Peak Smartphone – Reviewing My Pixel 2 XL

One of the downsides of using Project Fi is that your phone choices are pretty limited. But the phones you can buy are the best that Android has to offer, and once you’ve used pure Android it’s really hard to go back. In October I pre-ordered a Google Pixel 2 XL on the day it was announced. My Nexus 5X was showing its age. In particular, the battery life was horrible and the camera was slow. The latter has suddenly become more important now that… Continue reading

12/13/17

Misc. Thoughts on Another Successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Last year’s Cyber Monday was thrilling because we vastly exceeded expectations based upon comparatively low 2015 sales. We were left scrambling around to pack and ship orders while our warehouse was mid-construction. It was hectic and stressful, but also fun and rewarding. I think that’s the only time in our history where we’ve been extraordinarily off (in a good way) with our sales projections. I wrote that getting all of our orders shipped out on Cyber Monday “felt like we just won the Super Bowl.”… Continue reading

11/29/17

Amazon Has Quietly Started Delivering Packages

Amazon Flex. Does that service ring a bell? It didn’t for me, not until I read Gizmodo’s exhaustive piece last week entitled Amazon’s Last Mile. It begins: Who delivers Amazon orders? Increasingly, it’s plainclothes contractors with few labor protections, driving their own cars, competing for shifts on the company’s own Uber-like platform. Though it’s deployed in dozens of cities and associated with one of the world’s biggest companies, government agencies and customers alike are nearly oblivious to the program’s existence. Flex is in 50 cities… Continue reading

11/21/17

Constructing Great Support Emails

I want to expand a bit on my last post about customer service as a competitive advantage. In the past I’ve written about our customer service workflow, our “self service” system, and how we’ve begun “auditing” specific functions of our site based upon our support emails, but in this post I want to focus primarily on writing great emails. In particular, emails when a customer has a problem. At this point they’re already frustrated, annoyed, and possibly angry. While it’s important to write back in… Continue reading

11/14/17

Customer Service as a Competitive Advantage

In the first season of the Masters of Scale podcast I heard Reid Hoffman tell a story about the early days at PayPal. I couldn’t figure out which episode it was from, but he told the same story to the Harvard Business Review last year: We faced this issue at PayPal. In early 2000, payment transaction volume was growing at a compounding rate of 2% to 5% per day. That kind of growth put PayPal in a deep hole as far as customer service was… Continue reading

11/7/17

Amazon’s Retiree Workforce, a Basic Income Experiment, & Taking on the Opioid Industry – Link Roundup

Articles Meet the Camperforce, Amazon’s Nomadic Retiree Army – I enjoy any insight into Amazon’s warehouse operations. I found it fascinating that “a poster told workers to prepare to be sore” and that they actually provide their workers with free pain relievers, something that screams abuse and liability issues to me. [Wired] Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America – Not sure how I feel about this. It’s great that Dollar General fills a void in communities where no one else will go,… Continue reading

11/2/17

I Admire the Simplicity of Pandora

Pandora, which seemed to be all the rage a decade ago, has taken a backseat to Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. And with good reason – those are complete music library replacements, you can listen to anything, anytime, anywhere, even offline. Heck, Pandora even has their own competitor in the space called Pandora Premium (formerly Rdio). But I still love good old Pandora Radio. You just turn it on and it plays. No choices, no setting up, no downloading or configuring. It even… Continue reading

10/23/17

Would Universal Health Care Encourage Entrepreneurship?

I’ve always thought that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. While I do think that employers have a role in the health, balance, and overall well-being of their employees, it never made sense to me that as an employer I decide my employee’s health care options any more than it would make sense for me to make decisions about their schools, parks, and roads. Nothing about running an e-commerce company makes me qualified for those types of decisions. We provide our employees… Continue reading

10/18/17

My Single-Slide Entrepreneurship Talk

A few months ago I gave a talk to the SUNY Albany Entrepreneurship class that my good friend teaches. We had been discussing previous talks, some of which went better than others. The best ones, we agreed, were interactive and conversational. I had the idea to cut my entire presentation down to one slide, the slide that I typically reserve for questions at the end. So, somewhat nervously, I got up in front of a class of 45 students, briefly introduced myself and then put… Continue reading

10/10/17

Bringing a 1940’s Royal Typewriter Back to Life

A while back I had the idea that it would be cool to have an old typewriter in my office as sort of an homage to how far computing and communication have come in such a short time. My wife mentioned that there was an old one collecting dust at her grandmother’s house. When we expressed interest in it she was gracious enough to give it to us. Last year I spent a few hours on a Saturday cleaning it up and learning how it… Continue reading

10/3/17