If you build it, they might come...
In the enterprise space, a new product has to work. Hard stop. It has to make the workplace more efficient, more productive, smarter, cheaper and quantitatively show this to be true. We can calculate time savings, new revenue creations or cost reductions. But, in the consumer arena, it can be a little different. When entrepreneurs have to figure out what people will like and connect to, that can change country by country, city by city and on a more granular level, person by person. The ability to predict what will be cool and get influencer buy-in, which some suggest is doable through data, is flexible and fleeting.
One task I've been working on lately is just this. As a statistician by training, using data is the smartest way to ground your decisions in both facts and subsequent theory. As an investor, how can I work to create a dynamic, yet balanced consumer portfolio using existing data and patterns while also not shutting out innovation and the "it" factor? I recently listened to a new episode of "Masters of Scale" that featured an engaging interview with Google employee #20 and former CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer. Marissa is known for building the APM (associate product manager) program at Google and bringing data-driven decision making at scale to the company. But the most important thing that Marissa mentions in the interview is how she never actually made a decision on the data--she made it using her gut. The data could give you a picture, a context on which to build, but she'd never do what the data said. She went with her instinct.
While investing in consumer software has the highest margins and the most easily recognizable/reliable KPIs, I'd like to add in a bit of gut and instinct that could potentially counter the data. My hypothesis is that there will be innovations in the reemergence of brick and mortar, a normalization of custom and bespoke goods and services, a democratization of the outsourcing of "work," a new framing of beauty product and process, and a move towards "bulking" small batch packaged goods and even small batch real estate (eek!). I know, these seem crazy now, but these are some of the themes I'm using to help build my dynamic consumer portfolio. Based on current trends and data and how I'm predicting those trends will change and adjust, I'm going to be like Marissa Mayer and choose with my gut. It's time to make some big bets in the future of consumer.