It’s All About the Parties: Making Location-Based Service Relevant for College Kids (Part II)

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Let me touch on some comments made regarding the first post:

1-I received a lot of comments in regards to the way I sized the college student market. I sized it deductively not empirically. The point of this exercise–and this blog–is to flush out ideas and thinking. I could have simply gone to US Census and picked up the numbers of college students in 2011-2012. So to cross-check my numbers, I did. There is about 19.7 million college students attending two- to four- year institutions (I’ve embedded the excel document downloaded from the US census website). That’s not too far from my estimate of 22.8 million…

US Census Data, 2011-2012 Americans attending two- to four- year institutions

2-I’ve been asked: why should Foursquare care about college students? I discussed the subject with Adam Bordow, co-founder of Lasso, a creative mobile app startup based in LA. At first glance, Foursquare actually excluded college students from their overall strategy. He mentioned that Dennis Crowley had originally developed Foursquare for his own reality of NYC, where there is a need for real-time stream of location-based interactions. There simply hasn’t been a need for one on college campuses. “There is simply less to be discovered on a college campus which would render Foursquare less potent, and even less irrelevant if that distribution channel was pursued,” Adam emailed me. Agreed. For small colleges located in the middle of nowhere, there is no incentive for Foursquare to extend their network so that the small student body can check into the two coffee shops on their campus.

But think of larger schools located in prime cities. Harvard-Cambridge/Boston. Stanford-downtown Palo Alto and its plethora of stores, restaurants, coffee shops. Think of the larger metropolis: SF State-San Francisco. NYU or Columbia-NYC. UCLA or USC-Los Angeles. For the students attending those schools, there  is plenty of opportunity for those college students to check in at bars with their friends and get free new deals for food and beverages (what I would do for a Foursquare deal for John Harvard’s in the Square to get a discount for pitchers of beers…especially if the Niners go to the Super Bowl…it’s not like I’ve been living in Boston for the last four years getting bullied by my roommates, aka the Patriots/Tom Brady uber-fans…what better way to rub it in their faces while buying discounted pitchers of beer and batches of hot wings? Just saying).

Foursquare could go in a different direction with college students. Foursquare already has had a difficult time incentivizing check-ins. That’s not the case for merchants. Foursquare can easily flash their 15 million users when they’re trying to garner SMBs’ interest.  These mom-and-pop shops are in the early stage of their businesses, so if they can direct potential customers to their shop at a very low price, they’ll partner with Foursquare. But for younger users, Foursquare is having a more difficult time incentivizing check-ins. When you first start using Foursquare (i.e when you check into Quedoba for the first time), you can get a newbie discount for the good being sold. But perpetual users seem to be having a more difficult time unearthing discounts. For instance, Adam has checked in 445 times and has only redeemed 2 deals. I’ve checked in over 110 times and I haven’t received notice of any sort of deal. I think Foursquare needs to offer a different sort of incentive for college students–or, as a matter of fact, any of their users, but that’s a different subject altogether–if they are ever to start using Foursquare. So how does Foursquare reel them in?

Offer real-time check-ins for parties.

Fact: college students go out. Even at Harvard  (trust me, it happens more frequently than you would imagine.) More than once, on a Saturday night, one of my friends asks/emails/group texts “Where’s the party tonight? Where’s everyone meeting up?” If Foursquare could leverage its real-time check-ins, college students could know where their friends are partying. Whether it’s a bar in Boston, a final club on Mt. Auburn street (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnUhNw5AtYU&feature=fvsr), or a party in Eliot House, college students will check-into the parties, write in comments (“sweet party”, “too many bros”, “rough scene”), and allow for their Foursquare friends to see where they are. Even if it’s a random Monday night and you want to go Karoeke at a bar in Cambridge, Foursquare can alert your friends that you’ll be there. Moreover, if those places haven’t been created on Foursquare, you can create them yourself–just as you can put your house on the map in Foursquare, enabling you to check-in (and become mayor right away), you can create new locations where you might go out and party.

