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Episode 12
October 7, 2016

Avoiding the Cringe

We sit with Jason L Baptiste to talk about his new startup Morsel, the future of the sharing web, wearables, passive commerce and more.

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We sit with Jason L Baptiste to talk about his new startup Morsel, the future of the sharing web, wearables, passive commerce and more.


  • Jason's history and Morsel
  • How innovation in the food/bev industry is impacting commerce
  • Update from Jason on passive commerce
  • Voice and wearables: a new paradigm.
  • Snap Inc's new glasses
  • Channels for local discovery
  • Beacons
  • Conversational commerce: the state of bots
  • Hot companies
  • Jason's thoughts on social and consumer

Download MP3 (46.3 MB)

Brian: [00:00:22] Welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:27] And I'm Phillip.

Brian: [00:00:29] Today, we have the ever active Jason L Baptiste. Say hi.

Jason: [00:00:37] Hey, how are you guys?

Brian: [00:00:38] Great. How are you doing?

Jason: [00:00:39] I'm doing well. I'm doing well.

Brian: [00:00:42] Good. And as always, listeners, we'd love to have feedback from you about today's show. So please leave us feedback in the Disqus comment box on our site. You can always subscribe to listen to Future Commerce on iTunes and Google Play or listen right from your Amazon Echo and TuneIn radio with a phrase, "Alexa, play Future Commerce podcast." That said, Jason, tell us a little about yourself. Give us your history. Who are you?

Jason: [00:01:09] I'll give you the quick background and kind of get through me quickly, so we can get to the topics. I started as an entrepreneur as young age. I grew up outside in New York City in New Jersey. Had a bit of an entrepreneurial family. Started my first kind of consulting company. It really wasn't a venture packable startup when I was young and school in Miami at 19 also built a couple of products. Once again, those are kind of side projects, but they definitely gain some traction and that's a whole story to themselves. So I did that for a bit, moved out to Silicon Valley, dropped out, promised myself, hey, in a year or two I'd go back and finish school no matter what. Kept to that promise, went back and finished. As I was finishing, I said, hey, I want to create another company and go and do something venture backed and potentially very massive. So teamed up with a guy I had met a few years earlier, Andrés Barretto, who was the Co-Founder of a music sharing site called Grooveshark, which was based in Gainesville, Florida. I think, Phillip, you're a Florida guy, right?

Phillip: [00:02:16] Yep. I am.

Jason: [00:02:17] So we had started down there, didn't stick in Florida for too long. Really the aim was we were doing a lot of writing and just wanted to make our content look better on mobile. The iPad had come out and thought it was a chance to reimagine the way content looked. So, you know, we started that and said, well, let's let's move to the East Coast, the west coast to north east coast and West Coast and just, you know, kind of that's where you got to go if you want to raise money and build out a team. So we did that. And ultimately, in a course of like two, three months after launching the project... It was bootstrapped. We had no personal cash at the time. Raised our first million bucks, got into the TechStars program in New York. Off to the races. So I ran that for a little over four years. Company called Onswipe. We grew that pretty substantially, raised about seventeen million dollars. In terms of scale, by the time you were acquired in 2014, we were number three on Comscore as opposed to online platform. So I think Facebook, Google and US one of the months. And then in terms of publishing platforms, we were the largest on iOS mobile web, twice the size of Tumblr. Really simply what we did was we made the content look great magazine-like beautiful on mobile devices. Gave that software away for free to a publisher of any size. In return, they let us put beautiful advertising ads that don't suck. And that was often a very interesting challenge. I could do a whole podcast on that world, but we were acquired in 2014 by a larger ad tech company called Beanstock Media. I stuck around for a little over six months, kind of running product and new strategy, kind of combined the two. So they were a non venture backed, very profitable, kind of nine figure run rate company and we were venture backed, heavily engineering focused. So putting those two organizations together was an interesting thing. I'll leave it at that. Stick around for six months until I said well I'm ready to go do something new and starting something new, joining something or taking time. And like all entrepreneurs, and I'm crazy enough to go out, do it again and spend a few months, and I teamed up with a very good friend of mine and entrepreneur Nathaniel MacNamara, who used to be a VC and started a couple of companies that were acquired. So we ultimately decided upon a company called Morsal. And went through the most recent TechStars class. Morsal makes it incredibly easy for companies to feed their employees a healthy, delicious lunch. So think of it less as a food company and more as a health care company. But in many ways, a commerce company. We're kind of keeping it under the radar. I haven't talked about it too much. I'm just trying to get work done with it, but know kind of as a segue, how does it play into commerce? I think there is something very interesting happening with food right now, less on a side that affects us because we go into companies with more on the consumer side.

