Ping Playlists' "Buy All" button does not work

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I bought Alex Bain's excellent annual Christmas playlist through Ping on iTunes yesterday. I was excited that iTunes finally has a "buy all" button for shared playlists. I was less excited when I saw how it worked.

Ping allows you to download all items in a playlist, but it adds no data to them so when they arrive in your music folder they're completely out of order from the way the original playlist was organized. Much has been written about the failure of Ping and I feel bad about piling on, but this is a pretty basic problem: shared playlists are both a collection of songs and an *arrangement* of songs. To sell the group but not the arrangement is a massive fail & I think they would have been better off not offering the "Buy All" button. To re-create the list I took two screenshots of the ping page (I needed two since it scrolls after 15 songs) and displayed them as photos so I could alt-tab between the photo of the original list and my new playlist (staying in iTunes would have meant an awful lot of mouse back-and-forth between Ping and a buried playlist). It's the sort of ugly solution I don't expect from Apple.

All told, the purchase process took me about an hour last year, and about half an hour this year. It was totally worth it for me, but that's mainly because I think so highly of my friend's Christmas music curation skills. For other playlists shared this way, I think I'd pass, which is too bad for me and too bad for Apple.


Creating an "Innovation 8"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Last week we met with Nicolas Shea, the personal assistant to Chile’s Minister of Economy. He’d just returned from a trip to Israel to learn about the programs Israel sponsored to increase innovation and bring some of those lessons back to Chile. One idea he was thinking about when he came back was creating an “I8,” playing on the idea of the G8. The “I8” would include eight countries focused on encouraging innovation in their country. I8 forums would offer an opportunity to exchange best practices and find ways to work together -- they would foster and expand their countries’ innovative capacity in the same way that the G8 meets to discuss issues of broad mutual concern.

A draft list of the I8:

  • Chile
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Finland
  • Slovenia
  • New Zealand
  • Someone from Africa -- Kenya, Rawanda, South Africa?
It seems like a good list of countries that are aspirationally innovative (even if they’re not the top 8 today). We decided to do some research and see if we could come up with a good answer for the eighth country. My friend Albert suggested that the African entry should be Kenya or Rawanda, based on their low corruption, high education, and stated goals around innovation (for instance, Kenya’s Vision 2030 plan)

In the process of discussing this, Albert taught me about innovation measure like INSEAD's Global Innovation Index (GII) (pdf) and the World Economic Forum ranking on global competitiveness (pdf), which can be used as a proxy for business sophistication. It’s interesting that there’s a gap between developed business infrastructure & innovation readiness. For instance, Italy has highly developed business infrastructure, but deep issues that hold back innovation while somewhere like Kenya has less business infrastructure but does a relatively good job of encouraging new companies.

I like the idea of an Innovation 8. I hope it becomes a reality.


From Ramen to Riches

Thursday, December 2, 2010

We met the founders of Needish, a Chilean company that launched ClanDescuento, a GroupOn clone that was eventually acquired by GroupOn to run its South American operations.

The founders were extremely humble. They talked about raising $500k for 10% of their company Needish three years ago on the strength of a PowerPoint presentation and 2,000 users. The site was a personal service lead generation engine. People would ask “Where can I find a plumber to install a new sink?” and Needish would charge a plumber to answer (and presumably get the job).

Two years in, they’d gotten up to two million users and started looking for additional funding, but the business just wasn’t getting the traction they’d hoped for. They were running out of money and distributing equity widely to employees in lieu of cash compensation, which grew their “founding” team from two to six. They were on the verge of shutting down when they heard about GroupOn and decided to copy the business model in Chile. That was in January 2010. They built the product in about 6 weeks, got delayed by a magnitude 8.8 earthquake at the end of February, and launched at the end of March. At this point they had 8 employees. They booked $10,000 of revenue the first day and never looked back.

By June they were trying to fundraise again, but the deal fell apart as rumors of a big GroupOn deal swirled. GroupOn ended up buying CityDeals (the most successful European GroupOn clone), apparently deciding that it was easier to buy their way into international markets, rather than come in as a minor player later and try to dislodge an incumbent.

Later that month later GroupOn bought ClanDescuento[1], and by the end of November, they’d grown from 8 dejected employees in Chile, about to close up shop to 350 employees across all of Latin America and a grand success story.

Nearly every class in business school told a story like the one above about difficult times and difficult choices. There was always a lesson. I’m not sure what to take away from this story other than “keep persevering.” The longer you stay in business and keep pivoting, the more likely it is that you’ll land on a business model that works. That the business model they found worked quite as well as it did may have been luck, but they put themselves in a position to take advantage of the lucky break by refusing to give up.

1. How did they become the leading GroupOn clone in Chile? The buzz is that they may have been doing some pretty spam-y email marketing. If that’s true, they don’t appear to have paid a penalty for it.


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