Remember the the end goal isn’t to offer college students rebate deals: we want them to start using Foursquare. Let college students party, and let them brag digitally about how sweet their time is–and once their friends see that,  they will hop on the bandwagon, and hopefully become new Foursquare users.

Indeed, there is potential for a location-based service to streamline one’s social life. Putting it like that sounds sad, but how would we describe what Facebook and Twitter have done in the recent past? They’ve made social interaction online basically seamless and transparent…why can’t Foursquare do the same when it comes to connecting people when they go out?

I’ve been operating under that hypothesis for these last two posts because I feel that if Foursquare can get more users, they will have more data available to them regarding the tendencies of the people checking-in. From there they can figure out how to use that to their advantage and monetize their product. But it doesn’t seem like Foursquare wants to go in the direction I’ve outlined in these last two posts. As Adam pointed out, Crowley recently said in gigacom.com, “People know us [Foursquare] for check-ins, but with the data, we way to push people more toward the recommendation engine and the way to do that is make that prominent and a big part of the app.”

Yet…when is data convincing enough? When you have truck loads. How do you get truck loads of data? You get more users.

Plus it wouldn’t hurt if I were able to check into John Harvard’s, order a cheaper batch of buffalo wings, and feel good about myself when the 49ers win the Super Bowl. Just saying.

PS Many thanks to Adam Bordow, co-founder of Lasso. Follow him on Twitter @bordow or check out his creative website at adambordow.com. More on Lasso soon–stay tuned for more about that!

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Categories: Mobile, Technology

“You’re on Foursquare, bro?”: Why Foursquare isn’t relevant to college kids, but should be (part I)

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

“You’re on Foursquare?!?” My buddy gasped the other night. “What’s the point of using Foursquare, bro?”

He had a point. Out of pure curiosity, I recently started using Foursquare a couple of weeks ago. For so long I had heard great things about the mobile platform…but it had yet to be relevant to me. So I decided to check it out a couple of weeks ago, and started using Foursquare as often as possible. I checked into “Chateau Popp” as often as I could; checked into every library at Harvard every day; lined up some sweet badges (I unlocked the Bookworm badge in no time); and next thing you know, I had racked up a couple of mayorships, and even unlocked a deal at Chipotle. So now that I had become a pretty avid user (can you say 143 points in 5 days?), I asked myself the same question my buddy asked me: What’s the point of Foursquare?

Foursquare is an incredibly simple to use product with great design: right there we already have the great first step of a successful startup. And Foursquare knows that: with 15 million users checking in around 1 billion times, it has already garnered a lot of success. Step #1 for startups: build a easy-to-use, well-designed product that gains traction quickly. Step # 2: worry about monetizing it. So far Foursquare has done a formidable job with Step # 1. As for Step #2…well, if my buddy’s comment is any indication, the fact that Foursquare appears to be irrelevant–I don’t think we could say the same thing about Facebook or Twitter–makes Step # 2 a far reach (at least for now). Foursquare should be worried by Facebook’s recent integration of Places into its platform. And considering that location-based services is becoming a more crowded field with the likes of Gowolla, aka-aki, Loopt, and Rumble (to name of few of the hundreds), Foursquare needs to realize that while it has a great product, it needs to position it more strategically.

I’m not saying that Foursquare needs to rethink its business development strategy. Instead, I’m saying that in the short-term, the location-based service provider needs to make themselves more relevant day-to-day. Foursquare has a great product because it adds another dimension to social media.  For Foursquare, Location, location, location is key–at least that’s the paradigm the New York based startup is trying to inculcate within the larger matrix of social media technologies. Just as Facebook made wall-to-wall posts and photo sharing the first pillars of social media websites, Foursquare is trying to make location another cornerstone of  web-based interaction. I hope that Foursquare succeeds in this endeavor; while I know that location-based social media can be construed as simply another voyeuristic dimension to already narcissistic set of technologies, I think Foursquare can make a meaningful addition to this field. The billion dollar question is: how exactly to they do that? Have they already done it but they simply haven’t gained traction yet? Or do they need to change their outlook on the market?

