#12: Step-by-Step Exercises to Define Your Product Strategy

Below, are all the exercises from the product strategy essays in one place. I have also included a Google Slides document that you can…

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#10 The Quarterly Product Strategy Meeting

How to run a strategy meeting to keep strategy “front and center” and accelerate both results & learning

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#9 The GEM Model

Prioritization of growth, engagement, and monetization to keep organizations aligned.

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Waresix hauls in $14.5M to advance its push to digitize logistics in Indonesia

Waresix, one of a handful of startups aiming to modernize logistics in Indonesia — the world’s fourth most populous country — has pulled in $14.5 million to grow its 18-month-old business.

This new investment, Waresix’s Series A, is led by EV Growth — the growth-stage fund co-run by East Ventures — with participation from SMDV — the investment arm of Indonesia corporation Sinar Mas — and Singapore’s Jungle Ventures . The startup previously raised $1.6 million last year from East Ventures, SMDV and Monk’s Hill Ventures. It closed a seed round in early 2018.

Waresix is aiming to digitize logistics, the business of moving goods from A to B, which it believes is worth a total of $240 billion in Indonesia.

A large part of that is down to the country’s geography. The archipelago officially has over 17,000, but there are five main ones. That necessitates a lot of challenges for logistics, which are said to account for 25-30 percent of GDP — a figure that is typically below five percent in Western markets — while Indonesia barely scraped the top 50 rankings in World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index.

But, as Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the key market for digital growth in the region, that makes this an attractive problem to solve… or, rather, attractive industry to modernize.

Like others in its space worldwide — which include Chinese unicorn Manbang and BlackBuck in India — Waresix is focused on optimizing logistics by making the process more transparent for clients and more efficient for haulage companies and truckers. That includes removing the chain of ‘middle man’ brokers, who add costs and reduce transparency, and provide a one-stop solution for transportation by land or sea, as well as cold storage and general cargo handling.

As of today, Waresix claims a fleet of more than 20,000 trucks and over 200 warehouses partners across Indonesia. The company said it plans to use this new capital to expand that coverage further. In particular, that’ll include additional land transport options and additional warehouse capacity in tier-two cities and more remote areas. That’s a push that founders Andree Susanto (CEO), Edwin Wibowo (CFO), and Filbert Hansel (CTO) — who met at UC Berkley in the U.S. — believe fits with Indonesia’s own $400 billion commitment to improve national infrastructure and transport.

Waresix trucks

It is also consistent with East Ventures, the long-standing early-stage VC, which has backed a pack of young companies aiming to inject internet smarts into traditional industries in Indonesia. Some of that portfolio includes Warung Pintar, which develops smart street vendor kiosks, Kedai Sayur, which is digitizing street vendors, and Fore Coffee, which draws inspiration from China’s digital-first brand Luckin Coffee, which recently listed in the U.S.

Now with EV Growth, which reached a final close of $200 million thanks to LPs that include SoftBank, the East Ventures has the firepower to write larger checks that go beyond seed and pre-Series A deals as it has done with Waresix.

But the …read more

Starbucks Might Lose the War on Straws

Starbucks is removing plastic straws in an effort to focus on sustainability, but this initiative may have other harmful implications.

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PayU, Naspers’ global fintech firm, enters Southeast Asia with acquisition of Red Dot Payment

PayU, the Naspers owned fintech firm that specializes in emerging markets, is broadening its global reach into Southeast Asia after it announced a deal to buy a majority stake in Singapore-based Red Dot Payment.

Naspers is best known for its payments and fintech business in markets like India, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe, but now it will enter Southeast Asia, a market with over 600 million consumers and rapidly rising internet access.

PayU plans to tap that potential through Red Dot, an eight-year-old startup founded by finance veterans which offers services that include a payment gateway, e-commerce storefronts and online invoicing across Southeast Asia. PayU said it has acquired “a majority stake” in the business. It did not specify the exact size but it did disclose that the deal values Red Dot at $65 million.

It isn’t clear exactly how much Red Dot had raised from investors overall — its Series B was $5.2 million but the value of prior rounds were not disclosed — but its backers include Japan’s GMO, Wavemaker, Skype co-founder Toivo Annus and MDI Ventures. The company said that that “the majority” of its investors exited through this transaction, but some stakeholders — including CEO Randy Tan — are keeping shares with a view to a later buyout in full.

