el producto #93 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness

Apple’s October event, Spotify Premium update, Lyft subscriptions, GitHub Actions workflow, Uber vehicle recommendations, How Netflix expands & more.

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

🎰 The week in figures

$15B - potential valuation of Lyft after IPO. Lyft hires JP Morgan to lead IPO, planned for early 2019. The company raised $600M Series I in June at $15B valuation; Uber’s 2019 float could value that company at $120B.

$2B - Twilio ($7.4B market cap) acquires SendGrid ($1.4B market cap) for $2B in all-stock deal: a 19.4% premium on SendGrid’s Monday closing price.

$44M raised by Barcelona-based travel platform TravelPerk in a series C from Kinnevik and others; the company provides a suite of tools for managing business trips; raised ~$75M to date.

99% accuracy — claimed by Google AI system detecting metastatic breast cancer; the new system, developed in partnership with researchers at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, uses cancer-detecting algorithms to evaluate biopsies autonomously.

6% - Growth of global internet access has slowed dramatically, according to an unpublished Web Foundation report; the study shows annual growth rates went from 19% in 2007 to 6% last year; the UN previously predicted half the world’s population would be online by 2017; that figure will now likely be met by May 2019.


📰 What’s going on

Apple sends out press invites for an Oct 30 event in Brooklyn, New York; many expect updates to iPad Pro and Mac; the tag line for the event is “There’s more in the making”.

Apple acquires music analytics service Asaii; the company offers aggregated artist insights and a music recommendation engine; Asaii’s APIs are no longer operational.

Apple launches privacy portal enabling users to see what personal information the company has collected; data includes website bookmarks, app purchases, more.

Google launches the Compose Actions Gmail Add-on in general availability; enables integration of third-party apps, including Dropbox, Atlassian Cloud (Jira and Bitbucket), and Egnyte; users can more easily add and save attachments, pull CRM data, more.

Sundar Pichai discusses Google’s work on a censored search engine for the Chinese market; Pichai says testing is promising and that the company expects to return results for more than 99% of queries; Pichai says Google is compelled to provide info to everyone, noting China represents 20% of the global population.

Google is set to launch its Shopping feature in India; the firm is in talks with Flipkart, Paytm Mall, and other local retailers; expected to go live by the end of the year.

Google announces numerous Play updates, including expanded metrics, support for larger app bundles, subscription pausing, more; Play Instant, which enables apps to run without prior installation, now works for premium titles and pre-registration campaigns.

Google updates Maps with data on EV charging stations; users can search “EV charging” and similar phrases; Maps displays nearby locations; tapping a location reveals the number of charge points, types of connectors, charge speeds, more.

Amazon patents tech that would enable Alexa to detect health problems by analyzing changes in the user’s voice and by recognizing sneezes and coughs; Alexa could then recommend relevant products, such as cough drops; could also detect moods.

Spotify updates its Premium service for iOS and Android; introduces improved navigation and redesigned search; also adds Artist Radio playlists which offer an endless stream based around a single artist or band.

Twitter begins testing annotations within Moments; the text boxes provide context and clarification for tweets included in a Moment.

Twilio unveils Autopilot, a conversational AI platform for building and deploying bots across SMS, chat apps, phone systems, more; bots can share data across platforms for customer service hand-offs, etc; available in public beta this week via the Twilio console.

Microsoft’s latest Cortana beta for iOS and Android features a redesigned UI and adds conversational control; adds voice control over music and podcasts, calendar management, and the ability to join Skype and Teams meetings via voice commands.

GitHub announces GitHub Actions, a workflow automation tool. With an interface that will be familiar to anyone who has used IFTTT, Actions will help engineers run their workflows directly from GitHub.

Adobe announces Photoshop CC for iPad, set to launch in 2019; Adobe says the app will offer majority of desktop features, reworked for a touch interface; uses same codebase as desktop version.

Adobe announces Project Aero, a tool for building AR experiences; integrates with Dimension and Photoshop; currently in private beta; also announced Project Gemini, a drawing app for iPad.

Several UK supermarkets will test facial recognition tech to verify age-restricted purchases; the system is set be installed at self-service checkouts and will be able to estimate the age of people buying items such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Radionomy to relaunch Winamp next year with mobile-first apps targeting centralized listening for all types of audio: radio, podcasts, streaming services, etc; will update the desktop app soon, eliminating paid options.

Lyft rolls out its $300 monthly subscription plan across the US; known as All-Access Pass, the service gives customers up to 30 rides per month costing $15 each; riders pay the difference on journeys that cost more than $15; unused rides do not roll over to the following month.

Uber is developing a temporary staffing service called Uber Works; the system reportedly will rely on Uber’s database, placing those who want temporary work in positions at corporate functions, events, etc.

Uber update adds contextual vehicle recommendations; takes into account trip distance, luggage, more; if the customer’s trip is short and a charged JUMP bike is nearby, Uber will suggest it; will recommend a larger vehicle for an airport run, etc.

Uber rolls out VoIP calling globally; in testing since June, the feature uses a data connection to connect drivers and passengers for voice conversations; internet calling is more affordable than cellular calling in some markets; also enables drivers to stay in the app when communicating.

TomTom shares fell more than 13% following news that the navigation provider’s contract with Volvo was canceled; ING analysts indicated Volvo switched to Google for navigation services; Google also signed a deal with TomTom customer Renault last month.


📚 Stuff to think about

Trello’s Product Lead on the unique ramp to a 10-person product org. Nikita Dyer Miller shares her insights into successfully leading a product team through that unique transition, from scrappy early-stage startup to a company with processes that can scale.

First, apps inspire infrastructure. Then that infrastructure enables new apps. Does it make sense to create infrastructure until there are apps asking you to solve their infrastructure problems? How do you know that the infrastructure you are building solves a real problem until you have app teams that you are solving for?

Why companies work on products nobody wants? Rather than first testing desirability (do customers want it?), many startups and corporations test feasibility (can we build it?).

How Netflix expanded to 190 countries in 7 years. Shared similarities between countries, presence of affluent consumers, and availability of broadband internet was key at the beginning; partnership with local stakeholders followed suit; finally, personalization and localization set the stage for a fully global expansion.

How WeChat failed in India. Cultural differences, expectations set by competitors and fundamental market differences made it impossible to replicate the successful China playbook.

The cost of entering China. Through the cases of Google and other western companies, HBR looks at potential threats of embarking on Chinese market.

Jeff Bezos predicts there will someday be 1T humans living across the solar system; Bezos also notes he will personally invest more than $1B in Blue Origin next year; he says the world needs to show the same dynamism in space that has occurred online over the last 20 years. Bezos hopes Blue Origin will conduct its first space tourism mission next year (originally targeted 2018); the company’s New Shepard rocket can carry six passengers; paying tourists will undergo one or two days of training; SpaceX hopes to send someone to the moon by 2023.

A Chinese company plans to build a fake moon to replace streetlights. Chengdu’s streets could be lit by a satellite eight times brighter than the real moon.


👩‍🎓 Quote of the week

“Product principles, like product features, will require trade-offs. You don’t want a product — or a product team — that isn’t forged by tough choices.” — Nikita Dyer Miller


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