Brian: [00:05:29] And I would agree.

Jason: [00:05:32] And that the way that is very specifically interesting and kind of thinking about commerce is there's always opportunities in I think both media and commerce. But in this case, commerce when new distribution platforms come about. You've seen in the past 18 months all these digital distribution platforms on eCommerce for food. So you've got Uber Eats, Amazon, Seamless Postmates, DoorDash and a few others. And then over in the UK. So you walk into those restaurants, I'm based in New York City and you know, those places have like five or six tablet ordering platforms.

Phillip: [00:06:16] Wow. Yeah.

Jason: [00:06:16] So that's pretty fascinating. So you basically have this big distribution channel. And I think something interesting we did was we analyzed on Seamless what are people eating and ordering? And it turns out, you know, there's the equivalent of like SEO on Seamless, which is figuring out how do you create these ghost restaurants that essentially rank really high for things like vegan as popular, sushi as popular? You know, and there's a company taking advantage of this called Green Summit, where they're a restaurant that is delivering only and they only live on platforms like Seamless and probably eventually Uber Eats.

Phillip: [00:07:02] Wow. That's that's really interesting.

Jason: [00:07:04] So, yeah. And it's just like they can spin up a restaurant, shut it down. And, you know, we did this study first because we're just curious and what do people like to eat and how can you make that healthy? And then once we did this, we noticed all the popular ones that still you could see pizza was saturated, but vegan was not saturated. That's kind of the algorithm we had created. And these folks were ranking for the top five or six ones. So I think, you know, what's really interesting about commerce is when you have new platforms come around what does that enable? And seeing this on the food side. That's one. And I know you guys do some stuff with Magento, obviously, that enabled a bunch of folks and Shopify and all those guys. But this is a very interesting niche one that, you know, even though it's niche, it's such a large market.

Brian: [00:07:58] Right.

Phillip: [00:07:59] It's amazing how fractured like the point of sale market really is. And I think it sort of speaks to, you know, we can get tend to get a little myopic in our view, in the digital commerce realms, like in our little bubble over here. You know, we really think about unifying a bunch of different platforms and they're all the same players. But it kind of just reminds me that retail is so pervasive. And, you know, three out of every four people on planet Earth are employed by someone that's retail and retail centric in some way that's not necessarily digital commerce based. And so point of sale is everywhere. And and there's so many different platforms. And now you've you've listed all of these really just sort of app based point of sale platforms that are specific to just particular vendors. I'm curious, are there any challenges, like regulatory challenges in your business, or did you come across any that would prevent you from running a food delivery service without a front of house or without having seating? Is there any sort of... Because that seems like it might be an interesting sort of unicorn in the business.

Jason: [00:09:13] Yeah. You know, we don't experience it that much because we have a kitchen and that stays up to the health regulation codes. And, you know, tens of thousands of folks have figured that out. So you just follow that and you're fine. But there's popping up and kind of a company that went through TechStars with us and there's about two or three other competitors. What they do is they enable people who cook at home to sell their food. So it's, hey, if you've got a great recipe for a hamburger or a dessert, you know, these folks are able to sell that and that's illegal in most, if not all states. So Homi, is the one that I know very well. And there's Josephine as well. That's where regulation's really starting to come in.

Brian: [00:10:02] Yeah, I can definitely see that. You know, essentially people are selling food out of their homes. I've heard a lot about a lot of pop up restaurants sort of happening in people's houses recently. And I feel like being able to sort of get a platform that allows for discovery would be very interesting.

Phillip: [00:10:21] The thing that I think is really kind of challenged me in trying these food services is they've really nailed discovery, right? They tend to send me things that I wouldn't necessarily cook and I can sort of set some preferences, but I seem like...

Jason: [00:10:35] Oh, the Blue Aprons?

Phillip: [00:10:36] Right, right. Those kind of things. But Blue Apron in particular, I must have gotten like four boxes with artichokes in a row before I just said I'm done. Like I'm so done. I'm done with this whole idea. That might just be my own personal tastes, but...

Brian: [00:10:52] Could be. It could be. I was thinking about this today earlier after I kind of checked out Morsel a little bit more over the past couple of days. I was like thinking back to something that you set up to fill up on one of our previous episodes on how you're kind of out of making choices and you're ready for people to make choices for you.

Phillip: [00:11:14] Absolutely.

