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[spotify] Spotify Engineering Culture (pt. 1)

Whaaat?

spotify-engineering-culture-part1.jpeg (5000×2700)

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I highly recommend watching this video:

…but in a nutshell:

Tribes, Squads, Chapters and Guilds

Squad: Primary dimension focused on product delivery and quality. Each squad has 100% autonomy to deploy.

Chapter: Groups of Squad members that share competencies (ex. quality assistance, web development, agile coaching)

Tribe: Light-weight matrix comprised of Squads

Guild: Light-weight community of interest where groups gather to share interest knowledge (ex. leadership)

Cross-Polination

Each Squad has full autonomy regarding how it goes about delivering its long and short term goals. When a set of delivery practices/framework works particularly well, this methodology can, and should, spread to other Squads that can make use of them.

Alignment x Autonomy

-Alignment, – Autonomy = No leadership and no motivation
-Alignment, +Autonomy = Chaos
+Alignment, -Autonomy = Bossy bosses and demotivated employees
+Alignment, +Autonomy = Spotify!

Small/Frequent Delivery

Through test automation and continuous deployment infrastructure, Spotify stays true to the fundamentals of the Lean Startup. Furthermore, through decoupled releases (modularizing Spotify’s architecture into feature frames), each Squad can deploy with minimal bureaucracy and timing conflicts with other Squads. Finally, through feature toggles (deploying features regardless of how ready they are, but being able to turn them on or off), Spotify can conduct testing on the go as opposed to delay releases.

My 2 cents:

No fear, no trust, no politics. Spotify took the Lean Startup one step further by staying true to fundamental concepts such as continuous releases, smaller batch sizes and autonomous teams, but introduces a cross-functional element that accelerates the dissemination of learnings that is equally key to the Lean Startup model. Spotify is a key example of tech organization at its most spontaneous and focused, but it is also an example that the revolutionary ideals of the Lean Startup are becoming more the foundation of tech culture, being consistently improved by conceptual “add-ons.”

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[linkedin] Freaking out about finding a job? LinkedIn launches app for students to help

Whaaat?

A new social media app for college students rolled out last week, but keep your Snapchat selfies and party photos away from this one, and bring on the blazers.

LinkedIn’s new mobile app, LinkedIn Students, launched April 18 on iOS and Android. Like LinkedIn, it helps users build a career-oriented network and explore the job market, but is customized for their unique needs as students.

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Young people are no strangers to LinkedIn. Approximately 40 million of the website’s 414 million users are either college students or recent graduates, Wu says. But after talking to students about their experiences on the site, the company found their interface wasn’t entirely student-friendly.

Users can then click on the job category to learn more details, such as which companies are currently looking to fill that role, the position’s median salary and its prospective growth in the job market, which the company calculates by measuring the change in number of LinkedIn users of that same profession on yearly basis. If students “save” the job, it is then added to a separate menu where it can be accessed later.

App users also receive a daily list of alumni from their university who studied the same major, giving them the opportunity to connect on LinkedIn or simply “save” their profile and receive their LinkedIn updates.

In a 2014 report by Jobvite, an online recruiting platform,  94% of 1,855 recruiters and human resources professionals from a variety of industries reported in a survey that they used LinkedIn to search for job candidates. In a job market so dependent on the web, University of California-Los Angeles career center director Wesley Thorne says it’s becoming increasingly important for students entering the workforce to have access to apps like LinkedIn Students.

My 2 cents:

With the recent dip in LinkedIn stocks, many have questioned if there is a place fore LinkedIn as users skew to job searching or socializing tools as opposed to the middle ground LinkedIn has found itself covering. Yet, behind the scenes, LinkedIn has been hatching its full spectrum plan. Through the release of its add on apps Pulse, Job Search and most recently LinkedIn Students, LinkedIn is standing by its vision of piloting the world’s leading professional portal, where its about meeting people, training for AND landing the job.

LinkedIn Students, is a targeting play in an effort to deliver excellence to crowd that is aware and approving of LinkedIn. It is also a differentiating move that one-ups the Job Vites, Monsters and Glassdoors by adding a community aspect to the search. Finally, it is a crucial strategic move in an effort to conquer the point of entry that is college and break the existing idea that LinkedIn is where you browse where your Job Vites are where you execute.