That’s important for PayU, according to CEO Laurent le Moal, who stressed that the company believes in retaining teams and empowering them through acquisitions, rather than simply buying an asset.

“We have to strike the balance between a solid majority [acquisition] and an opportunity” for founders, he told TechCrunch in an interview.

PayU plans to put “real investment” into the startup, whilst also integrating its services into its ‘Hub’ of services and tech, a stack that is shared with its mesh of global business and was built from its acquisition of Israel’s Zooz. PayU’s India business alone is estimated to be worth $2.5 billion, but its overall business is hard to value but more details emerge of its global business as Naspers lists select entities through an IPO in Europe.

Back to the deal, Tan called it “a marriage made in heaven,” and he also revealed that Red Dot had turned down recent investment and acquisition offers from three other suitors.

“They [PayU] operate globally and have over 300,000 merchants, including Facebook, Google and the kind of clients we aspire to win,” he said.

So why Southeast Asia, and why now?

“We want to build the number one payments company for high growth markets,” le Moal said. “If you look at what the top 10 economies will be in 2030, half are in Southeast Asia and the rest are growth markets we are already in

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When not to call a Blue a Blue — functional colour names for Design Systems

Why it’s wrong to call a blue colour “Blue” when you’re building a design system, and why we should all be using a functional approach

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Drifting champion tackles Goodwood with VR, 5G and one tiny startup’s tech

Stunt driver Vaughn Gittin Jr. took a Lincoln MKZ through its paces at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, drifting the vehicle and taking it up a signature hill climb. Except Gittin wasn’t in the car.

Donning a Samsung VR headset, Gittin was controlling the vehicle miles away from the Goodwood arena using a teleoperation system developed by Portland, Ore., startup Designated Driver and Vodafone’s 5G network.

The specially equipped Lincoln MKZ, dubbed the S-Drone, is sporting blacked out windows. The eyes of the vehicle are the numerous Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phones mounted on the roof. Video is transmitted using Vodafone’s 5G network to the Designated Driver remote operating station. That’s where Gittin sits and controls the vehicle.

Typically, Designated Driver’s remote teleoperations driver would sit in front six screens and use controls like a steering wheel and pedals to control the vehicle. This demonstration, which was held before the Goodwood event officially began Thursday, took it to the next level by adding virtual reality and the 5G network.

Gittin will stunt drive remotely on July 5 and throughout the weekend in the Goodwood Arena at FOS. Or you can watch a demonstration below.

The marketing around 5G can leave one indifferent to the technology. But 5G does hold a lot of promise for autonomous vehicles and teleoperations systems. Remote controlling a vehicle requires instantaneous and constant flow of video and inputs from the vehicle. It simply won’t work safely or consistently if there’s even a second of lag time. A latency-free video connection is critical to properly executing such an operation.

“We’ve pioneered state of the art teleops technology by leveraging 5G,” Designated Driver CEO Manuela Papadopal said. “We’re proud to push boundaries for mobility.”

The demonstration at Goodwood aims to show how 5G can erase those concerns and become a critical technology for safety-critical applications like remote driving a vehicle. It’s also the latest test of Designated Driver’s tech. The startup recently remotely controlled a vehicle at Goodwood from its offices in Portland, Ore., some 5,000 miles and an ocean away. The company believes this was the world’s first transatlantic teleoperations demonstration.

This techcentric demonstration might seem out of place at the annual hill climb event where human driven vehicles wind their way through narrow hay and brick-lined passages. The future is trickling into this historic event. Last year, Roborace became the first self-driving to successfully complete the hill climb, albeit with a bit more caution than the human-driven vehicles.

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Spotify needs to crack down on labels snatching user data

Spotify seems to have learned little from the Facebook developer platform’s scandals despite getting a huge boost from the social network in its early days. Spotify has been caught allowing record labels to grab tons of unnecessary user data and permissions to even control their accounts just so people can “pre-save” upcoming song releases.