Brian: [00:11:15] And sort of give you options within the context of a specific goal or something to that effect. So I love the concept of Morsel, which is just basically giving people the options and allowing companies to, you know, sort of make the decision for their employees that they will eat healthy and then allowing employees to make decisions from there. I started running through like all different types of analogies here, but the best one I came up with is you're playing sort of food god, and you've created an ethical line. And you can make decisions within that ethical code, if you will. But it's nice because you've created a system and a lifestyle for those employees that they can live in and be happy and be healthy.

Phillip: [00:12:20] Yeah. The food choice. Yeah. Go ahead...

Jason: [00:12:24] Yeah I wouldn't go as far as food god, we just we kind of made it simple. I'm a big believer in most things in this world are difficult and you can really create a lot of value if you just make it simple.

Phillip: [00:12:39] Right.

Jason: [00:12:39] And once again, going back to commerce, I mean, Wirecutter is probably one of my favorite things happening in commerce, because it's... I'd say Wirecutter and then also RTINGS, the TV site, because they just make things really, really simple and easy to understand.

Phillip: [00:12:56] Yeah.

Brian: [00:12:57] Nice. Yeah.

Phillip: [00:12:58] Those are two services or two sites I'm not familiar with. Could you kind of for the uninitiated among us, can you fill me in a little bit?

Jason: [00:13:07] Yes. So Wirecutter was started by one of the, I think the founding editor of Gizmodo. And they're basically like, OK, you know, somebody wants a TV, somebody wants a fridge. There are so many different choices, like, holy sh*t, like it will take you forever. So they really simplify the process some things and they just make money as an Amazon affiliate.

Phillip: [00:13:27] Oh, I see.

Jason: [00:13:28] That's what they do, and they're doing incredibly well.

Brian: [00:13:29] Nice.

Jason: [00:13:29] RTINGS is just a uniform way to rate all the TVs that come out where, you know, and this is kind of something I talked about with passive commerce like TV and electronics fall into that. It's a big purchase. And you're kind of like unless the TV breaks, it's not pressing. So you're going to want to do a lot of research over time. It's kind of what I used to be like all right, this is the TV I'm going to get. And it just makes it all really, really simple to understand.

Brian: [00:14:04] Well, I'm going to change directions for a minute here, because I think there's something that's a little secret, honestly, that I think all of our listeners should know and that you should really know, Jason, is that Phillip's it's been a pretty big fan of yours for a long time. I might even put him in the fanboy category. He introduced me to your article on passive commerce, and we spent literally all of an episode on our show talking about your article on passive commerce. So given this context, I was wondering if you could give us an update on your view of passive commerce, where you think it's headed. Maybe some examples of business doing it well. And just maybe quick update since your last article on it.

Jason: [00:14:47] Yeah. You know, and I wrote that almost two years ago, and I still think it holds true, which is you've got different types of commerce. Right? Which is I know what I want, I'm just going to go buy, and Amazon takes care of that. Pinterest does. You know, there's certain things like I just mentioned, the TV situation. It was exactly... It's it's funny. I haven't read the article a bit, and it's like what I described with TV and electronics is exactly what I went through, which is all right I knew I wanted a new TV. It was time. What I had was old, and I wanted something in 4K and HDR. And, you know, I did a lot of the reviews in this, but I really was waiting for the right price and the right thing. And then eventually that came about and I pulled the trigger. And I still think it exists. And I don't know how many places are taking advantage of it. A company that, you know, maybe is, so I think you've always got supply and demand, so folks supplying and folks demanding product buying. I think on the supply side, you've got a new company called Flip.Lease. They also went through TechStars where it's basically OK, you've got a lease, you want to get out. You know, it may be pressing. So that would take it out of passive commerce. But a lot of the time it's, hey, I'm going to put my lease up there and see what the hell happens, so I can move somewhere else. It's kinda, you know, it's a passive way that if the offer comes around you can get it. So I think that's an interesting one. You know, I haven't seen too many other things come out that really take advantage of it. And it's not you know, it's a very important category. But I don't think it's something where it just applies to everything. There's certainly some things where it's I want it, I need it, I'm going to get it now. There are things kind of you know, the three that I described was kind of housing, electronics and cars.

Brian: [00:16:54] Yeah, definitely. One of the things we talked about was Tesla selling cars through Nordstrom. I guess that's kind of a cross sell, but it's sort of like an opportunity to purchase when someone maybe has already thought about that decision for a long time. It's not an impulse buy. But no, it was an interesting idea.

