This evening I went to the latest Agile London event, hosted at Thomas Cook, at a supremely convenient location about quarter of a mile away from the Endava office.
Our host for the evening was Jesus Fernandez, the Development Manager at Thomas Cook. In a concise introduction he described how Thomas Cook has been consolidation pretty much everything – from its management team to the brands it was selling, to its technology platforms.
When we present our innovation process or new ideas for clients, one of the most common first questions is “How do you think like that?”
This applies to all companies, from small start-ups to very large financial services organisations.
When the question is asked, the rest of the audience often pick up their pens as though we’re going to answer with a poignant, silver bullet answer. But as soon as we do answer, you can see the disappointment in everyone’s eyes.
I’m sorry, but the answer is much simpler than they expected.
I’ve started using Uber in the last few days, and it’s transformative to the taxi industry. It’s one of those concepts which makes you think “I wish I thought of that first”. But not everyone agrees, and unfortunately for them, that resistance is probably one of the success factors in any consumer digital transformation offering.
In essence, Uber is a mobile app to call a taxi. It replaces the call to the minicab/ taxi office, and provides more functionality than the old model, because as soon as you call a car, you can literally watch that car drive towards you on a map. Continue reading Isn’t Uber super?→
I’m writing this article at 35,000ft above sea-level, on a flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta. Before taking off, I sat in the marvel of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 building watching MotoGP on my smartphone, in what looked like an immaculate resolution.
At the start of the summer, I took most of the family and some friends to Fort William to climb Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak. Whilst the 2001 census reported that Fort William has only 10,000 people living in the town, I suspect there is regularly the same number again in tourists and visitors. Whilst in Fort William, my phone hardly had any reception. In fact, my mobile hardly worked north of Glasgow. Other members of the journey were on different networks, and coverage was also patchy across the group. Continue reading The digital divide in the UK→
Airbnb’s investors have reportedly pushed the company’s valuation to over $10bn, leading some industry commentators to claim that this type of valuation proves we are in a second dotcom bubble.
Remember, the first dotcom bubble had many weak business models where pretty much any company that had a domain name was worth billions.
This time round, there are some sound business models, which are disrupting industries not rebadging it. Airbnb is a disruptor, and needs to be examined before we come back to the question whether we’re in another bubble.
There was a time when I thought that the Internet spelt the end for intermediaries, or third-party agents. Surely, I imagined, users would go and transact direct with brands – from flights to banks, from insurance to mobile phones.
Agents have comparison engines to thank for averting disaster. Comparison engines finally showed the added value that agents offer.
Until comparison engines, third parties had been purely introductory agents. Think of a recruitment consultant – they are pairing together, or introducing – a candidate with their potential future employer. Estate agents do a similar role. And the Internet looked like it would disintermediate the middle man by offering a direct service.
Along came comparison engines and aggregators (on the Internet there isn’t much of a difference). Here we could see more choice, price comparisons, and feedback from other users.
Travel agents are still having a tough time economically. In the travel sector, the real winners have been startups and companies which have completely transformed themselves into a digital company.
We’re seeing the same story across many other industries – in retail (think of Amazon!), recruitment, real estate and finance. Finance is particularly interesting because financial services organisations could become “utilities” where customers go to a third party agency for a financial product (e.g. a loan), the cheapest one is shown and the user goes through to complete the transaction.
This is already happening with the insurance market – Compare the Market and other comparison engines have bigger brand recognition and fundamentally, loyalty, than the insurance companies it passes business through to.
Today’s question is whether insurance and financial companies want to be, or mind being, seen as utilities or value-add services. To answer this, it would be interesting to see the transactional statistics of insurance aggregators – to compare (forgive the pun) whether customers compare insurance companies and then click on the companies that they recognise.
If users are selecting the insurance companies which aren’t easily recognisable, it’s a signal that the industry has already turned into a utility model, and agents are here to stay for a while longer.
My view of the future of the Internet is that many free apps and sites we currently take for granted will soon charge small amounts (nanopayments). I was discussing Facebook with a friend recently who said they won’t join Facebook until Facebook pay people to join. His point of view is that Facebook make their revenue from user generated content (UGC), so they should pay users for that content. It’s an interesting point.
One of my favourite user generated content websites is TripAdvisor. In fact, when I go away from home both with the family and on business travel, I almost always review the place I’ve just been to. And just as importantly, I usually review the place I’m going to on TripAdvisor before I book.
