redesign | transport: Uber should make safety a selling point

It seems not a day goes by recently that there isn’t bad news about Uber. There was was the driver in Delhi, the Sydney fiasco and most recently assaults by a driver in Boston. Some of the bad news is of Uber’s making; others are inherent in running a rapidly growing business at global scale with tens of thousands of independent actors.

All of this has added up to segment after segment on CNN bruising the company’s once stellar image. The company’s ineptness at PR exceeds even the depths of Groupon’s idiocy in its heyday.

Uber has failed to understand that as the company has grown, so have the expectations of consumers, regulators and the media. A 20-something male in San Francisco will be much more forgiving than a 45-year old mom with toddler in tow in Minneapolis. Regulators are more likely to let a startup slide than a company that is worth $40 billion.

There is also an irrationality to the marketplace that Uber can’t avoid (nor should it bring it up): even though Uber might be statistically safer, it suffers from the negative externality of the collection of bad experiences by independent operators. Most cab companies don’t operate at even a national level, much less a global one. People don’t associate taxi drivers with a specific brand; but they associate Uber drivers with Uber.

Given the structure of Uber model, Uber is undoubtedly safer than traditional taxis. But “we only have sexual assaults once a week” is not a message that you can sell.

There are ways to do much better. And Uber has taken a bizarre approach. Rather than be proactive and use its war chest to build a better, safer product, Uber prefers to wait until something bad happens and then reacts to it slowly. (After first saying, “not our fault! independent drivers!”)

Being proactive would allow Uber to claim the moral high ground. And because it has more resources than Lyft, put further strain on Lyft to catch up.

Uber’s next step should be to create the gold standard of safety and share those plans. It’s not just great for PR — it’s great for passengers, the business and for the world.

I’ve long thought that Uber would have a sizable market with a product like Uber for Parents — playing soccer mom and car pool driver. But that sure as hell can’t happen until the current perceptions of Uber safety continue.

redesign | payments: Hiring Stan Chudnovsky shows Facebook might be getting serious about payments

Facebook has frustrated me for a long time: they have such huge reach and engagement that I’ve thought that Facebook should be entering more spaces, rather than just limiting itself to ads on the current product. Facebook has billion dollar opportunities in payments, commerce, television and local, just to name a few.

But Facebook has been laser-focused on mobile. (The last time I interviewed at Facebook, I was told that my ideas were “too big” for Facebook.)

With the hiring of Stan Chudnovsky to work on Messenger (and presumably payments within Messenger) with David Marcus, it shows that the company might finally be looking to diversify beyond the core product. (Stan worked for David at PayPal.)

In much of the developing world, an ad-supported business is unrealistic today. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Purchasing power. If you make $1 a day, it’s hard to develop an ROI to advertise to you.
  • Lack of audience. Much of the audience still isn’t online. (Though Facebook is working heavily on that.)
  • Lack of infrastructure. Without agencies and similar infrastructure, the complex nature of advertising models is hard to pull off. (Not that a new model can’t be invented — it should — but that takes time.)

Payments is a natural fit for Facebook. People all over the world have to pay. And taking even a penny or two on a transaction could easily dwarf revenue from ads.

Facebook’s best play here is international. In the U.S., there are very well established payment systems. Credit cards are ubiquitous and card networks dominate. It’s a hard market to displace, even at Facebook’s scale. But bring payments into a greenfield opportunity and Facebook has a real chance to dominate.

In the U.S., there are social payment opportunities. Venmo, which David acquired for PayPal, has shown an emerging behavior that has huge potential when paired with the Facebook firehose.

Facebook also has a good team; David and Stan are both entrepreneurs. Working at PayPal was (almost) as odd a fit for them as it was for me. It’ll be interesting to see what they can accomplish when they’re given resources within a company that truly values innovation.

Disclosure: I briefly worked for Stan and David at PayPal, until I decided that PayPal would never be able to move at the pace that I wanted it to.

redesignAnswer: Paper statements are more convenient

From Skitch (6)

I’m not a Luddite (clearly). I’m an environmentalist.

But the process for getting online statements is convoluted. Every bank has their own log in system. Everyone has their own archiving rules. Sometimes the format online doesn’t include the same information that the paper statement does.

It’s not hard to miss a statement alert in your email along with the hundreds or thousands of emails you get a month. This could easily lead to a pile of late fees and interest charges. Some issuers do a good job of identifying auto pay in their e-statements; some do a terrible job.

It’s next to impossible to search across the statements from issuers. Ironically, I scan all the paper that is sent to me and then shred them. (I scan them into Evernote to make them easily searchable.)

The paper also serves as a reminder that I need to pay the bill.

What would get me to move to digital statements?

  • If I could get them in secure email, just as easily as I get them in the physical mailbox. 
  • Better design of online statements.
  • An easier way to access them.

redesignAnswer: Paper statements are more convenient

From Skitch (6)

I’m not a Luddite (clearly). I’m an environmentalist.

But the process for getting online statements is convoluted. Every bank has their own log in system. Everyone has their own archiving rules. Sometimes the format online doesn’t include the same information that the paper statement does.

It’s not hard to miss a statement alert in your email along with the hundreds or thousands of emails you get a month. This could easily lead to a pile of late fees and interest charges. Some issuers do a good job of identifying auto pay in their e-statements; some do a terrible job.

It’s next to impossible to search across the statements from issuers. Ironically, I scan all the paper that is sent to me and then shred them. (I scan them into Evernote to make them easily searchable.)

The paper also serves as a reminder that I need to pay the bill.

What would get me to move to digital statements?

  • If I could get them in secure email, just as easily as I get them in the physical mailbox. 
  • Better design of online statements.
  • An easier way to access them.

redesignAnswer: The trapezoidal package contained an iMac

 

 

From Skitch (3)

 

This package contained an iMac.

There are two things wrong with this packaging:

  • The trapezoidal shape doesn’t stack or fit well in delivery trucks.
  • Very few packages come in a trapezoidal shape. Thieves are more likely to notice this and assume that it contains a high-value item. (And they’d be right a large portion of the time.)

redesignAnswer: My first transaction on Amazon was for $300

Amazon local balance

In testing the new Amazon Local Register yesterday, my first transaction was for $300.

Amazon didn’t make any money on this transaction. (Nor will they make money on a lot of the transactions on Amazon Local Register at the 1.75% rate.)

There was a mistake in the original image of my transaction. (Sort of.) I needed to show the card and the original load value, so I made the card facing forward. In order for it to actually read the card, the mag stripe needs to be facing the camera.

photo