Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Uber and the Black Cab

My residence in London is the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill at 30 Portman Square. I’ve been staying there for years and find it to be a phenomenal location with phenomenal staff.

I’ve ordered many Uber’s from there despite there being a taxi rank right outside the hotel. One of the reasons I dislike taxis in London is that not all of them accept credit cards or any form of electronic payment — I’ve got to have cash handy and it is a real hassle.

So why not Hailo? Hailo kind of works but has horrible customer service. Every time I’ve used them be it in London, Singapore or Barcelona, it’s left a bad taste in my mouth. Cabs will claim to have arrived starting the 2.5 minute timer long before they have arrived; if it’s raining enjoy looking for them while you call them only for them to tell you they’re not where they claim to be. In addition they’ll give you £10 coupons that will “expire” on you so you end up paying full fare. The crux of the Hailo problem is that a cab driver is always going to be a cab driver…

During rush hour traffic in London, a Hailo may make sense (since cabs can use lanes reserved for them). So will a UberTAXI. 

Anyway, this isn’t about Hailo. Today I finally tweeted to Uber about the fact that their maps are inaccurate and most drivers never arrive at the front of the Hyatt but at the side, on Seymour Street. It’s incredibly annoying to have to call to get them to come to the front or walk to the side – it’s all added inefficiencies.

The @ replies from the taxi drivers tend to be strong encouraging you to use their services. I’ve never seen this in any market I’ve used Uber in. It’s smart – take it on to social media.

Twitter Notifications

Later on in the day I did take a cab. I wanted to go to Harwood Arms from the Natural History Museum. Of course the cab driver didn’t know where it was so I stated the street name, Walham Grove. Lo and behold, the black cab driver had no idea where this was! I even provided the post code if it helped.

He asked if I had it on my maps. I said I did. He wanted to know the cross road. Even after I told him Farm Lane, he took out the maps and had it in his lap for the whole journey.

This is the same guy whom represents the lot that have studied The Knowledge. In an Uber, at least they would have used the maps. And if there were route inefficiencies I would just complain to Uber from the app and get a refund. Here I paid for the drivers mistakes. In cash.

Are cabs safe from the losing fight?

Live hidden, live happy

A phrase I have often liked comes from a French poet, Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian. In order to live happily, live hidden.

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés

So when I read about Li Younghi, in the FT (paywall, Li Yonghui, Chinese self-made ‘everyman’), it resonated well with me to see the Chinese saying men sheng da fa cai, which translates to “keep quiet and prosper”.

New Year’s Note, 2016

This year we spent New Year’s Eve in Vienna, Austria, and I have to say it was a lot colder compared to being in Phuket, so I think we’ll do it in a more tropical country going forward.

I didn’t take the TripIt stats that I should have taken, but I do have a visualisation: 328178 miles (so 528,151km versus 435,271km last year), 15 airlines flown, 33 airports and 116 flights. So we’ll assume the 33 airports are “cities”, so I visited a lot less than the 49 cities. I was on the road for 281 days (as opposed to 264 days in 2014).

I guess this is one of my heavier travel years, and we’ll see how 2016 pans out. In the meantime, back to enjoying Vienna. And here’s hoping TripIt either improves, or I have to make a service that does better (post-Concur acquisition, things have been going downhill generally).

What has happened to Dell’s online shopping experience?

I tried to buy a Dell laptop in Malaysia. The old way was such that I would place the order online, and checkout with my credit card. A process that would take 10-15 minutes.

The new way? Configure it, and call up someone at Dell. They then send you an email within a few hours. You are meant to then go pick it up at a distributor, and pay them via cheque or cash. No more credit cards. 

So I walked to the Lenovo store in MidValley. Plonked down my credit card (an Amex was accepted; and there was no extra 2% charge like you may get at Low Yat), and walked away with a Lenovo laptop, with the same 3-year next day on-site business warranty. I think I even saved some money compared to the Dell that I was speccing out.

I have to admit that this is a step back for Dell in Malaysia. The contrast to Apple? It takes about 5 minutes to configure everything and just make payment online. It’s that easy. Even many of the monitors I used to enjoy buying now basically say “call dell”. This can’t be a good way to move the company forward, eh?

Recapping rounds

I read with great interest (including the comments thread) about recapping seed rounds by both Brad Feld and Joanne Wilson. Reprehensible beahviour. Also in general angels don’t go in more than the first round.

Which brings me to a general worry/concern – companies where early employees become minority shareholders (not option holders, shareholders). Where they pay their first few salaries in exchange for shares. Or if after some M&A activity, folk become shareholders. One can easily own 1% or more of a company this way.

When the going gets tough, vultures do come along.

Minimum Viable Blogging

I’m not a huge fan of the marketing surrounding the “lean startup” or the idea of a “minimum viable product”. There’s merit to all these ideas, but the hype is what kills it (for me).

I have realised something recently — I spend a lot of time & energy writing emails and creating documents within Google Docs or Keynote. Its just the nature of how things work. When it comes to chatting, there’s IRC and lately even Slack. All this bashing on the keyboard means that I very rarely have time to blog and talk about the things that are going on via mail/docs.

So I’m going to try something new. If an email or doc I write isn’t private, and I’m having wide distribution to it anyway and it could be of interest to others, I will also blog it. The hardest part of that is adding links so far!

After all, if you’ve read the ESR guide on How To Become A Hacker, it clearly states that the world is full of fascinating problems waiting to be solved and most importantly no problem should ever have to be solved twice.

So maybe I don’t read things over to ‘edit’ them, but this is a blog, not a publication. And the byline does say ‘rough notes on…’


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