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[samsung] How VR at Retail Stores Is Reshaping the Consumer Experience

Whaaat?

Just as magic mirrors, beacons and even mobile payments once seemed futuristic, VR at retail stores has progressed from science fiction to the next disruptive retail computing platform. Retailers bent on distinguishing themselves with immersive, wow-factor customer experiences ― and enhancing store operations by requiring less space to merchandise more products ― are charging ahead with this revolutionary shopping technology.

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Goldman Sachs envisions VR retail software becoming a $500 million revenue opportunity by 2020, and ballooning to $1.6 billion by 2025. In its recent report, the company says VR is one of the technologies “retailers will have to invest in to serve their customers and keep ahead of their competition.” The investment firm notes that it is “less focused on the software revenue opportunity [than] the disruption potentially caused in the retail markets the technology can serve.”

Shoppers equipped with a smartphone and a VR headset can fully immerse themselves in a cinematic virtual reality shopping environment. As they traverse store aisles and fixate on a product, more information about that item is delivered in panoramic 3D ― including related options such as cross-sells and up-sells not necessarily stocked in-store. Shoppers can learn more about how to use the product, which products it complements, how it might fit, where and how it was made, view demonstrations, conduct tests and then tap their headsets to place items in their virtual shopping carts.

As consumers interact with products and within shopping aisles, retailers can interpret shopping preferences and patterns to streamline their retail strategies. Retailers even can test displays and layouts, all in virtual reality, before physically building them out.

My 2 cents:

Goldman Sachs says it best as it pinpoints the current state of VR adoption: the bet is on VR’s disruptive potential than the actual sell-ability of each model. For VR players as Samsung, the big win will be getting retailers to envision the shopping experience that can be delivered to customers (an interactive space without sacrificing the fundamental sell space retailers are so bent over monetizing) or better yet, to envision not delivering this shopping experience while your competition does. VR for retail can increase sales, help push new category adoption, deliver a relatively cheaper customized shopping experience and generate crazy levels of individual shopping data. Of all the VR angles, enhancing customer understanding of and interaction with the product seems most ripe to go and Samsung is ready to be the go-to model to Minority Report, retail style.

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[samsung] India: The New Apple v. Samsung Battleground

Whaaat?

Samsung Electronics is regaining smartphone share in India with a revamped line-up packed with special features including a safety mode for motorcyclists, as rival Apple readies a renewed push into the world’s fastest-growing market.

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Though still squeezed by Apple in the premium segment and by Chinese rivals such as Huawei Technologies at the lower end, analysts say Samsung is righting itself by launching more attractive products and shaving production costs to compete better on price.

Samsung mid-level smartphones, especially the J series, have been doing quite well in emerging countries, especially in India. Such efforts, and better-than-anticipated sales for its flagship Galaxy S7 devices, are expected to lift Samsung’s earnings.

Since mid-2014, Samsung has been overhauling its product design, particularly in the mid-to-low tier segments, phasing out old and unpopular models and launching new devices including the A, E and J series.

The newer devices incorporate parts and features traditionally found only in high-end phones, such as metal frames and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens. As well as giving the phones a premium feel, that also enables Samsung to increase the number components common across its products, cutting costs and enabling more aggressive pricing, analysts said.

In addition to trying to secure permission to sell used, or refurbished, phones in India, Apple is betting its new 4-inch iPhone SE can help it gain new customers in the country. Despite the price gap, Apple’s emerging market-focused phone could pose a threat to Samsung, some analysts say, particularly if it wins approval to import refurbished iPhones.

My 2 cents:

The two most popular smartphones clash in India in pursuit of a decisive victory over the other but for very distinct reasons. Samsung is on a perceived upward trend in the high-end market, coming off a very successful campaign around the new S7, but pressured on the home front to fend off low-cost alternatives poaching their broad international markets. Apple is yet to prove the iPhone is plateauing so it has been resorting to entering new markets where re-editing their success story can bring additional revenues and quell negative voices and buys time to work on the proverbial “next iPhone.” India for its volumous and untapped potential has the added benefit of being cost-efficient. In a contest between affordability and prestige, India might find Samsung and Apple playing opposing roles than what the US market is accustomed to: here the S7 is the object of desire (hence the importance of product line variety) and the iPhone is the affordable alternative (hence Apple’s push for refurbished unit importation).