Jason: [00:17:18] Yeah, it's kind of like when you're waiting for the right thing to come about. Disposable income is part of it, but it's basically I know I want it OK, but I don't need it today, so I'm going to wait for it. You could see a deal. That's part of it. But, you know, you're going to wait for the right opportunity to mix of product and price.

Phillip: [00:17:41] Right.

Jason: [00:17:41] I think, you know, if you go on the price sector a lot, you know, you've got there's a site called, which is actually pretty interesting where...

Brian: [00:17:52] Oh, yeah.

Jason: [00:17:54] I put it a search term for a certain type of TV. And they would ping me whenever there was a good deal. And I thought that was pretty interesting. So I think you've got things that enable passive commerce as well.

Brian: [00:18:12] I use Deal News, which is very similar. And I think there's a lot of that going on right now where people are sort of subscribing to different pricing tools and waiting for something to go down in price before they actually make the purchase. Just the right opportunity presents itself. So, yeah, that was... Definitely loved that article and good to hear an update. I love the Flip.Lease. Tt's pretty awesome. I appreciate your insight.

Jason: [00:18:48] Yeah, you know, if you guys come across on the other stuff, please send it my way. It's interesting, I'm doing this interview, and I'm thinking about it a little bit more.

Phillip: [00:18:56] Yeah, I think what's really interesting is that it doesn't necessarily have to take, you know, all these different ways of engaging with with, like you said, suppliers and and consumers are they don't take just one shape and form anymore. If only it were that simple. And so I think, you know, we sort of hit the nail on the head there, which is sometimes you hit on a product or or a certain vertical in this space and it has incredible consumer demand, and you stoked consumer demand that maybe they didn't even know that they wanted. The iPhone is a great example as transformative there and probably like a little played out of an example. But I think the exact opposite, the antithesis of that, might be the new iPhone with the Air Pods. And I kind of thought this is interesting. I thought I'd kind of ping you on this because I really like how you tend to approach these types of topics. But I do see the value and maybe I wonder if you even see the value of having something like a digital assistant like Siri everywhere without necessarily having to have hands on operation. Is that something you... What do you think Apple's really trying to do here?

Jason: [00:20:18] I think it's not just Apple. It's a lot of folks. And frankly, I don't use Siri that much. I don't own an Amazon Alexa, because, frankly, I don't see the need for it. I like some of the voice stuff, but it feels like a nice to have not a need to have at this point. But obviously it's selling very well. And hey, it just might not be for me and I may be wrong on it. You know, I think a lot of it is kind of it's new ways of search and discovery. It's kind of saying it's the new interface. And, you know, you've got text and you've got voice. Apple could easily do, I mean, they even do with the new Photo in iOS 10. You could do a search box to get the same things you get Siri or asking questions and getting a response. So I think it's them saying, "Hey, let's get good at search." Something that's important to Google, but more important to Apple, it helps them create a better OS user experience, and they're saying, "Let's try it by voice." And I think a lot of other folks are doing that. You know, you've got a little bit of social awkwardness with it because it's like the new Mac OS has Siri on it. But it's like I'm sitting in front of an office full of people. I'm not going to say, "Hey, show me files for employees with poor performance." Right? That just comes off weird.

Phillip: [00:21:42] {laughter} That's incredibly tweetable.

Brian: [00:21:44] I feel like it's a little bit of a me too play in many ways, honestly, because like, for instance, I think Mary Meekers report... Or I don't remember where I saw this, but it was like 25 percent of searches and the Windows search bar, the desktop search bar, were actually voice searches. And so I think Apple's. Wait, hold on. There might be a bit of a trend here, but the question is were those on mobile or desktop? I'm not quite sure.

Jason: [00:22:18] Oh, well, for Microsoft, probably desktop. It's non existent in mobile.

Phillip: [00:22:22] {laughter}

Brian: [00:22:23] That's a very good point.

Phillip: [00:22:24] Well, you're talking to Brian...

Brian: [00:22:26] When I said mobile, I meant more like tablets. But yes.

Phillip: [00:22:29] Brian was one of like seven people that had a Windows phone at one point in time.

Brian: [00:22:35] It's true. I did have Windows Phone. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:22:37] So he has a different...

Jason: [00:22:38] They were actually... I loved the design of it. Not so much like the industrial design, the software design. I'm a big fan of kind of their metro design language. I played around with one a bit, just kind of a dev unit to mess around with. So I just think it was too late at that point. It's good device. And good software

Phillip: [00:23:01] I thought of this and I know I put it in our sort of pre prep, but I feel like I just have to say it out loud because it's just such a great thing that I thought of. But I feel like there is a sort of an aversion to this new wave of technology, particularly the voice of activated stuff. And while we may be really excited about it here on the show, we've covered in depth, you know, the implications of privacy and Child Online Protection Act implication, all these things that are really difficult to navigate. And I know it's kind of cringe for some people. And so when I see people like Chris Messina, who I really respect, sort of say something to the effect of, having Siri on these Air Pods is like having sex in your ear all the time is incredibly grungy and it makes me wish that had never been sent because it kind of detracts, right?

