Jean-Charles Samuelian Co-founder & CEO @ Alan 31 mars, Jean-Charles' Newsletters
Jean-Charles' newsletter: n°13
Chaque semaine, je partage quelques articles que j’ai trouvés particulièrement enrichissants. J’espère qu’ils vous aideront autant qu’ils m’ont aidé.
Certains articles sont en français, la plupart sont en anglais (je copie certaines citations en anglais). Ils ne sont pas tous récents et vont au rythme de mes lectures.
Bonne lecture !
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📱Monde des technologies
👉L’histoire de Compaq et son application dans le contexte de Covid19 (less talk, more actions) (The Stratechery).
L’histoire de Compaq et ce qu’on peut en apprendre :
What our lawyers told us was that, not only can you not use it (the copyrighted code) anybody that’s even looked at it — glanced at it — could taint the whole project. (…) We had two software people. One guy read the code and generated the functional specifications. (...) Figuring out what it does, then writing the specification for what it does. Then, once he’s got that specification completed, he sort of hands it through a doorway or a window to another person who’s never seen IBM’s code, and he takes that spec and starts from scratch and writes our own code to be able to do the exact same function… (...) (We had) just a bull-headed commitment to making all the software run. We were shocked when we found out none of our competitors had done it to the same degree. We could speculate on why they had stopped short of complete compatibility: It was hard. (...) The result was a company that came to dominate the market; in fact, Compaq was the fastest startup to hit $100 million in revenue.
The second part of the formula — for producing profits along with growth — will involve wider use of outsourcing and partnership deals. (...) Compaq, however, may not be able to play through their intermediaries forever. “The real solution is to create your own capability. It takes longer and is more painful, but ultimately, it is more successful,” (...) Compaq never did bother; the engineering determination exemplified by Canion was long gone, and soon Compaq was as well.
The entire reason why Compaq could build the business it did was because as long as you had an IBM-compatible BIOS, an x86 processor, and a license for Windows, you could sell a PC that was compatible with all of the software out there. That, though, meant commoditization in the long-run, which is exactly what happened to Compaq and, it should be noted, basically all of its competitors.
L’analogie avec Covid19 :
While there may have been an opportunity to stop SARS-CoV-2 late last year, by January, (...) worldwide spread was probably inevitable; (...) Since then, though, there has been divergence between countries that acted and countries that talked.
Taiwan (...) is perhaps the best example of the former: Passengers on flights from Wuhan were screened for fever starting in December, and banned from entry in January; (...), Data from the National Immigration Agency was integrated into the National Health Insurance Administration, allowing officials to quickly match-up COVID-19 symptoms with recent travel history; (...) people designated for home quarantine are tracked via their smartphones, and fined heavily for any violations.
What stood out to me was mask production; on January 23, the day that China locked down Wuhan, Taiwan had the capability of producing 2.44 million masks a day; this week Taiwan is expected to exceed 13 million masks a day, a sufficient number for not only medical workers but also the general public.
The contrast with Western countries is stark: to the extent government officials across the Western world were discussing the coronavirus a month ago, it was to express support for China or insist that life carry on as before; (...) What does not appear to have happened anywhere across the West is any sort of meaningful action until it was far too late.
This has resulted in two problems: first, by the time Western governments acted, the only available option has been widespread lockdowns. Second, the talk itself is missing even the possibility of action.
To put it another way, the West feels like Compaq in the 1990s, relying on its brand name and partnerships with other entities to do the actual work, forgetting that it was hard work and determination that made it great in the first place.
👉Airbnb arrête tout son marketing et la plupart de son recrutement (The Information) dans un contexte où ils vont être forcés à entrer en bourse très bientôt, sinon leurs salariés vont perdre leurs actions. Le marketing permettra d’économiser 800 M$ cette année.
🏯 Construire une entreprise
👉Les asymptotes invisibles qu’il faut dépasser, l’histoire d’Amazon. (Eugene Wei)
L’importance de bonnes prévisions :
It's not just that giving the wrong guidance might lead to a correction in your stock price but that it might indicate that you really have no idea where your business is headed, a far more damaging long-run reveal.
One of the most difficult things to forecast was our adoption rate.
The question in building my forecast was to flush out what I call the invisible asymptote: a ceiling that our growth curve would bump its head against if we continued down our current path.
Comment Amazon a découvert ses asymptotes ?
We had two ways we were able to flush out this enemy. For people who did shop with us, we had, for some time, a pop-up survey that would appear right after you'd placed your order, at the end of the shopping cart process. It was a single question, asking why you didn't purchase more often from Amazon. For people who'd never shopped with Amazon, we had a third party firm conduct a market research survey where we'd ask those people why they did not shop from Amazon.
Both converged, without any ambiguity, on one factor: Shipping fees.
