Archive of ‘Business’ category

Rolling in an Uber for the First Time

I’m fortunate that I don’t have to travel all that much for work because I don’t particularly enjoy waiting for an airplane to take off.  Recently, I had to get a ride to the airport though and I decided to try out Uber for the first time.  I pulled up the app and saw on my iPhone screen  three little black cars driving near my current location.  It looked more like a game of cat and mouse and kind of fun to watch for a bit.  I hit the button to call an Uber to my house.

I knew when my Uber car was arriving because I got real-time updates on how far the car was from me (4 minutes away!).  When the car arrived, I discovered that my driver was female around her 40s.  I hopped into the front seat because I wasn’t sure if I should sit in front or back.  Then we chatted all the way to the airport.

  • She works for Uber during her free time when she’s not doing her other part-time work.
  • There is car insurance just for Uber when she’s clocked in.
  • She prefers to drive outside of SF because SF has too many short stops although she did say for long drives one way that she loses money if she can’t pick up anyone on her way back.
  • You don’t have to tip Uber drives, but can if you want, most do not.
  • One time a passenger “hit” on her, but nothing she couldn’t handle herself.
  • She carries mace with her just in case.
  • She has tried working with other startup delivery services, but still likes Uber.

Then, before I knew it, I was at the airport.

If you’re interested in becoming an Uber driver check out these articles about how much you can make.


Match your strategy with your business situation

After many suggestions from colleagues and friends, I finally got a chance to read The First 90 Days some time ago, a book about making significant impact in the first 90 days of a new role.  In the book, there’s a section dedicated to the the progression of business situations (of company, org, or product).  This is called the StaRS Model.  Depending on the business situation, your strategy will be different – either learning more or doing more and either offense or defense.

For sustaining success and realignment situations, you will need to spend more time on learning especially about the organizational culture as you are working with people who are (or believe they are) currently successful.  For turnaround and start-up situations, you will need to make early calls sooner than later otherwise the situation can get significantly worse and not recoverable.

Offensive planning is about identifying new markets, products, and technologies to enter.  Defensive planning is about defending existing market share position and extending existing products.  For start-up situations, you need to get something going (offense-go!).  For turnarounds, it’s about focusing on the strengths of the organization (offense-go!).  For realignment, you will need to make slight corrections to move the business in the right direction (defense-block that shot!).  For sustaining success, you need to protect the money maker (defense-block that shot!).

If you like the content of this posting, I highly recommend you check out The First 90 Days.  Enjoy!



GigaOM Mobilize 2012: Square and Starbucks

I was going through some of my draft postings and ran into this one about Square from GigaOM Mobilize 2012 conference.  The talk is not fresh in my mind, so I’ll piece together what I can remember, but thank goodness I documented some good notes.

The then COO of Square, Keith Rabois, did a one-on-on interview on stage and talked about the landscape of mobile payments and Square’s latest customer win with Starbucks.

At the time, Square had 400 employees and an unconfirmed evaluation of $3.25B when they raised $200M (date not sure).  From a COO perspective, Keith said that people keep him up all night.  He wants to be sure that everyone is aligned (strategically) at the company.  Square is “building a vertically integrated a payment system” that can scale for every person and treat every person as a VIP.  Back in late 2012, 35M total Americans have paid with Square.

The conversation then moved onto Starbucks which I found more interesting since PayPal could have very well been the mobile payment partner instead of Square.  From the first meeting with Starbucks to close, it was over a period of 8 weeks.  I believe someone knew someone which is why the deal closed so fast.

Keith said (at the time) the #1 search in Square was for coffee.  He also commented that about 40M Americans shop in Starbucks every month with about 75% of these transactions being anonymous (I’m assuming not with Starbucks card, not with credit card, paid in cash).

He claimed that by having Starbucks forge a relationship with Square, Square can help Starbucks know the identities of their customers and help Starbucks treat all of their customers like a VIP.  Hmm, I wonder if this is the case today.  Last I heard, some Starbucks employees don’t even know what Square is and don’t know how to process Square payments.  Where’s my VIP treatment Starbucks?!

In terms of mobile payments, Keith is a believer that “NFC is going nowhere in the United States” and that the technology isn’t any good, it has no value proposition.

Keith did make one comment that made me chuckle a bit:

Moderator: “You have 400 people, but PayPal has 6K in customer service alone…”

Keith: “They obviously need it!”

Sophia’s suggested reading list

Lately,I’ve been recommending books that I’ve read or about to read (backlog).  I’ve ratted off the list so many times that I decided to document once and share often.  Many of these books are considered one of the best product management, management, or business books of all time.  Enjoy!

5 tips for emerging women leaders

It’s been awhile since I’ve been out and about in the Valley.  Last Saturday, I attended Santa Clara University’s Women in Business Conference at eBay’s north campus, aka PayPal.  I’m a bit of hard person to please when it comes to talks.  I get bored easily if the talk is too high-level, abstract with no takeaways.  That Saturday morning, it was far the opposite.  The keynote speaker Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream, gave a great talk on how to leverage your strengths as a woman leader and then some.  It was a very educational and entertaining talk.