So where should they start? My answer: the college-age demographic. In a series of posts, I will be looking at how big that market is, why Foursquare should more aggressively pursue that demographic, and what exactly Foursquare should do to gain more traction in that untapped market.

How many students attending 2 to 4 year institutions are there in the US? Let’s make some assumptions. If there are 320 million people in the US, and assuming that the life span for Americans is 80 years old, then there are 4 million people per year (aka 4 million 21-one year old, 4 million 5-year olds, etc). If we assume that the ages of 18-24 constitute the ages of college-level students, that’s 28 million people. However, since we know that not everyone in each year goes to college, let’s assume a 60 percent penetration rate for each year (aka 60 percent of 20 year olds go to college, 60 percent of 21 year olds go to college, etc), that’s 2.4 million * 7 = 16.8 million people between the ages of 18 to 24 who are in enrolled in either 2 or 4 year college. Let’s also not forget those who are returning to school-out of the 60 million people between the ages of 35 to 50, 10 percent are going back to school (6 million). so 16.8 million plus 6 million=22.8 million students who are attending 2 to 4 year colleges in the US. 

Foursquare has 15 million users…and there is a potential market of close to 23 million? Out of the 15 million users that Foursquare already has, even if we assume that 30 percent are college students constitute that 15 million already using Foursquare, that’s still 23 million-5 million=18 million potential users that Foursquare can tap into. Even if they only capture 20 percent of that market, 3.6 million new uses increases its user base by close to 25 percent…that’s not a bad showing. If Foursquare wants to become more relevant, it can very simply attract more users. With an even stronger user base, who knows what will happen here?

Great product, great design, strong user base…so why isn’t Foursquare as relevant as Facebook or Twitter?

Categories: Mobile, Technology

What Lies Beneath the Surface: How College Water Polo is Like Working for a Startup

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing water polo since I was in middle school, and I can tell from experience that this sport reaffirms all the trite adages you hear. “There’s no I in Team” – I wish I could get a penny for each time someone has said that to me; “Leave it all in the pool” – At least four different coaches have told me that. “Now begins the aquatic phase of your workout gentlemen. Please get in my pool, NOW” – Ok, that last one I only heard from only one coach, who was really eccentric. So when he consistently said “Play with heart!” and “Push your teammate!” well, voila, you have a recipe of corniness that even Madame Popp can’t even use for her dinner dishes.

Pleasantries aside, ten years of competition has reaffirmed my conviction that playing water polo teaches valuable lessons. My high school coach always made sure that if you were tardy to a practice or a game, there would be repercussions, regardless of whether you were a starter or bench player. Even if you were the captain of the team, you still weren’t going to play in a heated league division quarterfinal game. It didn’t matter if you were 2 minutes late or 2 hours late…And let me tell you, I’ve never hated sitting on the bench more than I did that day in 2007.

Now that I’m nearing the end of college and getting ready to enter the real world (or rather, appearing to be ready), I can also say that two passions of mine, water polo and startups, interestingly have a lot of overlap. When I worked for a startup my summer after sophomore year as a Business Development intern and during my junior year as a Product Marketing intern (aka I did everything and anything, from planning a marketing campaign, dealing with consumers, redirecting traffic from our blogs and Twitter accounts to our company website, to strategizing potential partnerships, to taking phone calls from the CEO at 11 pm at night), I didn’t realize that the months I was dedicated to these startups were similar to the hours I was putting into water polo over the last couple of years. Two years since working for my first startup, I have come up with a concise list of how playing for a college water polo team is just like working for a startup:

1-Love your team: you always work harder for the company you keep

One of my freshman put it best today when we were grabbing breakfast at 6:20 am before a five hour day of swimming, treading, lunging, and more swimming (see what I did there?) He said, “Popp, I love this team. Even when I’m dying during a swim set, I get so excited when I look over and I see Evan (another teammate) crushing the workout. I’m so motivated that I can’t wait to play with you guys in a real game!” Freshman, so naive and succinct…but so right. If you don’t love your team, if you don’t trust the guy sitting next to you (or in my case, swimming next to you), you won’t be able to push yourself to your maximum. Your team won’t reach its goals, and won’t plan on making new ones. The same can be said for startups.