People don't just hate paying for shipping, they hate it to literally an irrational degree. (...) People didn't care about this rational math. People, in general, are terrible at valuing their time.
Solving people's distaste for paying shipping fees became a multi-year effort at Amazon. Our next crack at this was Super Saver Shipping: if you placed an order of $25 or more of qualified items, which included mostly products in stock at Amazon, you'd receive free standard shipping. (...) It caused customers to reduce their order frequency, waiting until their orders qualified for the free shipping.
That brings us to Amazon Prime. This is a good time to point out that shipping physical goods isn't free. Again, self-evident, but it meant that modeling Amazon Prime could lead to widely diverging financial outcomes depending on what you thought it would do to the demand curve and average order composition.
Dépasser les tests, et réparer plus tard:
To his credit, Jeff decided to forego testing and just go for it.
It turns out that you can have people pre-pay for shipping through a program like Prime and they're incredibly happy to make the trade. And yes, on some orders, and for some customers, the financial trade may be a lossy one for the business, but on net, the dramatic shift in the demand curve is stunning and game-changing.
And, as Jeff always noted, you can make micro-adjustments in the long run to tweak the profit leaks. (...) Jeff counseled the same "fix it later" strategy in the early days when we didn't have good returns tracking.
Dépasser son marché peut signifier des choses très différentes :
There's more than a whiff of Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm in this idea, some sense that moving from early adopters to the mainstream involves convincing more users to use the same product/service as early adopters do. In the case of Twitter, I think the theory is wrong.
Falling into the trap of thinking other users will be like you is especially pernicious because the people building the product are usually among that early adopter cohort.
To broaden their appeal they tend to broaden their use cases. It's rare to see a product adhere strictly to its early specificity and still avoid hitting a shoulder in their adoption S-curve.
The stronger the initial product market fit, the more vociferously your early adopters will protest when you make any changes.
Tech companies in general have been mining the scalable ROI of machine learning and algorithms for many years now. More data, better recommendations, better matching of customer to goods, or so the story goes. But what I appreciate about luxury retail, or even Hollywood, is its skill for making you believe that something is the right thing for you, absent previous data.
Comment identifier ses asymptotes invisibles ?
One way to identify your invisible asymptotes is to simply ask your customers.
True, it's often difficult for customers to articulate what they want. But what's missed is that they're often much better at pinpointing what they don't want or like.
As a company grows, though, and from the start, it's just as important to look at those who never make it through the funnel, or who jump out of it at the very top.
However, all honest negative feedback forms the basis of some asymptote in some customer segment, even if the constraint isn't constricting yet.
Product development will always be a multi-dimensional problem, often frustratingly so, but the value of reducing that dimensionality often costs so little that it should be more widely employed.
👉Analyse de la situation par Howard Marks : cela va aller mal, mais peut-être moins qu’on pense. (Oaktree)
Unavoidable Pain: The news in the near team is unlikely to be good; instead it’ll probably include: Business closures, Job losses, Supply-chain disruption, Challenges to the health system.
In all these ways and more, the early news is bound to be bad. I think that’s indisputable. The only good news in this regard would be if it doesn’t reach the levels people expect and fear.
All these are appropriate actions. Hopefully we’ll see benefits from them and more.
Optimism still hasn’t been entirely eradicated and replaced by capitulation. Typically, the bottom is reached only when optimism is nowhere to be found.
Even though there’s no way to say the bottom is at hand, the conditions that make bargains available certainly are materializing (...) I believe this is a good time to invest
👉Les gens ont envie d’aider et l’app Zoe au UK le permet (TechCrunch)
Asking people to self-report their symptoms in an effort to start to gather more of that detail.
And in a mark of how the public is trying to step up its efforts to get involved in the fight to contain the disease, the app has itself gone viral, with 650,000 downloads since being launched on Tuesday morning.
To be very clear, the app itself is not a diagnostic tool — these are being developed on a more national level, linking people through to local services. Nor is it designed to give the public any clarity on where Covid-19 symptoms are cropping up. (...) Instead, it’s a research app designed to bring together information that could be useful to medical professionals to better plan their responses.
👉Faut-il se préparer à un retour à la normale plus rapide que prévu ? Le cas de la Chine. (HBR)
Many Chinese companies have already moved beyond crisis response to recovery and post-recovery planning.
Prepare for a faster recovery than you expect: Only six weeks after the initial outbreak, China appears to be in the early stages of recovery.
While the depth and duration of the economic impact in other countries is impossible to forecast, China’s experience points to a scenario that companies should prepare for.
Instead of reducing headcount, it encouraged employees to use their time to upgrade internal systems, improve skills, and design new products and services to be better prepared for the eventual recovery.
Spot new consumption habits being formed.