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[facebook] Can Facebook bring internet access to the entire world?

Whaaat?

Only 3.2 billion people, or roughly 43 percent of the world’s population, can access the internet today. In the world’s least developed countries, that number drops to only 9.5 percent.

Facebook wants to change that. For years, the company has called for broader web access, citing technology’s ability to spark broad social and economic progress. Recently it took an important step forward in its efforts, revealing a gigantic data project that used artificial intelligence to figure out who likely has internet access — and even more significantly, who doesn’t. Identifying the latter will make it easier to decide where technology is needed and how to deliver it most effectively.

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How?

The first step for researchers at Facebook’s Connectivity Lab was to get a better handle on where internet access might already exist. They decided to use structures built by humans — buildings, roads, and other infrastructure — as a proxy for where people might live and get online.

Armed with a specific sense of where people are, Facebook envisions someday using solar-powered drones in the stratosphere to bring internet to hundreds of millions of people who lack access due to weak infrastructure, poverty, or unequal resource allocation. The drones will also carry equipment that can form high-speed connections using laser beams. The idea is that Facebook will create aerial chains with the drones to link several rural areas to the internet. The drone nearest an urban area would use its laser to hook into the global internet, and that connectivity would be passed down the line to drones over rural areas using the laser links.

Why?

If Facebook succeeds, it will have solved a crisis that can affect not only individuals’ ability to like and share, but also their upward economic mobility. (Facebook’s Free Basics service, part of a larger initiative to bring the world more internet, already is providing mobile-enabled users with websites that are accessible without data charges.) “Being left on the outside can have a profound effect,” says Danica Radovanovic, a digital media specialist and internet researcher who has spent years considering the digital divide between the developed and undeveloped world.

The Catch

Of course, Facebook’s actions have long raised questions about whether it plans to expand internet access or simply turn Facebook into the internet. Last year, an internet researcher noticed that focus groups of Indonesians and Africans have begun confusing Facebook with the internet — and a Quartz-conducted survey found that a majority of respondents in Nigeria, Indonesia, India, and Brazil agree that “Facebook is the internet.” But Facebook has competition: Google, too, is in the pilot phases of a program to get “balloon-powered internet for everyone” through its ambitious (and whimsically named) Project Loon.

My 2 cents:

Facebook’s internet crusade is know as Zuckerberg’s pet project and is outwardly attributed to the hacker company’s deep commitment to spreading the internet wealth in underprivileged regions. However recently, Zuckerberg’s good intentions have come into question given that Facebook.org is acting as more of a gateway drug to Facebook than as the social mission it is often portrayed to be. You can’t blame Facebook for trying to make a buck and help at the same time, especially with unspoken concerns about keeping Facebook membership growth in light of perceived dropouts in the future, but you shouldn’t be surprised to find Google at every cross-section of money and PR out there.

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[tesla] Meet Tesla’s Model 3, Its Long-Awaited Car for the Masses

Whaaat?

The $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally here. It is sleek, quick as hell, and meant for the masses. And it is the most important car the company will ever build.

The Model 3 is the car Tesla Motors has promised since the company’s founding, the car that CEO Elon Musk is convinced will push EVs into the mainstream and the technology to an inflection point. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is the car Musk believes will change the world.

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The EV Race

“Tesla is hardly alone in hoping to [push the affordable EV agenda] and frankly, got beaten in the race to build a $30K EV wth a triple-digit range by General Motors. In January, the Detroit stalwart introduced the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, a battery electric hatchback with a range of 200 miles and a price of 30 grand after the $7,500 federal tax credit.

Still, Musk isn’t the slightest bit worried and, to be fair, has little reason to be. The Bolt is lovely, but Tesla has a proven ability to get people excited, and there’s no denying the company has a cachet many automakers do not. You don’t often see people lining up outside dealerships simply to place a $1,000 deposit on a car they haven’t even seen.”

Tesla’s Game Plan

“[Improving its vehicles by] using over-the-air software updates to make every car even better. It made hardware changes, too, offering a second motor to provide four wheel drive, bigger batteries for more range, improved electronics, and self-driving capabilities. The 0 to 60 time plunged to a stomach-dropping 2.8 seconds—on par with six-figure exotics.