My top 5 take aways:

  1. Ending your opinions with questions may make you sound not confident.  Action: Don’t end with questions unless you really want other opinions.
  2. Being collaborative could make you look indecisive.  Action: Set decision criteria and timelines for when decision will be made.
  3. Not enough self-promotion.  Action: If someone asks how you are doing, talk about recent achievements like “oh I’m great because the team just hit this milestone…”.  Take opportunities to promote in everyday conversations.
  4. Using “I feel…”, nobody cares how you feel.  Action: People care about what you know.
  5. Don’t formally ask people to be your mentors because it requires time and commitment.  Action:  Just adopt mentors informally and don’t tell them.  What they don’t know can’t hurt them.

One thing that I’d like to add is to say no to meaningless (or not as meaningful) tasks.  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen women be asked to organize team events or lead up some random task force while others are constantly are passed over or say no.  I’m all for being a team player, but not at the expense of my valuable time and maybe my work reputation (Who wants to be known as the potluck queen?).  If you keep saying yes, then you’ll keep getting asked.  Say no already!  It’s okay.

10 ideas to make meetings more efficient

Do you need ideas to make your meetings more efficient?  Here are some ideas that I’ve collected along the way.  I do not claim that they are my ideas and I have not tried all of them.  Have fun!

  1. Conduct meeting without tables and chairs aka standing up – studies show meeting times will be cut in half!
  2. Money jar for late comers or no-shows – make it hurt (financially) to be late or miss a meeting, use that money to buy the team beer or donate to charity
  3. Take a moment of silence after a major decision – reflect on decision, give time for last minute objections, let the commitment sink in really good
  4. Put a clock on the wall – meetings should begin and definitely end on time
  5. Assign a note taker – the meeting chair needs to run the meeting while someone else takes notes, hard to do both
  6. Divide up a large block of meeting time (with same people) into smaller chunks – helps guide the agenda and keeps the meeting going
  7. Enforce a “no meeting” time period or day – seriously, there needs to be time to do work, come on people!
  8. Provide food – attendance will be good, also many will pay more attention (while eating) instead of typing on their laptops
  9. Clarify participant roles in invite – sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not, provide some context, maybe it’ll help form the agenda easier
  10. Bonus: If the meeting requires 6+ people or more than an hour, the CEO is notified – one company did this, the theory is that a meeting of that size or time length should really damn important, I wonder if the company is still around, does anyone know?

Latest Square on the block

If you haven’t heard about the startup Square, you are in luck.  I’m going to give you the latest on them.  Keith Rabois, COO of Square, joined 14 months ago when there were 14 employees and no users.  At Mobilize, he talked about how a small, white, square pluggable hardware piece is making its dent in the payment space.

About 26M US businesses do not accept credit cards today.  In order to process credit cards, you need to pass a credit card check yourself (e.g., FICO score) and provide your last year’s business sales.  For a person just starting out, this is an instant fail on two accounts.  Then steps in Square.

Today, 750,000 merchants accept Square, just 10% of companies who accept credit cards.  Before Square,  50-60% of users would not be able to accept credit cards.  Of those who apply for Square, 93% are accepted and can accept payments in less than 3 minutes.  What about the FICO score and sales requirement?  Square uses automated and manual analytics to observe unusual transactions for fraud protection.

When asked about NFC and other payment options?  Rabois said, “We don’t worry about what other people are doing”.  He doesn’t think that NFC will resonate with mainstream America.  He further adds that Google is interested in NFC to track spending habits which is better ROI for ad spenders which includes top 100 retailers.

Square will be having two major releases in October – one for Square, one for Card Case.  Then in December, they will have some things to say, but on the hush hush.

Rabois puts it plainly, “Square is Paypal for the real world”.

Mobile, will you marry me? Get engaged!

On 9/26 Monday and 9/27 Tuesday, GigaOM held its Mobilize conference in San Francisco.  Over the next couple of posts, I will talk about the trends that were discussed during the conference.

Unless you live under a rock, it’s hard to ignore that mobile advertising is exploding.  According to Smaato, mobile advertising is a $11.4-$20B market in 2011 alone.  At Mobilize, AT&T Interactive, Kiip, Pontiflex, and Appsfire grabbed the stage to talk about this hot topic.

The current landscape of mobile advertising is still evolving.  One panelist said it took about a year ago for ad networks to target ads based on location, previously it was just based on clicks.   Imagine the days before Groupon and LivingSocial.  Pontiflex and Kiip say about 48-60% of mobile ads are clicked on accident.  Some app developers are gaming the system by putting ads right next to frequently pressed buttons (e.g., pause button).   This implies about 50% of your mobile ad budget is wasted.  A big challenge is that the definition of engagement has a wider range of possibilities than web advertising.  Is engagement a call to the store?  Entering the store (offline/online)?  Measure on size of (offline/online) purchase?  Use of a coupon?  If Google Wallet catches on, Google will be able to track ads all the way down to the point of purchase in a brick and mortar store.