When I interned at Wisemuv, a social recommendation engine (think Hunch, Quora), our CEO brought on a team of 12 interns. Most of them hailed from UPenn, Princeton, Harvard, CalTech…I was so excited to talk to these interns, and learn from then, that I was willing to do anything. I really thought we could build something exciting, and make an impact, that I loved working on the projects I was assigned to. I never realized that working on Twitter or writing a new blog post past two in the morning was out of the ordinary. If the other interns were developing algorithms, I could make sure that people were coming to our website to check it out; if my teammate is swimming as hard as he can down a 30 meter pool, I can undoubtedly make a dime pass and assist him in making a great play.

2-Reach out to your teammates because constructive criticism only makes you better

As a senior on the team, I did not walk into preseason thinking I would get my starting job back as goalkeeper. Even though I’ve been the starter since sophomore year, that didn’t mean that I would be guaranteed my job. The other goalie, a sophomore from Hawaii, is a very skilled goalie as well. He’s big (a lot bigger than me, I’m 6″0′ and he’s 6″4′), strong, and moves well in the cage (for you non-water polo people out there, being able to move around in the cage is essential considering the high pace of the offense taking place right in front of the net). He came into preseason in shape, and ready to take my job. During preseason, I realized that all I could do to get my job back was to push myself and improve every day.

I’m not going to improve by simply sitting in my corner and analyzing my mistakes: I can’t catch them all. So I reach out to my teammates, asking them for their honest (and yes, sometimes brutal) criticism. Am I not moving well to my left? Am I consistently getting beat by this type of shot? What kind of read am I not making on the counterattack? Once I have figured out what I can do better, I incorporate immediately into the next practice and build from there. The same goes for startups: I was always in constant dialogue with our CEO, and repeatedly asked him for advice. He had over 15 years of experience, while I had only one summer of work under by belt. If I didn’t take advantage of his experiences, I would never grow as a startup enthusiast. Whenever he gave me a pointer, I wrote it down, and did my best to improve on it. If you improve, you add value to your startup; if you perfect a skill set, you add another weapon to your team, and are one step closer to a championship ring – or a $1 billion valuation.

3-We talkin’ about practice: Try out new things whenever you can

My college coach always tells us to take risks during practice. That is, don’t play “And1” water polo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2pjHjnG_5c&feature=related). Instead, take practice shots that you wouldn’t usually take. Step out of your comfort zone. In water polo, you could practice your “Hezi,” where you pump fake a couple of times, then break the rhythm of your fake before taking a shot at cage.

Take this example from my experience working for Wisemuv.  Looking back, I can confidently say that my coding skills were the weakest on the intern team (not to say I’m not interested in coding! Looking into it as we speak…stay tuned). That didn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t code at all. One of my friends told me that I should create a widget, so that it could be embedded in any website that was related to recommendation, crowdsourcing, advice-related blogs, etc. The point was to increase brand recognition and make Wisemuv recognizable, so why not try to make it go viral? Since BD was my responsibility, I decided to spearhead this project. It didn’t matter that I had no clue where to start – I did my homework and tried my best to build the widget. While I failed, it was a valuable experience for me because I realized that I needed to improve my skill set in order to be better be able to contribute to my team in the future. For water polo at Harvard, I realized that I was never going to be a presence in the cage if my leg strength was subpar; goalies need to be able to tread and explode out of the water to get to the cage’s high corners, and without strong legs, a goalie is going to look like swiss cheese in the cage. So I hit the weight room, put on 15 lbs of muscle, and came back junior year with a vengeance.