Jason: [00:23:59] It's weird.

Phillip: [00:24:00] Like it takes away from it.

Jason: [00:24:01] Yeah. I think, before the show we were talking about, we want to discuss both the Air Pods and the Spectacles. And I think they're actually the same topic in one, which is kind of wearables. What is, and you can see cool, but like what does the normal average everyday person, especially a teen, want? I think teens and early 20 year olds are the tastemakers of consumer technology. That's why Google Glass didn't work. All right. I think it's why the Apple Watch is not going to continue working, because, frankly, you know, people would rather have it as a fitness band than replacing their watch. And the same thing... What I think is neat about Air Pods or just wireless headphones. So that's what I'm wearing right now. I've had them for two years. Everybody's complaining about the headphone jack being gone, and it's just like it's like, oh, come on, shut up. Number one, they give you an adapter. And number two, it's such a better experience with wireless headphones. I still to this day say the past two years, probably one of the best purchases I have made is switching to wireless headphones. So I haven't needed a headphone jack in two years. So I think it's one of those things that's like stylish and neat. But the issue of how are we going to have this, you know, Her the movie like scenario where people are talking to the thing in their ear. I think it still comes back to people are weird talking into nothing while roaming around in public.

Phillip: [00:25:35] Right.

Brian: [00:25:36] I think the question is that going to change? I think, like you mentioned, we've got a new generation of people coming up who are living in a different set of tech. I think there was a whole set of people out there who said that smartphones... Who's going to use a smartphone? Right? But this is an entirely new way of interfacing with technology that I think is unnatural from like sort of people looking at your standpoint and sort of a social etiquette standpoint. But from an actual user interaction perspective, you talk all day long, so I can't help but feel like I would argue that actually voice interfaces are going to be a large part of how we interact with technology in the future. I mean, it's just we're in an awkward phase right now because we're not used to it. It's not something we see every day and we don't feel it around us. It could take another generation of users before that gets normal.

Jason: [00:26:48] Yeah, and I'll tell you, so it's my wife's little brother, he is 10, 11 years old. He uses Siri all the time. He has a little iPhone, and all he does is use Siri. And I asked him why, and his response is like "It's fun." So I may be off on the...where the world is going. And I think fun is a key thing. Like the reason Snapchat is so successful is they're just fun. Like a big problem that I have with Silicon Valley is like a lot of it's dry and not fun. And I think Snapchat was smart to go in LA. And they just do stuff that's fun, and that's been missing from products for a bit.

Brian: [00:27:29] I totally agree. And I think actually fun can drive a lot of innovation and a lot of new behaviors. Yeah. And will we get into a situation where, you know, it is kind of a Her type thing? I think the question is what are we going to start having, you know, if you will, push notifications in our ears? Because I think that might drive more voice interaction as well, because if you have someone talking at you, you're going to want to respond. So I think that that could also really drive that technology forward. If we get to that point.

Phillip: [00:28:10] If I may, I'm a little bit bullish on on Snapchat glasses in that with the hope that it gets people's faces out of their phones and living in real life, if that would... Like I'm a musician or a failed one anyway, and I'm a musician who played before the era of the glowing phone screen and the selfie and it was an immersive experience and people lived in that moment. And I appreciate that people live in those moments differently now. And it's totally OK by me. I make the choice that I'd like to be in that moment and remember it the way I remember it, instead of taking a picture that I'll never look at again. And it's totally OK. Like there's no judgment on my part. But I do feel like it is a better experience if you're not worrying about sharing that experience with everyone that's not there. And it's sort of Snapchat was already hit on that because for the most part, the communication that they send with their technology around was supposed to be ephemeral and things that are fleeting and momentary and they go away. Maybe if we can get people, we can bring that that that snap into the glasses and people putting their phones in their pocket. Maybe that's a thing that can happen.

Brian: [00:29:31] We actually just talked about this last episode with Healey Cypher. Lift your head's up.

Phillip: [00:29:38] Right.

Brian: [00:29:39] Experience the world around you and technology like this is going to make it so that we can still have all of this amazing tech but still be able to experience life.

