Don’t shoot the messenger – Exposing a challenge for Airbnb

Delivering bad news or feedback is not something any of us like to do.  It’s freaking uncomfortable.  If done incorrectly it creates conflict.  It requires preparation if you want to deliver with any true empathy.   Not to mention it requires the facts to be lined up, appropriate timing of message delivery, keeping emotions out it, and ideally offering up some for form of next step, and more.

Being in the uncomfortable position of delivering bad news is not new.  Discomfort goes back centuries.  “Back then” it was a bit worse, the bearer of bad news might himself lost an eye or perhaps their head.  We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Well that phrase has origins back to Shakespeare (1598 AD), and is all about being the person delivering the feedback or message.

This leads me to Airbnb.   I am a raving supportive fan of the travel accommodation service, as many of you know.   I can’t say enough about the unique and/or practical destinations offered by Airbnb home and apartment sharing platform.  If you haven’t used Airbnb, it is an online service whereby fellow consumers put their home or apartment up for rent during times they are not staying in it.  The inventory of destinations is growing daily.  You can stay at an Airbnb accommodation just about anywhere in the world.  Whether you stay in a treehouse, a lighthouse, an Airstream, or just a condo in San Francisco…there is truly a destination for everyone IMO.   To find your dream destination you are able to view pictures, learn about the Host, check the calendar for availability and price, and read reviews/feedback, .

This past week, I attempted to log yet another Airbnb visit during a short vacation to Los Angeles.  Only this time my Airbnb stay was not good, and it raised some concerns I have about the Airbnb service going forward.  Specifically as it relates to the accuracy of reviews given by fellow travelers…reviews that most of us use to decide whether we select a specific accommodation or not.

The particular property I chose for my stay was represented with nice photos and 22 reviews on Airbnb.  Of the 22 reviews , only one hinted at a slight negative for the property.  That negative was a busy street with accompanying traffic noise.  Well it turns out that overlooking that negative (it was a true one by the way), was just the beginning of a terrible night’s sleep and morning.

Upon arrival at the accommodation Continue reading

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How do retail investors invest? This is the process.

Several of us circled around the water cooler a couple years ago at Yahoo! Finance talking about gold (of course), SanDisk (memory for your camera), and the latest biotech stock under $5 that just popped +17%!

Of course, I was being laughed at for my newly learned background in 1oz gold Maple Leafs versus 1oz Eagles at the time.  I didn’t know much about SanDisk ($SNDK), but the woman I was with did.   She invested in and out of $SNDK over time using an interesting strategy. I had never looked at $SNDK in such a detailed way, but decided I should think different.  The biotech company (can’t remember the name) was another part of the discussion.  My peer was researching yet another at the time, and I jotted down the new ticker on my iPhone.  “Could he get another one right?” I thought.  I hoped.

I found the three of us Discovering new investing ideas via this in-person water cooler social interaction.  Via 1,000s of retail investor user interviews over the past 5 years, I’ve learned a lot about the retail investor.  Turns out the “water cooler” is Continue reading

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5 Must Read Investor Relations Articles and Blog Posts

One of the best things about being a part of StockTwits is how close I am to a constant flow of information.  Financial news and social media conversations that are published on the StockTwits stream faster, and amplified further on the web than just about any other place one could pick to publish their content.

Each week my Product and Design teams are getting closer and closer to our customers. Understanding how they are using our products, designing ways to make IROs more efficient, and helping them with analytics to help show a visible ROI.

Over the past several weeks we’ve read many great Investor Relations topics shared on StockTwits, Twitter, and across blogs as we continue to build our expertise in servicing IR professionals, their public relations counterparts, and the newly formed social media teams in their organizations.  Here are the Top 5 recent Investor Relations Articles that I think you should make sure you’ve read:

1. We Are Having a Conversation Without You (The Why of Social Media)

Chris Rudden of SteelRose Communications calls it BIG TIME in his blog post.  If anything else, the main take-away is the re-quote, “”Your customers are having a conversation without you” (Social CEOs Panel, Social Media Week Vancounver 2011).  Replace ‘customers’ with ‘Investors’, and you get the picture.”  Wow, how true is this!  All we see is investor conversation on StockTwits, and our partner sites see a growing volume of interest in this conversation as their engagement around investor conversations continues to grow.  He closes his post by saying there is Continue reading

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You’ve probably shipped a Product, but did she like it?

Have you ever shipped a product?  Before you say “no”, I would probably say “yes”.

Think about that music compilation cassette tape, CD, or playlist you made for a special someone, friend or party. Remember now?  Did he/she/they like it?

If she did like it, it was probably because you thought about her listening to it as you poured your heart into the song selection, the play-list order, and the fade between songs.

You thought…what are her favorite songs that she heard playing in your car?  What songs has she told you that she loves – maybe via a smile, perhaps during a movie, or maybe via a thumbs up on Pandora.   Likely you placed a song into the mix that was new to her, one that you thought she would like because what you know about her.  If you’ve done this, then you’ve built a product.  If she/he liked it, and still listens to it today (years later), then you built a really successful product.

When you built this product you were only successful because you listened to what he/she wanted, and you added in what you knew about them when you built it.  You cared about her liking it.  If you hadn’t taken her into account then your friend who enjoys 80s couples-skate music, will have received your Judas Priest/Ratt compilation and lied to you about how she liked it.

Scale this to what 10 friends like, and you can build a product for an Enterprise, such as the Department of Defense, P&G ($PG), Intel ($INTC), Alcoa ($AA),  or other.  Scale this process to 1M users, and you’ve built a product that Consumers are enjoying (StockTwits, Facebook, etc).

The process to understand what a successful Enterprise product looks like involves interaction with multiple enterprises in the segment you are targeting.  It requires listening for pain points that are revealed as you understand their business processes.  It means you understand their corporate software stack.  Windows? Oracle? SAP?  The point here is that you need to listen, and it doesn’t take 20 customer to learn, it take a number <10 in most cases to get traction.

On the Consumer product front, it’s just not enough to talk to 10 consumers.  Unless you are Steve Jobs having an intuition unlike any other seen before, you do need to do user research.  You need to Continue reading

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Startups chasing startups – check these boxes first.

Two of my mentors and colleagues, Bernd Meier and Nick Efthymiou, passed away a few years back. Aggressive cancer claimed both of them quickly, and I am sad they are not here today.  To sit beside them at the time, as well as Steve Humphreys, Robert Schneider, and Ed Macbeth in the same business…wow I didn’t even know what I had.

I was in my late 20s, and business trips meant heading out to The Beltway with the coolest sales guy we had.  We’d kill it in our meeting with a Federal systems integrator, and close out the night doing donuts with our rental car while we tested the e-brake.  Fun times.  I was on the hockey stick pay scale as a quickly growing product manager in the Valley.  I had my pre-IPO stock options.  I was with a global company traveling the world.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that these men were teaching me things that I would carry forever.  I was learning how to build a business.  Build a real business because we were selling to real customers.  We were a startup designing and selling products to big fish out there (Dell, Northrop Grumman, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, DOD, SanDisk, Hitachi, CableLabs, etc.).  Our partnerships were done the same.  We only spent time with those partners in our ecosystem that helped us get better access and closeness with the customer who would pay us.  We mapped out the ecosystem.   We knew the partners we need to work closely with.  We determined the win-win.  There was a goal in mind — to deliver something of value to our customer together.   We didn’t waste time talking with partners who just wanted to talk with us.  We weren’t allowed to Continue reading

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