4-Always go the extra mile.

When you do more than is expected from you, everyone will notice. And once they do, they too will go the extra mile. In turn, everyone will push their boundaries, and the team will move forward. If you see one guy crush a swim set with an ear infection after having been put on bed rest for three days straight, and then lead counterattack drills for the rest of practice, you’re going to get fired up.

This goes without saying when working for a startup. You’re working in such small teams that everyone is already working long hours, wearing many hats at once, getting things done left and right. But if someone does something on their own, or takes the initiative to start a project no one else thought of, that can inspire a whole team…When you love your job, you’re willing to go the extra mile: so true for water polo and startups!

5-Take care of yourself

Since my freshman year, I’ve been battling groin and hip injuries on and off. This year I’ve made an effort to make sure that I do not get hampered by a nagging injury, or get afflicted with a new one. In the last couple of months, I’ve taken steps to strengthen my lower body. For instance, I started doing a lot more stretching to increase flexibility in my hamstrings and back. I did physical therapy all summer long, doing weighted step-ups so that my hip flexors and abductors become more resilient. During season, I plan on meeting the physical therapist once a week for deep tissue massage as to break down the fibrosis building in my hips. Hopefully (knock on wood), this will keep my body healthy, and allow me to make it through the last three months of my water polo career.

I feel that the the same is applicable for any working environment. If you’re not getting enough sleep or aren’t eating right, you’re taking away from yourself; you’re not 100%, and you effectively bring your team down. That is not to say that you can’t pull a couple of all nighters here and there to bring important projects to term. But don’t do it all the time-your body will wear down on you, and you can’t contribute when you’re running on 4 hours of sleep over 3 days.

6–You will make mistakes. Don’t dwell on them; internalize them, and move on.

As a goalie, you always wonder what would have happened if you had blocked that extra shot. For me, I wonder if I had blocked that last second shot in the second overtime of my section championship game junior year of high school, would we still have lost 9-8? Sometimes I ask myself, what would have happened if I had blocked that 5 meter shot in the fifth overtime against Iona my junior year of college–would we still have lost 11-10? Water polo, just like in life (can I have some wine with that cheese? I think Madame Popp might have some red in the back somewhere…), can’t be played by hypotheticals. All you can do is accept what went wrong, analyze it, and try your best to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

I’ve failed many times academically, personally, and athletically. But I’ve also succeeded because I have tried to make sure that I would not repeat the mistakes I committed in the past. When you’re working for a startup, if you realize that something you’re doing is not going well, then you have to accept that your approach isn’t the right one. I worked on Twitter for  three weeks trying to get our team’s Promoted Tweets to gain traction only to find that our followers hadn’t grown by more than 2%. I realized that I was not generating enough content in the Twittersphere, so I started a couple of blogs, interacted with as many people as possible on any web publishing platform that I could find, and followed thousands of people. One week later, original web site visits had grown substantially and our follower base grew 300%. Point of the story: learn, or else you’re going to lose more games than win.

7-Have fun; nothing lasts forever

While my coach has told me that I can’t get nostalgic this early in the season, I can’t help myself. Maybe it’s because I’m French and I’m sensitive to everything (this is according to my teammates, who always like to have the last laugh), I consider myself more analytic than lugubrious. Sometimes that’s a plus, and at others it is detrimental. If you get too caught up in what you’re doing, if you see every game in the pool or every project at work as a life and death battle, you will never be happy.

Sometimes I get too wrapped up in the competition and forget it’s just a game. Hopefully when I graduate, I’ll have figured out how to balance out work with everything else in my life, as I’m pretty blessed to have a great supporting cast. As Madame Popp told me when I turned eighteen, “Faites que le rêve dévore votre vie afin que la vie ne dévore pas votre rêve.” Act so that your dream may devour your life so that your life does not devour your dream–Merci, St. Exupery.