Phillip: [00:29:51] Right. And these are sunglasses, from the mock ups I've seen. I mean, I've not used a pair. I'm sure that we'll see people walking around with them very soon. But they all seemed to be sunglasses, which sort of evokes the outdoor doing things. I don't know that you're looking at your phone with sunglasses on anyway. But anyway.

Jason: [00:30:18] I think wearables do some of the same thing, which is if you get a notification, you can kind of look at your wrist as opposed to back down your phone.

Phillip: [00:30:25] Yeah. Yeah, I think all technology can be used, you know, to help us distract ourselves. So I think it really depends on the person using it. And I don't want to harp on that too long, but I do think it's... I am bullish on it because I think it might drive more social or IRL, real engagement, if you will, and get us kind of back in that headspace.

Brian: [00:30:53] And I can't wait till they just add an earpiece to that as well. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:30:59] {laughter} And AR, and then we're catching Pokémon and yelling at them and all kinds of cool things.

Brian: [00:31:05] Exactly.

Phillip: [00:31:06] It's pretty wild what's going on.

Phillip: [00:31:08] Sorry. What did you say there, Jason?

Jason: [00:31:11] It's pretty wild to just see what's going on. It is what a time to be alive. So you wrote a little while back on some problems with local discovery. And I can't think of anything more local than food. You know, food is intensely local. And so there's all kinds of advancements in mobile technology to help you, you know, engage in local discovery. What are your thoughts there? How are you solving that at Morsel? And are you seeing more places than ever to help you drive your engagement to your local customers? Or is it still sort of the same, you know, sort of spray and pray advertising strategies that have really kind of failed local?

Jason: [00:31:57] Yes, I think, you know, it doesn't really apply to us because we're more BTB as opposed to the individual consumer. I think, you know, but obviously spent a lot of time thinking about the consumer itself and what we talked about earlier in the show and how people are optimizing almost for kind of a seamless search optimization. That's one. You know, there's a delivery only restaurant called Savory, which they would put their name was like !Savory, so they would show up first everywhere in directories.

Phillip: [00:32:31] {laughter} The phone book of the twenty first century.

Jason: [00:32:36] Yeah, I think credit card data is actually the most accurate possible data you can have. Foursquare is great, but they don't get a whole picture of what you're doing. You know, it's only part of it. I think credit card data is a very interesting way to do local discovery. Local search is still huge. Social media is great for retention, but nobody is going on Facebook or Twitter and finding a pizza place. They may subscribe to and then come back after. But it's kind of I see all these places with, like, "Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook." It's like I don't know, it's like I just don't really care to do that for even my most favorite of restaurants. You know, I think what chat bots are doing are interesting for kind of local customer service. Once again, that's down the funnel. I think discovery is a lot of search. I think TripAdvisor is a fascinating company, even though it's like, what, 15 years old. Especially for traveling when you go to foreign places. They've really just done such a good job. What I'm really weary of with discovery companies like Groupon, because for merchants, it's just the retention is so bad. And I have a fear ClassPass could be the same thing for fitness studios, but we'll see. But I really like the business model and the team and all that. It's you know, my biggest worry is when you do these discounts, is there a way that you can get people coming back at a price that makes sense, otherwise you're just literally losing 20 bucks and never getting any long term customers.

Brian: [00:34:18] Have you have you tried Allo yet? A new Google chat?

Jason: [00:34:23] No, this is one of those things like it doesn't I don't really see what it's going to add to my life.

Brian: [00:34:28] One thing that I did like about it, I think that kind of plays into discovery a little bit, is the Google Assist is very easy to access via that chat while you're chatting with your friends. And so I felt like when I'm talking to someone and I want to go get a happy hour with them. I just chatted @Google and felt like it brought back some pretty decent search results, like nearby. And I think you can do that with a lot of different things. I felt like that was actually pretty helpful.

Jason: [00:35:02] Yeah. Their keyboard company is like Slash and GBoard doing that as well.

Brian: [00:35:09] Yeah. Cool stuff.

Phillip: [00:35:10] Context is important, right? I think the context of that conversation happens to be centered around a text interface and SMS or texting sort of experience. And we see this in iMessage. iMessage has a similar capabilities now in iOS10. So I think it's becoming... It's interesting. But I find it interesting that someone like Jason just doesn't see the value yet. So my question to you, Jason, would be...

Jason: [00:35:46] I could be wrong.

Phillip: [00:35:47] No, no, no. Yeah. And that's totally OK. You know, everybody has their own tastes. But could you fathom what would need to happen in that space for you to reconsider? Would it have to be market adoption and your social network pulling you into it? Or is there some killer app or feature that that you could dream up that would have to happen to pull you into more of those types of engagements?

