. He also talked about how you turn loyal users into paid customers. He’s a big fan of Stewart Brand’s book, The Clock of the Long Now. Alas, he’s now a VC and there’s a hired CEO at the helm. Maybe we’ll get a Steve Jobs/Apple return moment at some stage. Till then, here’s to Evernote’s longevity.

Personal shopper services (and the SQ plane fire)

I cannot imagine what it is like to be on a plane that has engine problems and catches fire upon landing. I’m glad everyone (222 passengers, 19 crew) are safe.

I was just taking a long haul flight myself and wondering why they bother showing the safety video, since these days you don’t really find the need for such things (planes disappear; they crash; you rarely hear about how putting on one’s lifejacket saved your life).

As an aside, a lot of the photos (and a video) seem to come from a Ms. Lee Bee Yee, who was presumably flying to Milan to perform “personal shopping” services (she is the proprietor of a site called Premium Mall). A simple search of her name reveals that she’s been 43 for quite sometime! Emerging Trend of Online Retailers Attempting to Evade GST Jan/Feb 2015, Singapore Airlines plane catches fire on Changi Airport runway; no injuries reported. I’m sure there are such “personal shoppers” operating in Malaysia too; I can only imagine what happens when customs catches up.

The Star in Malaysia recently reported that the future might be personal shoppers, in Parkson’s decline a sign of the times for retail stores. The whole article is worth a read, because Malaysia in this respect, seems “backwards” to what is taking much of the retail world by storm (key: nationwide e-commerce needs to rock; too much just focus on the Klang Valley). But the fancy quote for one to think about:

The future wave could be the birth of “personal shoppers” where they shop for others for a fee.

A “personal shopper” acts as a conduit to connect individual purchasers with online websites in other countries such as the United States that do not provide delivery services of their products to this part of the world.

The personal shopper takes down orders, secures an appropriate price and sources for the products in a foreign country. The personal shopper then handles the delivery from the foreign country to the customer.

And it is all done at a fraction of a cost compared to what the boutiques charge.

At the moment, celebrities generally engage the services of “personal shoppers” also known as “personal groomers” to source for their clothes.

In recent times, services of “personal shoppers” have been engaged by professionals and the working crowd to get the best bargains from the Internet.

Tab Sweep – 26 June 2016

Its Sunday evening here in NYC, and it would seem that I have a huge amount of tabs open in my browser. On the flight here I just read Running Lean by Ash Maurya, tried to catch up on some past issues of The Economist and The New Yorker, and work at clearing out Instapaper.