Financially, TripAdvisor is doing well – in revenue growth, profitability and cash flow. According to Yahoo!, the financial highlights are as follows:
Fiscal Year Ends:
Most Recent Quarter (mrq):
31 Mar 2013
Profit Margin (ttm):
Operating Margin (ttm):
Return on Assets (ttm):
Return on Equity (ttm):
Revenue Per Share (ttm):
Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy):
Gross Profit (ttm):
Net Income Avl to Common (ttm):
Diluted EPS (ttm):
Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy):
Total Cash (mrq):
Total Cash Per Share (mrq):
Total Debt (mrq):
Total Debt/Equity (mrq):
Current Ratio (mrq):
Book Value Per Share (mrq):
Cash Flow Statement
Operating Cash Flow (ttm):
Levered Free Cash Flow (ttm):
TripAdvisor’s business model, which should be called UGBM (User Generate Business Model – I just made this up), demonstrates what my friend was describing – users such as me, providing reviews of where to stay, and earning TripAdvisor literally a couple of million dollars per day.
This last week has been a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. It started on Saturday night with Nightrider London – cycling from Alexandra Palace in London via all the famous sites in London to Crystal Palace and back again. It was 100km of surprising hills and wonderful sites, and to make it slightly harder, I cycled from home to the start, and the start was at midnight. The aim of the ride was not only the exercise, but also to support the fantastic Kids Inspire charity which help children from challenging backgrounds (it’s not too late to donate).
As soon as I got back from the cycle ride I was off to Endava’s New York office. I travel to New York every six weeks or so to work with the team there. The office is three years old and already has a great client list spread across the United States, and there’s still a lot more opportunity in the market place.
This visit was slightly different because we had a sales presentation in San Francisco. I’ve been to San Francisco once before, also for a sales presentation (back in the IMG days). The last visit was first thing in the morning, so we flew into SF in the evening, had dinner with the client, presentation in the morning and flew straight back out.
This time, the visit was just as short – I was only in San Francisco for 20 hours, but the presentation was in the afternoon so I went for a run around the city centre and the docks in the morning where we saw Alcatraz and some seals. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too hot, and the sales presentation went really well. All in all the city really appealed.
San Francisco has quickly become one of my favourite cities in the World. Clean, geeky, sunny and friendly.
Unfortunately I could only stay on the west coast for a short period of time because I needed to get back for some prior meetings on Friday and we’re going on a family holiday for a special weekend (both my birthday – a big one, and a friend’s birthday).
Data privacy in the news
During my time in the US, the media was full of coverage about Edward Snowden, the latest so called whistle-blower who has told the press that the US government stores all the intra- and inter-American phone records.
The media has been balanced, mainly because the public opinion in the US is equally balanced. According to a poll of Americans, 56% found it acceptable that the government has this information. I agree. My opinion is that it’s similar to all the surveillance cameras we have in London – I don’t really care about them because I’m personally not doing anything wrong. And if, Heaven forbid, we get a nasty Right Wing government who might take advantage of all these phone records and cameras, well I expect I’ll have bigger issues to deal with than my phone record analysis.
Two of my favourite pieces of analysis about the Snowden incident were in the San Francisco Chronicle. First was Peter Scheer who wrote in an opinion column:
“The logic of warfare and intelligence has flipped. Warfare has shifted from the scaling of military operations to the selective targeting of individual enemies (think of “body counts” during the Vietnam War). Intelligence gathering has shifted from the targeting of known threats to wholesale data mining for the purpose of finding terrorists.”
And on a slightly lighter side (but there was a serious undertone to the article), Caleb Garling wrote an article with some advice on guidelines to avoid leaving a digital footprint.
“Do all your social networking in person at a local bar or restaurant – provided you pay cash for your drinks, there aren’t security cameras and no one takes your pictures and posts it to Facebook”.
Just imagine that last point – real world social networking!
For my friends and colleagues in the UK who think we’re in another dotcom bubble, you’d have loved the front page of the newspaper. The headline was “Building on tech’s success, Job growth spurs record breaking need for apartments, condos”
The current need for housing the boom in the technology sector in Silicon Valley has exceeded the first Dotcom bubble. Astounding.
And to add fuel to the fire (or perhaps ‘adding washing up liquid to the bubble’), Google has officially bought Waze, which I’ve commented on previously. Google has bought it mainly so that no one else can buy it. Those competitors included Facebook and Apple. Spending $1.03bn on a defensive investment like this, for a company with no notable historical revenue (let alone profit) is a pretty big sign of the market.