el producto #77 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Instagram growth, Chickn-n-egg problem of marketplaces, 30 customer elements of value, Airbnb and Xiaomi IPO plans, Google testing AI-calling Duplex & more.

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

🎰 The week in figures

$2B; estimated valuation of California-based dockless scooter company Bird after raising $300M Series C led by Sequoia Capital.

$1B; Amazon paid to acquire online pharmacy PillPack; the pharmacy reportedly held talks with Walmart but Amazon offered more; PillPack was last valued at $361M in 2016, according to PitchBook.

$600M raised by Lyft led by Fidelity’ currently at $15.1B post-valuation; Lyft says it might expand the round up to $1B if a strategic investor is involved

400M Instagram Stories daly users, and 1B MAU; Instagram also announced a new feature that will enable users to add music to posts; rolling out to iOS and Android soon; a new section of musical stickers will appear next to GIFs and other stickers; users will choose from a library of thousands of tracks and will have the ability to preview before publishing.


📰 What’s going on

Apple releases the first public beta for iOS 12; adds Siri Shortcuts, group FaceTime calls, Memoji, etc; requires membership in the Apple Beta Software Program.

Google begins public testing of Duplex, its AI-powered automated calling software; Duplex is designed to call businesses on behalf of users to book appointments, using a natural sounding voice; over the coming weeks, Duplex will call a small group of businesses participating in the test, and will only confirm business and holiday hours; consumers will be able to use Duplex to book appointments later this summer.

Google updates Calendar with “out of office” option; a user can mark an event (an off-site meeting, vacation time, etc) as an out-of-office event; can set an auto-reply message for those requesting meetings, and can also adjust the visibility of the event.

Google rebrands AdWords as Google Ads; the firm is also combining DoubleClick Digital Marketing and Google Analytics 360, renaming them Google Marketing Platform; comes as Google launches Smart Campaigns, a new service for creating ads.

Google and Coursera launch “Introduction to Augmented Reality and ARCore,” a free 15-hour class for AR beginners; covers the design of AR experiences and how to begin a project using the ARCore development kit and other tools, such as Poly.

Airbnb plans to go public by late 2020; CEO Brian Chesky also told employees that the company will pay out employee cash bonuses for the first time in years, and will accelerate the vesting schedule for some stock grants.

Apple is set to launch a single subscription for music, magazines, news, and TV; Apple plans to initially launch a service that comprises Apple News and magazine app Texture (acquired earlier this year); will later add Apple Music and its original TV shows to the service.

Apple is set to launch AirPods with noise-cancellation and water resistance next year; the new AirPods will also work at a greater distance from connected devices; Apple is also working on an AirPods case that can be used to wirelessly charge an iPhone, and a new HomePod.

Twitter launches the Ads Transparency Center, enabling everyone to view details of ad campaigns; provides transparency regarding political ads; includes information on demographic targeting, ad spend, Tweet impressions, and more.

Twitter adds support for two-factor authentication via USB security keys, such as Yubikey; enables users to verify identity when SMS verification isn’t practical; Twitter added support for Google Authenticator and other 2FA apps last year.

Instagram begins testing Instagram Lite for Android; available to users in Mexico, the app is 573KB (regular app 32MB); it doesn’t yet support messaging or video posting, but the company says those features will be added later this year.

Facebook is testing a “Your Time on Facebook” feature; displays how much time the user has spent in the app for each of the last seven days, as well as the daily average; also enables the user to set a daily time limit and sends an alert when that limit is reached.

Facebook to launch a new Pages section that will show all currently active ads from a given Page; will also reveal information about recent Page name changes and dates of creation.

Facebook launches Oculus TV, a video hub for Oculus Go that enables VR viewing via Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming apps; Oculus TV places a large display in a virtual viewing room, where multiple people can watch together.

Amazon adds voice control to its Alexa app for iOS (previously available on Android); lets users control IoT devices, ask questions, start music playback, etc.

Amazon rolls out its Prime member discount program to all Whole Foods locations in the US; Prime members get 10% off all sale items at Whole Foods Market and Whole Foods Market 365 stores.

Lime launches its electric scooter service in Paris; already live in Berlin, Bremen, Frankfurt, and Zurich; the Parisian launch includes 200 scooters, which will be collected nightly at 9 pm for charging and redeployed at 5 am.

TransferWise signs a deal to handle global payments for UK-based digital bank Monzo; Monzo users can now send money in 18 different currencies.

TourRadar, an Austria-based travel marketplace, raises $50M Series C led by TCV with participation from Cherry Ventures and others; the company lets users find and book trips to more than 200 countries; raised more than $66M.

China-based local services group Meituan-Dianping (MD) files for an IPO in Hong Kong; IPO expected in October; plans to raise more than $4B on a $60B valuation.

Xiaomi plans to raise as much as $6.1B in its Hong Kong IPO; the firm is aiming for a valuation of $54B to $70B when it lists on July 9.

SpaceX send an AI-powered “crew member” to the ISS; the Airbus-developed Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON) is a white globe with a screen that displays an animated face; it will move through the zero-gravity environment via fans; astronauts will be able to call it by name and request instructions for complex procedures.


📚 Stuff to think about

Platform characteristics and network effects > Superior technology. Interesting views on the power of platforms, and the challenges to bring technical improvements, caused by the platform’s own ecosystem and dynamics.

Demand or Supply? The chicken-and-egg challenge of marketplaces. James Currier shares 19 tactics (including real life examples) that can be used to solve this problem.

How Slack became a $5B business by making work less boring. A great deep dive into the company’s evolution, growth, pivots and wins.

Are network effects as powerful as they used to? HBR argues that the shift from “single-device” to a connected, and easy-to-access (and easy-to-leave) multiplatform world has made NFX less powerful.

The extended Maslow’s hierarch. 30 fundamental “elements of value” that drive decision making. Larry Kim comments this study by Bain&Co and published by HBR. How many does your product score?


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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.