el producto #129 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Angel Jaime
Jun 29 · 7 min read

Jony Ive leaves Apple, Blocking Youtube channels, Apple OS betas, Alibaba targets international sellers, Getting around Huawei ban, Do less but better, …


Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.

🎰 The week in figures

$4B - valuation reached by enterprise travel firm TripActions after raising $250M Series D from Andreessen Horowitz and others; the company offers corporate trip booking services; has raised $480M to date.

$2.5B - valuation of Monzo after raising £113M Series F led by YC’s Continuity fund; Monzo recently announced a US launch.

$1.1B - Google will invest on its data center infrastructure in the Netherlands; the company will expand an existing facility in Eemshaven, and build a new data center in Agriport; Google VP Joe Kava says the Netherlands is attractive because it offers plenty of sustainable energy sources.

60M - Apple Music s users; up from ~50M in April; Apple reportedly has more subscribers than Spotify in the US, but Spotify has 100M worldwide.

$33M - Speed- and productivity-focused email startup Superhuman raises $33M at a $260M valuation led by Andreessen Horowitz; the invite-only, $30-per-month service claims ~15k users and 100k on its wait list; features numerous automation processes and integrates with calendars, LinkedIn, etc.

$300k - Niantic’s newly launched mobile AR game “Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite” generated $300k in in-app purchases in its first 24 hours; relates to sales in the US and the UK only; the title was downloaded 400k times over the same period.

30 years - Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive is leaving the company to establish an independent design firm, which will serve Apple as a client; Apple’s design team leaders will report to COO Jeff Williams; Ive spent ~30 years at Apple.

22/51 - AmazonBasics products are now best-sellers in 22 of Amazon’s 51 categories.

3–6 hours/day - UK-based King, maker of “Candy Crush,” says more than 9M players spend 3–6 hours/day playing the game; the title has 270M active players; King exec Alex Dale provided the figures to a British parliamentary committee, noting he does not believe “Candy Crush” is addictive; Dale says core players are women aged 35+, playing an average of 38 minutes a day.


📰 What’s going on

Alibaba launches an English-language version of its merchant marketplace Tmall Global; the platform lets overseas brands sell to Chineses consumers; Alibaba also plans to launch Spanish and Japanese versions of the Tmall Global.

Microsoft announces Personal Vault, a secure storage section for OneDrive; it will let users lock folders with a PIN, two-factor authentication, or biometrics; users must provide their secure login method each time they access the Personal Vault, and it will automatically lock itself again after a period of inactivity; set to initially roll out to users in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, with all markets set to be covered by the end of the year.

YouTube adds a new setting to let users block channels they don’t want to view; clicking on a video’s three-dot menu gives users the option to stop YouTube from recommending the channel; users can also refine their recommendations by picking categories from their Homepage or the Up Next list; the features are rolling out to mobile now; they will also appear on desktop YouTube soon.

Google Cloud launches Deep Learning Containers in beta; enables development and prototyping of machine learning-enabled apps on-premise and in the cloud; supports PyTorch and TensorFlow; Amazon launched a similar product for AWS in March.

Airbnb launches Luxe, a luxury tier offering stays at 2k properties costing an average of $14k per week; the top listing — a private atoll near Tahiti — costs $1M per week and comprises 21 bungalows and comes with 50 staff; Luxe also offers a nine-bedroom villa in Cote d’Azur for $13k per week, and a private island in French Polynesia for $146k per week.

Line launched an AI-driven social credit rating system. Japan’s dominant social media platform will surface better deals for users with higher scores.

Apple launches public betas for iOS 13, iPadOS, macOS 10.15 Catalina and tvOS 13; offers new features including dark mode and updated Photos app; both builds of iOS and iPadOS have numerous bugs, but Apple plans to update the software regularly before the full versions launch this fall; macOS 10.15 removes iTunes and separates Music, Podcasts, and TV into their own apps; the macOS beta will also be updated regularly before its full release in the fall .

Apple acquires self-driving tech firm Drive.ai; the company ceased operations two weeks ago, but long-term plans remain unclear.

Apple adds Business Chat support for Shopify; the feature lets customers chat with merchants via iOS Messages; Business Chat will be made available to Shopify’s 820k stores worldwide; the feature also lets customers pay for goods using Apple Pay within a chat stream.

