We visited Buenos Aires from Feb 9 to March 1, 2018. Here are some notes for fellow Canadians thinking about visiting Buenos Aires. Taking a vacation in Buenos Aires as a Canadian requires some planning. If you do not enjoy planning, don’t go just yet. If the trend holds through to 2020, it’ll become easier and easier to visit. These notes are for Canadians. Getting There: The Flight We did Air Canada 92, which flies to Buenos Aires via Santiago, Chile. The flight was late because of mechanical issues prior to its Morning run to Beijing, via Vancouver. Delays are the rule, not the exception, with AC 92. Check out FlightAware to verify for yourself. It has a terrible on[…]

Do you like new technology? Chances are that if you’re reading this space, you do. I like new technology too. I don’t like hype as much. I get suspicious when people go out of their way to inflate expectations deliberately in advance of a promise that they know, full well, it can’t deliver. Whether you’re buying for yourself, your home, or your organization, you want to invest in technology that’s likely to have a return, but not such a diminished return that you derive absolutely no competitive advantage or learning from it. There’s a balance there between the fear of losing too much and the greed of unfair advantage. To understand why these feeling develop, it helps to understand why[…]

Backcasting is a fantastic technique. It was invented in Canada. You’re welcome to use it. If it sounds like forecasting – well – that’s because it’s kind of like forecasting. With an important difference. That wikipedia page says: Whereas forecasting is predicting the future (unknown) values of the dependent variables based on known values of the independent variable, backcasting can be considered the prediction of the unknown values of the independent variables that might have existed to explain the known values of the dependent variable. I had to re-read it a few times to really get it. Once you get it, it’s just elegant. What’s beautiful is that it can silence the reactive-pure-statistician brain long enough for the prospective centre of the creative brain to imagine several futures. What I like about backcasting[…]

Jon Evans wrote a piece for Techcrunch entitled: After the end of the startup era. In it, Evans writes: We live in a new world now, and it favors the big, not the small. The pendulum has already begun to swing back. Big businesses and executives, rather than startups and entrepreneurs, will own the next decade; today’s graduates are much more likely to work for Mark Zuckerberg than follow in his footsteps. And, Because we’ve all lived through back-to-back massive worldwide hardware revolutions — the growth of the Internet, and the adoption of smartphones — we erroneously assume another one is around the corner, and once again, a few kids in a garage can write a little software to take[…]

Earlier in the month, I dined under the space shuttle Endeavour with some of the best minds in marketing science. One mind remarked: “That’s why I bring a glossary with me, oh, you want to do supervised learning? Oh you mean regression? Oh, okay, now we can talk… We’ve been talking to managers about these methods for decades, but it’s just suddenly sexy because it’s all machine learning and deep learning and reinforcement learning.” A lot of the math that underlies much of machine intelligence and artificial intelligence is indeed remarketed marketing science. And, hipsterism aside, the annoyance is understandable. Marketing science started out a bit of a revolt against the Mad Men. Some of the early stories feature post-war[…]

Bart Gajderowicz delivered a great talk at Machine Intelligence Toronto about how people go through stages in accomplishing a goal [1]. The talk was about homelessness and AI approaches to public policy. I instantly saw a connection to all sorts of tensions that people endure when they set out on a goal. To distill the concept, let’s start off with the idea that people have goals, people have emotions, and that time moves forward. As people make progress towards their goals, their emotions change over time. They start off in a good mood, in a state of uninformed optimism. Then, as negative information overwhelms their ignorance, they enter into a state of informed pessimism. So much negative information builds up[…]

Previously, I argued that you should look at the Q4-2016 VR sales figures closely and then make decisions about whether to jump in. Some figures are in. SuperData Research, a technology research firm, estimated that Oculus had sold 360,000 headsets and HTC 450,000 since their products went on sale in March and June, respectively. Both of those headsets require high-end PCs with powerful processors. The firm estimated that Sony, which began selling a virtual reality headset in October, has sold about 750,000. — NYtimes Jan 8/2017 Those aren’t encouraging install bases. Obligatory Gartner Hype Cycle image: Consolidation is a long ways off. Facebook, has deep pockets and can sustain a long chasm crossing. The legal issues with Zenimax are a distraction. This is[…]

Some work is very clearly product work. It’s work on things where the success and failure is dependent on the users of the thing. Your users pay you. Their satisfaction matters above all else. Optimizing for the satisfaction of end users is a distinct activity. Hypotheses have to be assessed and then tested – because it’s very likely that you’re going to be wrong. There’s technology that has to be set up such that it’s reliable and robust for the intermediate to long run. It’s designed to be effective and persistent, with all of the instrumentation that goes along with that. That might include manual A/B testing, user-focused analytics, and extra special attention on the optimization objective. Clear product work is[…]

A data driven culture isn’t necessarily devoid of creativity or imagination. Just the opposite. They’ll have to be especially patient around brand formation. Brands A brand exists in the mind of a person. It usually costs a lot of money for a brand to be impressed upon the cortex of a person. There are certain economies of scale that kick at scale, but still at a considerable cost. If that feels fuzzy, despair not. The framework below is fantastic:   Brand and CAC The optimization objective of a startup is valuation. To maximize valuation, Customer Acquisition Cost has to be minimized. As previously explored, nature doesn’t cooperate to keep CAC low. The point of the brand is to reduce CAC[…]

Assume that you’re a founder of a tech startup. Assume that you’ve achieved product-market-solution fit. You’ve nailed it. Time to scale. Many founders are great at sales. But not all founders are great at marketing. And that’s a bit of a problem because of three letters: CAC. The Customer Acquisition Cost CAC is the ratio between dollars spent on marketing, and new customers acquired. And it is related to valuation in a very important way. Let me explain. Take a look at the chart below. This is an output from a standard model of SaaS market penetration. Market size is 333,333 customers, the product will approach saturation at 51% of that target, with a monthly churn rate of 0.20% held[…]