Jason: [00:36:15] There's really like two lenses you can think through. One is kind of single player utility. And right now, frankly, Foursquare and Google Search do such a great job that I don't need Allo. Right? Then it's like, well, if I don't need that from Allo, what's the second lens? That social. And it's like, nobody's on that. I'm not going to be messaging folks with that.

Phillip: [00:36:38] It's true.

Jason: [00:36:41] It's like I use Slack for work. A little bit of Facebook messenger here and there, you know, but it's primarily SMS.

Brian: [00:36:50] Right, since well, yeah, that actually that leads us into another question I have. A few weeks ago, we actually interviewed Scott Emmons, who's the head of the innovation lab at Neiman Marcus. And you're talking about SMS. He called, and not just SMS, but obviously chat in general, he called conversational commerce, and bots the Beacons of 2016, which I found pretty interesting. Because I feel like Beacons have garnered a lot of attention over the past couple of years, but adoption still feels pretty limited.

Jason: [00:37:25] Pretty low.

Brian: [00:37:25] Yeah. So, I guess maybe I've got two questions now. What do you think about Beacons? Do you think they're sort of a sort of a stepping stone type technology? Or do they have a long term future? And then what do you think about conversational commerce? Do you have some insights and you see how the US is reacting and what adoption will look like here?

Jason: [00:37:50] Yes, so talking about Beacons, I wrote an article about two years ago as well on Beacons. I really like I see the promise of them, I see that there is a purpose and a need. What Estimote is doing is really need kind of as a Beacon platform. But the biggest issue is you've got to have the app downloaded of, let's say, the merchant that you're going to. And frankly, most people don't have that. So you've just got this big... That's one step. So I think it's possible. I think kind of Beacons in the enterprise, so kind of give you one example of a company somebody could create, which is give everybody, put Beacons on each manufacturing station. All right. You've got a phone on you which has a Beacon. And as you move about, you can start to measure how long each person is at a factory station. You can start to actually optimize the factory process by knowing where presence is and how long people are spending. That wasn't possible before. So I think that's neat. Nobody is doing that. That could be a potentially big company. So I think that Beacons could have promise. And just they've got so much inherent friction that they may never realize it. By conversational commerce you mean chat bots, right?

Phillip: [00:39:07] Yeah.

Brian: [00:39:09] Bots but also maybe combined with human interaction as well.

Jason: [00:39:13] Yeah. So let's take the part that I like, which is human interaction. Right. So there is a lot of different types of commercial interactions, whether it's products that just require a conversation like buying a house, buying a car. You know, that's never going to be one click for the majority of folks. That requires conversation. Like also we should be using messaging. So that's really just, hey, how do businesses get on Facebook Messenger and have customer support go from the phone to there? I don't want to call businesses at all. What I just don't see any future, and once again I could be wrong, is chat bots. I don't know anybody who wants a chat bot, and I don't know what a chat does better than the Web or something else. Even if you got all the NLP right. So, you know, there is one shopping site that I went to. They launched early on the Facebook platform. And legitimately, it took me a minute to go through the chat bot to do what I would do with just a dropdown in two seconds. So it's kind of technology for technology sake. I don't see why brands would want chat bots. Like it's not I know people are in their messengers all day long, but that's not necessarily what they want. I think kind of in some ways messengers are the new Web browser. So can you put interactive Web pages there? And Kik has talked about that a bit. So it's not really chat bots. It's what's happening in China is like you're getting kicked out a full fledged Web interface. So I think that is interesting. And media. So I spent a lot of time in media. I've got a couple of media chat bots and frankly, they're neat, but it's just not, it doesn't appeal to me.

Brian: [00:41:08] I think that bots could become sort of the thing that everyone hates about calling any company for customer service right now where they literally have to go through a set of menu options via voice or touch tone. Chat bots would be sort of the new version of that.

Jason: [00:41:32] Yes, so here's what I'm completely bullish on and I believe is an inevitability is we will not be calling companies on the phone to interact with them. We will be talking with them through chat, which could also have a voice button one day. We're kind of the AI comes in is maybe in the queuing system and kind of helping the operator respond and then kind of replacing the phone tree with like a chat bot tree. But I don't see this like, oh, every brand's going to have a chat bot and people are going to want to, like, interact with it. It's just like I don't see it. I don't see the benefit for the user. What I always care about the product is like, is this really something people want or need and or is it just something that's cool for cools sake?