Tesla built an international network of 1,600 “superchargers” where owners can plug in for free and charge the battery to 80 percent in as little as 30 minutes. It fought for the right to sell cars directly to customers. It took over an enormous factory once owned by GM and Toyota. It broke ground on a “gigafactory” where it will work with Panasonic to build almost unimaginable numbers of batteries.”

The Model 3 Play

“For all Musk’s talk of disrupting the industry, Tesla Motors has been little more than a voluble pest. The company sold 50,580 cars last year. General Motors moves that many in a single weekend.

That explains how GM won the race to build the 200-mile, $30,000 electric car. It threw time and money and resources at a really hard problem—building an EV that delivers on those two metrics is no easy feat—and spent more than a decade solving it. And it relied upon the sprawling infrastructure and established supply chain that makes building and selling huge numbers of cars (relatively) easy.

And that is the world Tesla is entering with the Model 3.”

Tesla’s Strategy

“The battery can account for one-third of the price of the car, but those costs are falling, fast. Between 2010 and 2015, the average cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) dropped 65 percent, from $1,000 to $350. By 2022 the unsubsidized total cost of ownership of battery electric vehicles will fall below that of an internal combustion engine vehicle.

Musk has said Tesla will use the car’s core structure as the basis for a series of vehicles, including a small crossover. It’s a common industry move, a way to amortize the infrastructure costs over more vehicles. And taking preorders will help Tesla gauge how many cars it needs to build, avoiding the risk of producing more stock than it can sell.

Selling cars isn’t Tesla’s only route to the bank. California is one of 10 states that require automakers to offer at least some zero emissions vehicles. Automakers can circumvent that mandate by buying “ZEV credits” from automakers who find themselves with surplus credits. Tesla, which has a surplus of credits because it only sells electric cars, earned $51 million selling spare credits in the first quarter of 2015 alone. Those credits are slowly losing value under the complicated regulations governing them, but selling a lot more cars should make up for that.

My 2 cents:

Far more exciting than how cool the Model 3 looks is what it stands for. Tesla’s future is contingent on the EV movement catching on. With each model, Tesla has sought to break down barriers; Can there be a market for EVs? Can EVs perform as luxury vehicles and now, can EVs be the future? The Model 3 is Tesla’s way of upping the EV ante: a mass consumed mass produced EV might, at last, help Tesla shoulder the financial burdens of generating EV infrastructure on its own. The plunging battery prices, pre-order data and ZEV play are key supplementary aspects to what could be Tesla’s largest upswing to date.

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[amazon] Video Is Turning Amazon Into Much, Much More Than the Everything Store

Whaaat?

In short, what seemingly started as a way to get people to sign up for two-day shipping has turned into a major force in the world of entertainment. Prime Video may have started as a perk to draw in more Prime members. Now, it’s just as easy to believe that Prime Video may be its own draw, and two-day shipping a nice perk.

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Video Strategy

In 2011, video became a Prime perk. But the company saw that to get members to really care about video on Amazon, it had to offer something more distinctive and original. In 2013, the company began to do just that, premiering pilots for 14 shows that year. The company let customers rate the shows and, using that data, decided which to extend to full seasons.

The company has also long had its eye on movies—it says it plans to release 12 to 14 original films each year. It released the first, Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, in February. Earlier this year, it picked up four indies at Sundance.

Video Potential

Amazon, however, isn’t a studio at heart; it’s a retailer and a tech company. So it’s not surprising that the way it does video dovetails with both of those strengths. The Amazon Video app, for example, includes “X-Ray,” a feature that allows the company to add a layer of clickable data on your screen, such as the names of the actors in a scene, served up by Amazon-owned IMDB. Its Fire TV—Amazon’s answer to Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku—includes “ASAP,” a playback feature that predicts what you want to watch next—much like it suggests other products you might want to buy—and begins buffering it before you need to watch it. Meanwhile, Freeman says Amazon’s video service supports 4K and HDR for some originals.

Nice perks, but as with Prime Video itself, what seems like a perk at first has the potential to contribute more broadly to Amazon’s growth as a business.