An investigation by Billboard’s Micah Singleton found major label Sony’s app for pre-saving demanded access to users’ email address, what you’ve listened to and saved to your library, playlists you’ve made or subscribed to, artists you follow, and what you’re playing right now. It also asks to be able to take actions on your behalf including change who you follow, add or remove songs from your library, create/edit/follow playlists, and even control Spotify on your devices.

An example of Universal Music Group’s pre-save app that asks for unnecessary user data and access permissions

This means that by agreeing to use a pre-save feature, a record label could index you music tastes and determine your current mood for marketing purposes, subscribe you to all of their artists and playlists, force you to create playlists that include their artists or add them to your existing playlists, and delete or unfollow any music or artists represented by their competitors.

Since users often speed through platform app permission screens assuming they’re just asking for what’s required, many likely gave up valuable data about themselves and the ability to manipulate their accounts without fully understanding what was happening. Other major labels like Warner and Universal’s pre-save apps like this one similarly ask for 10 types of permission — most extraneous.

In reality, the only permission a pre-save app should need is to be able to add the song you wanted to pre-save to your library. Anything else is theoretically prohibited by Spotify’s developer policy section 5.2: “You will only request the data you need to operate your Spotify Developer Application.” If you’ve used these apps, you can go into your Spotify account settings here to remove their access.

In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, platforms like Spotify should know better than to let developers run amok without proper oversight. That’s why I was so disappointed when Spotify refused to provide a statement, explanation, or even talk with me about the issue.

Offering a flexible developer platform has plenty of advantages for users. Apps for DJing with streaming music, discovering new bands, or synchronizing playback with friends could be built with rightful and transparent use of Spotify’s APIs. But for something as simple and common as volunteering to have a new song from your favorite band show up in your library on the day it’s released shouldn’t become a lure for an exploitative data grab.

That’s why Spotify should build its own in-house pre-save app that labels could all use to pre-promote their releases. Approved labels and their artists should …read more

SV Academy just landed $9.5 million to offer tuition-free training that puts people in tech jobs

When you live in Silicon Valley, it feels like nearly everyone works in tech and that entry into the industry is wide open. Of course, the reality is very different. Even as software eats the world, not everyone has the training or connections to land a high-paying job in either the traditional tech industry or with a company that’s actively embracing its digital future.

In fact, it would be challenging to interest an executive recruiter in someone who doesn’t have a tech background and didn’t go to college, yet a company called SV Academy is doing just that. According to cofounder and CEO Rahim Fazal, the nearly two-and-a-half-year-old, Bay Area company is currently helping 100 people every 30 days — or 1,200 per year — land jobs at companies like SurveyMonkey, Palo Alto Networks, and PayPal.

Very notably, it costs these job candidates nothing. Employers pay SV Academy between $12,000 to $15,00 per hire; all the prospects really need to do is convince SV Academy that they have the drive required to take a 12-week, training program that teaches the skills necessary for tech-based sales roles, plus a year of ongoing training and mentorship for a year after they graduate.

It sounds like a great deal, and it is, which is why SV Academy says it has more interest than it can handle. Fazal tells us that the company, which received 1,000 applications over eight months in its first year of operations, is now receiving 1,000 applications a week from people who’ve largely heard of the company through word of mouth.

Because it’s focused on grooming candidates who are serious about developing new careers (and will stay in their jobs), SV Academy is loath to scale up to accommodate that kind of demand. Still, a new round of funding should help widen the funnel a bit. Until recently, the company was backed by $2 million that it raised a couple of years ago from Bloomberg Beta, Rethink Education, Precursor Ventures, Uprising Ventures, 500 Startups and WTI.

The money was enough for SV Academy to achieve profitability and get to the point of placing employers on a waiting list. But with demand beginning to more seriously outpace its supply of candidates, SV Academy recently hit the market again, sharing exclusively that it has just closed on $9.5 million in Series A funding led by Owl Ventures with participation from Kapor Capital, Strada Education Network, and several earlier backer participating, namely Bloomberg, Rethink, and Uprising.

It isn’t the first time that Fazal has started a company that has taken off. He cofounded a company a decade ago that sold to Oracle, where he spent the next two and a half years. But SV Academy is even closer to his heart, given that he is exactly the kind of person the SV Academy wants to lift up — someone smart but lacking …read more