Apple announces plans for expansion in Seattle; the company, which currently employs 500 staff in the city, plans to grow its workforce to 2k over the next five years.

Didi Chuxing opens its platform to third-party ride services; competitors Meituan Dianping and AutoNavi already offer services from multiple providers; Didi trialed its new program in Chengdu, offering rides from provider Miaozou.

GrubHub has acquired thousands of domain names matching the names of restaurants it serves; in some cases, GrubHub and sub-brand Seamless own domains for multiple variations of a client’s brand, and operate shadow sites, effectively blocking restaurant owners from establishing marketing initiatives outside of GrubHub.

Glenn Vogel becomes Booking.com CEO. The already CEO of Booking Holdings will replace Gillian Tans, who continues linked to the company as a chairwoman.

WeWork acquires location security startup Waltz; Waltz offers an app and reader to authenticate building access; WeWork says it will use the tech to improve access to its member spaces.

Splyt, a UK-based B2B mobility platform, raises an undisclosed strategic investment from Grab; Splyt connects ride-hailing services across multiple countries; also pairs up ride-hailing firms with other industries; as part of the deal, Grab users can order rides while traveling.

Tesco partners with cashier-free retail tech company Trigo Vision; Tesco said earlier this month it was considering autonomous delivery vehicles and was testing cashier-free retail systems.

Quantum computing company D-Wave launches its Hybrid platform for building and running quantum-classical hybrid apps in general availability; the company released a developer preview of the open source workflow platform in December; provides access to D-Wave’s cloud-based quantum computing resources.

Several US chip companies including Intel and Micron have found ways to bypass a US ban that prevents trade with Huawei; the firms are using non-US subsidiaries to Huawei with products produced outside of the US; White House officials are aware of the practice, but the Trump Administration is undecided on whether it should do anything. Micron confirms it has resumed some sales to Huawei; the company says it has determined some of its products fall outside of the US Commerce Department directive.

40 tech firms including Google and Facebook publish a set of evaluation benchmarks for AI systems; known as MLPerf Inference v0.5, the parameters are designed to help companies decide the right AI solutions for their products; the benchmarks are centered around object detection, image classification, and machine translation.

Chatterbox launches a Kickstarter for a programmable smart speaker; users build and program the speaker, and set their own actions; has raised $54k on a $10k goal, ends July 6.

Raspberry Pi foundation launches Raspberry Pi 4, starting at $35; available with 1GB, 2GB, or 4GB RAM: includes two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a Gigabit Ethernet port; also has two micro-HDMI ports which support up to 4K at 60 fps; available now.

Samsung launches $90 SmartThings Cam, an indoor smart camera; offers HD video, IR for night vision, two-way audio, and person detection; the company is also releasing an $18 SmartThings Wifi Smart Plug, and a $10 SmartThings Smart Bulb; Bulb requires SmartThings hub, but Cam and Smart Plug can work with or without it; available now.


👩🏾‍💻Good reads

Everyone deserves great UX. Profound and inspiring piece by ex-colleague Marie-Anne on the importance of honest, responsible and purposeful UX through her own experience at small and huge businesses. If you only have time to read one article today, this is the one!

How to keep employees connected to customers. HBR gives practical advice on how to create effective feedback loops with customers.

Do less, but better. Fabricio Teixeira on a familiar product trap: try to please everyone and you will please no one. We can’t have enough of repeating how important is to have one single value proposition, articulated through the various product layers: features, architecture, interactions, usability, branding, communications.

The bank of Facebook. Some of the reasons behind Libra.

Iteration Sprints. Product design agency AJ & Smart argue that design sprints need iteration. Here they explain why and how.

AI+Design. Ideo explored the use of AI in design by running some experiments, including facial recognition or “delegating” design to computers.

In search of a better way to measure Product/Market fit. We rarely use a hard metric to define PMF. Sean Ellis proposes one.

10 shades on MVP. Practical ideas (and real examples) on how to approach Minimum Viable Products depending on our resources and objectives.

28 ways to grow supply in a marketplace, by Andrew Chen.


🚀 Like el producto? Forward it to a friend.

el producto is a curated selection of Tech&Product happenings within the last few days from a curious and frequently skeptical Product Owner’s perspective. Free forever. Sign-up here.

Angel Jaime

Written by

Full-time learner, product stuff, “triathlete” & global traveller. Former product @ Booking.com and @ Just Eat.