Video Spill Overs

To understand how big a deal video is for Amazon, you need to understand how big a deal Prime is. The company won’t reveal how many Prime members it has beyond “tens of millions,” but it’s a crucial part of Amazon’s business. And once subscribers shell out $99 to become Prime members, that initial outlay of cash turns them into remarkably loyal shoppers.

And video, it seems, only makes them more loyal.

My 2 cents:

“Video might have seemed like a funny thing to pair with two-day shipping five years ago. But Amazon seems to have known what it was doing all along.”

If you ally Amazon’s analytical power and propensity to engage in pricing and content experimentation, you get an Amazon Video that is improving upon Netflix’s success with House of Cards. Amazon, the insane sales network that it now is, can at the same time carve a share of the new media space while reinforcing its Prime cash cow.

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[uber] Don’t Expect an Uber IPO Any Time Soon

Whaaat?

An Uber IPO would be the offering of the year: huge, spectacular and, according to the popular ride-hailing app’s CEO Travis Kalanick, not happening any time soon if he can help it.

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Kalanick’s words are likely to disappoint investors who have been eagerly waiting to cash in on Uber’s meteoric rise in valuation over the past few years.

That’s because the unicorn, valued around $62.5 billion as of December, is in no shortage of private funding—which gives the company more freedom to manage its affairs. It also gives the company fewer regulatory hurdles to jump, and fewer eyes on its balance sheets.

Kalanick’s comments, which have been repeated by the CEO before—come at a time when private capital for unicorns seems to be drying up, while recent tech IPOs, including Zynga, Etsy and Fitbit are having a tough time.

“He’s wimping out,” a venture capitalist told Fortune. “That should be a publicly traded company.” He added that Uber had to give returns to private equity investors. “You can’t just say f— you. Take the goddamn company public.”

My 2 cents:

A previous post highlighted the dark cloud over the start up-VC relationship. With a history of failed IPOs and/or subsequent lack luster results, the funding system is ripe for revision on both sides and Kalanick’s stance (in stark contrast to the colorful venture capitalist Fortune source) might become a norm of sorts. Keeping Uber private is a tactical choice that goes well with the start-up way of doing things. In re-privatizing Dell, Michael Dell strove to achieve a similar degree of administrative liberty that Kalanick is bent on. Uber is set to challenge yet another status quo here and I can’t blame Kalanick for sticking to his winning formula… No can I blame the disgruntled venture capitalists out there. Real unicorns are in shorter supply than was once expected and the largest one is refusing to pay off.

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[paypal] Big Banks Roll Out Instant Payments Service; Should PayPal Be Worried?

Whaaat?

A number of huge U.S. banks are joining a new service that aims to bring real-time, peer-to-peer payments to consumers, but it’s unclear if the service will actually be able to take on the incumbent, trendy peer-to-peer service Venmo, which is owned by PayPal.

Tell me more!

The banks are hopping onto a service from Early Warning, which unlike Venmo will deliver money from one account to another in seconds. Venmo transactions, in comparison, take around one to three days to be finalized.

[On the other hand…]

“Banks have been trying to create PayPal competitors for more than 15 years with spectacularly little success,” said Wedbush analyst Gil Luria.” In fact clearXchange has been around for several years with no discernible results.”

The thing is, consumers really like Venmo already. During the month of January, more than $1 billion was transferred on Venmo, more than 2.5 times the amount transferred on Venmo in January 2015 and more than ten times the amount transferred on Venmo in January 2014.

For now the only real differentiator is speed, and that may not be the case for very long, considering that the network Venmo uses to transfer funds plans to begin processing payments more quickly in September, according to Reuters.

My 2 cents:

At this point, the mechanics of peer-to-peer cash transactions isn’t rocket science, which warrants the question: why are financial institutions taking so long? The idea of substituting PayPal or Venmo might not be the crux of this debate though. Banks are (still) where people keep their money, so PayPal still needs bank cooperation (no, not being Venmo compatible does not drive one’s banking decisions… yet). With this ability to foreclose would-be competitors in fintech, it looks like banks could easily outsource the expenses that’d go into investing into their own (likely unpopular) p2p cash transfer product to existing and emerging fintech players. Let the best and most popular player have access to accounts!

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