One company Kiip focuses on achievements as a cost of engagement.  For example, when a player completes a level, they will show a mobile ad at that very moment.  For a BestBuy campaign (assuming because it was described as a yellow large electronics retailer), Kiip got a 15% conversion.  They believe that people will want to “engage” when they are in a happy moment.  In fact, they are working with experts in cognitive and happiness to improve their service.  Appsfire is at the promotion level.  AT&T Interactive is doing search advertising.

Mobile advertising can be helpful and it’s not all bad and intrusive.  An example coming from web advertising, when Google took off its ads off of the websites, people complained because the ads were useful.  Pontiflex says when it comes to mobile advertising, there are three major groups involved in order to make mobile advertising a success – ad networks, app developers, and users.  You can’t ignore any of these groups.  Appsfire says you have to trust app developers to know where to place the ad and give them flexibility.  Most importantly, you have to let users figure out how they want to engage with you.  For example, 1 in 5 do not want mobile coupons.

Tips for app developers, you need critical mass with make money with ads.  If you have local mass, it’s even better because a lot of mobile ads are local.  It helps to have your app translated to other languages too.

Mobile strategy to not be ignored

On 9/26 Monday and 9/27 Tuesday, GigaOM held its Mobilize conference in San Francisco.  Over the next couple of posts, I will talk about the trends that were discussed during the conference.

One hot topic was mobile development strategy mainly around designing for better adoption and technology choices.  The people speaking on the topic were from, Verizon, MeLLmo, and Rhomobile.

Companies need to create a completely different team focused on mobile development and not use the existing web development team.  The differences between web and mobile development are big enough that one panelist said you will fail if you use the web team.  Another panelist urged companies to rethink all of their development processes and products from the ground up, especially to be based on simplicity like mobile apps. (part of designed for the tablet then made the web look like it.

When designing a mobile app, companies should think about the end user (whether customers or employees) as people have lower tolerances for bad mobile apps.  At Verizon, they create storyboards about the end user experience and then develop apps from there.  At, they put a lot of emphasis on personas and develop workflows.  Features such as disconnected/offline capabilities, refreshing part of the app (not the whole app), and a lot of drag and drop (for tablet apps) make for a good experience.

The verdict is still out about native vs HTML5 as the panel was mixed on their recommendation.  Some are hedging their bets like who is building native and HTML5 apps.  Another panelist says you can go native but leverage HTML5 (like a iOS webUI view).  Using webUI is not the same as native in my opinion although it is an easy way to say to go “native”.  The big supporters of HTML5 said that a native interface can be mimicked with HTML5.  One disagreed saying not all of the great native interfaces are available.  The big advantage with HTML5 is that it is not locked into any mobile OS and you can design once and make it available for all mobile devices.  I agree with the theoretical strategy, but the HTML5 app will be restrained to the limits of the mobile browser, still in its infant stage.

All the panelists seem to be on the same page that leveraging the native features of the phone/tablet are important for the user experience.  One panelist said that you can’t have a high performing app unless you go native.  This statement is correct as of today, but companies like Google are pushing for improved mobile browser standards.  The debate continues…

One tablet, phone for work and play

On 9/26 Monday and 9/27 Tuesday, GigaOM held its Mobilize conference in San Francisco.  Over the next couple of posts, I will talk about the trends that were discussed during the conference.

One of the hot topics was the disruption of tablets and personal smart phones in the workplace.

Tablets and personal smart phones are making their way into the business space whether the company encourages it or not.  This uncontrollable trend is consumerization, devices becoming popular in the consumer space then moving into the business space.  One panelist observed that more people today are carrying just iPhones (both work and personal) than 6 months ago when they were carrying both Blackberrys (work) and iPhones (personal).  The surge of tablets in the workspace is a push to get more business-oriented, customer-facing employees to be more efficient and mobile.  At, all sales people carry iPads, no one carries a PC.

With the convergence of personal and work devices into one device, companies like VMWare and Cisco are looking to figure out how to separate (e.g., expense, secure) corporate data from personal data.  Cisco believes that security should be built into the fabric of the network (e.g., containers).  The end point (e.g., devices) can change all the time.  They say that a MacAfee or Symantec solution is not enough.  VMWare is looking at ways to virtualize corporate phone images to personal phones starting with the Android platform, working with LG and Samsung and others.  They are even looking at virtualizing two sim cards so that you have two different numbers on one smart phone.  Imagine getting a ring tone that is different based on whether it is a personal or business contact.

Companies are realizing that they can’t stop people from using their personal devices.  They are embracing the idea of people using personal devices for work and play.

GigaOM Mobilize is an event to not be missed next year as it is full of who’s who in the mobile space.

1 2 3 11