Things I love

I know there has been a lot of negativity on this blog lately in connection with my coverage of the daily deals space. New readers may be wondering, what the hell? Does this guy like anything? Well, in fact I do. I have written about many of these. (All of the links are to pieces I’ve written.)

My Keen Newports at Cinnamon Bay in St. John

My Keen Newports at Cinnamon Bay in St. John

Here are some of them:

  • NEW Instagram. It’s a quick and easy way to share memories and connect with others.
  • NEW Chromebook. I was skeptical of the Chromebook when it first came out. But I recently took mine on a 2 1/2 week trip (along with my iPad mini) and it performed really well. At only $250, if I happen to forget it at a TSA checkpoint, I won’t lost sleep over it.
  • NEW iPad mini. The best tablet ever. Despite the lack of a retina display. When I pick up a regular iPad now, I notice its bulkiness more than I notice the display.
  • Sonos. Wireless networking and music is complicated. Unless you’re using Sonos. It, like Apple, makes the complex simple.
  • fitbit. This little gadget keeps track of my daily steps. Calling it a pedometer would be understating what it does. It’s an integral part of my batshit crazy challenge.
  • moo. The funky printing company makes high quality, full-color business cards. The cards are beautiful and their customer service is outstanding.
  • gogo. Suddenly, transcontinental flights go by in no time thanks to gogo inflight. I was so excited about the technology that I took a flight in 2008 just to test it out.
  • Costco. Great prices, great treatment of employees. For what reasons, other than low price point, do consumers shop at Costco?
  • Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack. Wonderful service, friendly employees and fair pricing.
  • Square. A product that is optimal for its target market. What Square’s new Register and Card Case means for small businessesUpdate 5/5/13: I still love Square for use by small businesses. But I’m having a hard time justifying it given the valuation and the fact that they lose money on small dollar transactions.
  • foursquare. Constantly pushing the ball forward on mobile innovation. Foursquare 3.0 takes mobile ball to a whole new level. Update 5/5/13: I loved them when I wrote this post 2 years ago. But in that time, the company has failed to gain meaningful consumer traction and hasn’t come up with a business model.
  • Google. Incredible innovation that has transformed the world. Maps, Transit, Gmail are all amazing products. I really wish I’d been better friends with Larry Page in high school. I remember when I was at AOL and Maps launched. The head of Mapquest sent out an email saying nobody would ever use those features. I knew he was wrong. To be fair, there are products that I disagree with: Google Offers and Book Search. Google TV is a disaster and I don’t think Chromebooks are going anywhere. Update 5/5/13: I don’t see Chromebook Pixel going anywhere. Google Wallet’s strategy is one of the dumbest things I can think of in payments. (And there are a lot of dumb things in payments.)
  • Facebook. A revolutionary platform for social connectivity.
  • American Express. Really terrific customer service and great products. Innovation like its partnership with foursquare and the launch of Serve. I’ve been a cardmember since 1993 and currently have six different AMEX cards.
  • Netflix. Killed a multibillion dollar competitor and staved off threats from Wal-Mart and Amazon. It’s stock has outperformed Google by miles.
  • Quora. A new platform for creating, sharing and discovering high quality content.
  • Khan Academy. Talk about changing the world. One man on his quest to revolutionize education. It’s much needed.
  • Apple. Some mock Steve Jobs for hyperbole like “magical” and “revolutionary”. But he and Apple have created the most amazing products over the last few years. Apple was the first one to say to carriers, “Screw you. We’re going to build something consumers will love.” I knew when iPhone was announced that it would be huge. Despite naysayers, Apple has built the most successful retail presence ever. Unlike most companies, they focus on the full product experience.
  • Starwood Hotels and Resorts. They pioneered social media participation with William Sanders, the Starwood Lurker. He’s been helping consumers with travel since 1998. Their SPG loyalty is terrific and customer service has been largely excellent. Travel is a business that is highly dependent on people for execution. As a result, bad things will happen sometimes. But Starwood has always made it right for me.
  • Flipboard. These guys are going to revolutionize how we consumer content. Apple should just buy them already and embed Flipboard on every iPad shipped.
  • Virgin America. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Virgin is responsible for our in-flight Internet access. They were the first to have fleetwide WiFi. They gave gogo a lot of credibility. They’ve forced United to up its game on its transcontinental p.s. service from LAX and SFO. Their in-flight service goes to unheard of levels. They are master marketers who can even make daily deals work for them.
  • Keen Footwear. Incredibly comfortable shoes that fit even my wide feet. Great customer service to boot. I had a coupon for a free pair of socks up to $17. The pair I bought was $18. When I handed over my dollar, they said not to worry about it. (And, yes, they’re worth $18.)
  • Kindle. Kindle and digital books in general will fundamentally transform the way we learn. (A Kindle post has been on my to-do list.) It will also diminish the power of religious nuts on Texas schoolboards to dictate content and rewrite history for kids across the nation.

These are listed in stream-of-consciousness order.

One of my favorite quotes is from Tim O’Reilly: “Create more value than you capture.” I think these companies all do that to some extent. At the very least, they all provide incredible products backed by great customer service.

My fundamental problem with the daily deals business is that it’s exploitative at its core. Asking businesses to give up 75% of revenue for the theoretical benefit of new customers is just wrong — especially when many of the new customers have attitudes like this.

If you build a great product that delivers real value, you don’t have to sell it through high-pressure sales people who disguise key elements of the product. The world may not beat a path to your door, but your customers will surely tell others about how much they love you.

Disclosures: I’m friends with Tristan Walker at foursquare. I worked for Mike McCue at Tellme. My brother works on Chrome OS at Google. (Sorry to dis your product!)


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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1 Response to Things I love

  1. Vastly pleasurable blog column.

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