Indeed, may your dreams, whether they be found in the form of a yellow ball and two cages or in the design of your startup’s new product, amplify  your happiness. Finding that fine line between letting it consume you and letting it push you to do something meaningful is up to you.

Categories: Uncategorized

Mobile Payments: He Who Owns the Back End Owns All

August 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t want to be redundant and talk yet again about how online payments has transformed the business model for retail. I just have to walk down to University Avenue in Palo Alto to see how Amazon has cannibalized book store’s small local niches; my favorite bookstore growing up is going down and under…It makes sense though-why would consumers go buy books at local stores and pay sales tax when they can go online and circumvent that extra charge? Disclaimer: shipping and handling could cost more than the tax, but the positive externality from staying at home and saving time outweights driving over to the store.

Background aside, I thought in this post I’d map out the competitive landscape as to get a better sense of who the major players are. In any strategic scenario, I find it best to fully scope out and understand who the major players are in an ecosystem. As it is important to find out what their core competencies are, it is equally, if not more, paramount to unearth what value-added services they offer. These might be new services that the major players think have a lot of potential to drive new revenue, so they are rolled out in conjunction to their “cash cows”.

In mapping out the competitive landscape of online payments, I found that payment gateways play an under-rated role. Here’s what happens:

Transactional Flow

So what exactly do payment gateways do? I put this little diagram together to give a succinct answer:

Payment gateways are not going anywhere in the online shopping experience because they’re irreplaceable in the transactional flow. In the mobile space, this has important ramifications. Payment gateways will continue to be in the back end of mobile transactions as they link merchants with acquiring and issuing banks. Visa owns CyberSource; Google owns Google Checkout. While the payment gateway brand is transparent in NFC transactions, they work in the back end. So if NFC takes off, that means that Google can drive pure payment gateways out of business.

In the end, whoever controls the back end, or whoever controls the mechanism by which payments are processed in the mobile space,  takes home the prize.

Categories: Uncategorized

Future of NFC?

August 13, 2011 1 comment

As you can tell from my last couple of tweets, I am really interested in the payments sphere right now. The competitive landscape is already so complicated with a plethora of OS and payment platforms. From a strategic point of view, it’s really interesting, and challenging, to think where the industry is to go. There could be a play-in by security players (yes, I apologize, I interned for Symantec’s Strategy group, my first instinct is to think security), yet most concerns have been tackled already, as seen by efforts the likes  of VISA’s “Verified by Visa,” which attempt to deter identity fraud and pfishers (granted, it isn’t perfect, but it’s one of the more trusted security solutions). The major card networks are going abroad so that the payment business model, which maintains the card network’s supremacy, continues to be the de facto method of transaction. So where are the growth opportunities? In my opinion, the most exciting development in the payments industry, more specifically in the mobile landscape, is the rise of Near Fields Communications (NFC).

Some background: in the US, consumers are moving away from an SMS-based protocol and are increasingly adopting NFC. Near Field Communications can not only be used for mobile payments, as Google (see Google Wallet) and PayPal (see commercial PayPal Phone-to-Phone transaction capability) have shown in recent months. For instance, NFC devices can be used to purchase rail, metro, airline, movie, concert, or even event tickets. A NFC device can also be used as a boarding pass, thus reducing check-in delays and staffing requirements. NFC enabled devices can even be used for social networking purposes: a user can tap one NFC device to another to instantly share a contact, photo, song, application, video or website (in this regard, arguably the most popular and successful application is iPhone’s “Bump”).

The security concerns for NFC are not that daunting. Yes,the RF signal for the wireless data transfer can be picked up by antennas, and in consequence, the information being transmitted between devices can be stolen by a third party (similar to man-in-the-middle attack). Moreover, when data is being transmitted from one NFC enabled device to another, it becomes relatively easy to destroy data by using a RFID (Radio Frequency ID) jammer. “Relay attacks” are also quite common. The third party can then simply forward a request to victim (i.e the NFC enabled device user) and relay back its answer to the third party’s reader while pretending to be the owner of the victim’s smart code (very much similar to man-in-the middle attacks). Lastly, NFC enabled devices are single-factor authenticating entities; requiring a secondary, physically independent authenticating facor has not been forced into compliance by any regulatory agencies. Nonetheless, these concerns have not precluded anyone from belittling NFC. More likely than not, self-certs or PKI technology can preclude these sorts of security breaches (in my own humble opinion, I don’t see myself walking around the street with a RFID…too conspicuous?)

Nonetheless, for NFC–and inextricably, mobile payments, as its future hinges on the adoption of user friendly technology–to become consumer’s preffered method of processing transactions remotely, two big plays need to take place. Consumers first need to move away from using credit cards for purchases and begin to use their cell phones or mobile applications for processing payments. For this to happen, card networks like VISA and MasterCard, who play central roles in the payments space, need to instigate this paradigm shift. This second phenomena cannot occur if the card networks do not envision this new business model to be profitable for them in the long run.

The barriers to entry (i.e infrastucture costs, brand recognition) are high enough that non-established players are discouraged from carving out a niche within the payments sphere. And even if smaller companies decide to enter the market, differentiation is hard to come by. For instance, FaceCash, a mobile payments platform trying to turn consumer’s cell phones into digital wallets, only differentiates itself from other platforms (such as Square, founded by Jack Dorsey) by charging lower transactional fees. And if these startups want to gain any sort of traction, they may have to ally themselves with the card networks. Just as young startups enter new verticals by whitelisting their product, start-ups like FaceCash have to negotiate with the larger card networks so they can leverage their already established infrastructure and network of clients.

All in all, this means that the crown players, the VISAs and Googles, dictate the future of mobile payments. As long as  card networks decide to be tenuous in their efforts to make mobile the go-to method for processing payments, and while we wait for NFC to become more wildly adopted, the window of opportunity remains small for companies not already established in the payment space.

1-18-11: note- Square is the exception to the list of startups trying to disrupt mobile payments space. They’ve been so innovative that they’ve actually partnered with retailers such as Apple, Wal-Mart, Best-Buy so that Square users can be accepted in those venues. It will be interesting to see whether they completely change the balance in the mobile payments industry; if they become the preferred payment method, their presence could null and void the growth of NFC. Hence why Square PR has already decried that NFC won’t take off: they think they’ll overturn the balance in the industry before NFC can gain traction.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bonjour!

August 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome! This is my first blog post…I guess a quick introduction is in the works, right?

My name is Alex Popp, and I am a rising senior at Harvard University. I’m studying Intellectual History, and pursuing a secondary field in Economics, all the while trying my hand at as many subjects as I can…isn’t that the beauty of college? Studying everything and nothing? Forming lasting friendships, in my opinion, is also up there in things to do in college. Being on the Varsity Water Polo team for four years (now going on playing the sport for a decade), I’ve had my share of those, and those have my made my experiences at school that much more memorable.

I am son of French immigrants who’ve lived in California for over 20 years…Fear not, I still was raised by my mom’s French cuisine and by worshipping the French national soccer team! Growing in Menlo Park (right next to Palo Alto, aka think Stanford University), I was always really interested in what was happening in Silicon Valley. I guess you can say I caught the startup bug when my dad co-founded his own back in the late 90s, but the last three years have really opened my eyes into how exciting and rewarding working for tech companies can be.

In that spirit, I thought that I’d take a shot at blogging…at sharing my thoughts and inner musings…from discussing the “mega trends” to expressing my own opinions…I’ll maybe even talk about French cuisine (Madame Popp may guest star!), water polo, the future (deep right?), the past (nostalgic?), and everything in between. Enjoy, be entertained, and, please, think and reflect!

-Alex

Categories: Uncategorized