Phillip: [00:42:19] Brian, what was the I forget the quote, but somebody reviewed a fashion bot from some brand and I can't remember who it is, but they reviewed it, and like the summary of the article was this is literally the worst way to shop for anything ever.

Brian: [00:42:37] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:42:39] It's the worst way you could possibly ever buy something online.

Jason: [00:42:44] I completely agree.

Brian: [00:42:45] I don't have that quote in front of me. But yeah, that was the gist of it. I think we were actually talking about... And yeah, it was the worst possible way to browse the Internet.

Phillip: [00:42:59] I was thinking about this recently because my company bought company t shirts, as you know, companies are wont to do. And so we had Custom Inc, when you buy t shirts on Custom Inc, they have this thing that they send around to everybody to fill out a form of what size you are. And what maybe what style of shirt you want. And it was such a nightmare getting everyone to fill that form out. And I was thinking there are group decisions that happen that engage in commerce, that chat bots, and if that had been in our Slack channel, that thing would have been filled out in three and a half seconds. Right? If I could just click it in Slack, done. And so there are commerce and maybe even like group purchase decisions or group maybe sort of democratization of your lunch choices or something to that effect. But I see the need. But we sort of need a, like it's such a thin need right now. We kind of need the Pokémon Go of that to sort of prove the market a little bit. Because I see it. I see it. We need it. But it doesn't look like...

Brian: [00:44:13] It's a long way off. Feels that way.

Phillip: [00:44:13] Yeah. You know, Apple seems to be suggesting we'll be buying from Curry Up Now with iMessage, and I highly doubt it. It's not going to happen.

Jason: [00:44:27] Yeah, yeah, I mean, we'll see.

Brian: [00:44:32] I think that's a good way to put it.

Jason: [00:44:35] That's kind of my final comment on the chat bot.

Brian: [00:44:38] Well, I think we've kind of got to hit the end of our time here. So we typically like to end our interviews with having our guests give us some near term recommendations for our listeners and then maybe hit them with a thought for like the next three to five years, something they should really pay attention to. So what do you have? Anything really hot you want to say?

Jason: [00:45:00] Yes, actually, I'm going to throw a question to you guys and then get my comments. And I was like this as well, which is what are kind of like, you know, one or two companies that you both think are under the radar or interesting? So obviously, Snapchat isn't under the radar. But what are two companies you don't think get enough attention that are pretty interesting?

Phillip: [00:45:20] That's a great question.

Brian: [00:45:22] It's a really good question. So this is going to be a little bit more general, but I think there's a lot of very interesting VR startups going on right now that are not getting a lot of attention. I really can't wait to see what Magic Leap does. Obviously, we're still kind of waiting to see with them a little bit. But really interested to see what happens with VR. And with that, and I've mentioned this on several episodes already, I'm very interested to see and I'll call this company out, what Body Labs is going to do, and other companies like it. But body data is something that I'm pretty hot on to see how we end up utilizing body data in our everyday lives, whether it be fashion or video games or health or whatever it is, just to see where that heads.

Phillip: [00:46:24] Yeah, yeah, I'm not as hot on virtual reality as I know Brian is, because we talk about these things. There's actually I'm really interested in a company that makes Internet of Things devices called Pixel. And they sort of grew out of the Raspberry Pi sort of foundation sort of aspect, but they make these incredible... First they have a number of devices that are sort of in that, you know, maker bot sort of space. But I see them transitioning to be able to be used in industrial applications, particularly I have some friends that work for some defense contractors that are seeing some massive uptake in Internet of Things for tracking data of all kinds of things, everything from, you know, like literally vacuum cleaners to the service items that go out and are deployed in the field to service some of their equipment. And so what I think is really interesting is, you know, Internet of Things went backwards, really. They've sort of been toys and they like tinker toys that people like maybe you and I play with, Jason, but I really feel like IOT technology is really picking up in a big way to be used, you know, maybe not in the merchant direct to consumer space, but certainly in industrial applications. So that's something I'm kind of keeping an eye on right now.

Brian: [00:48:00] One more for me. Blippar is an AR company that's building.

Jason: [00:48:10] Yeah, I think we're at this interesting... Kind of my concluding comments, I think we're at this interesting phase where I don't know what happens next in consumer, but you basically have all these investors, all these entrepreneurs looking at our AR, VR, Bitcoin, you name the trend because there hasn't been anything and kind of social and mobile for a while. Snapchat's of really the last one. And frankly, I think Snapchat is going to be gigantic, kind of Facebook level gigantic. So the question is what happens next? It feels like 2016 is almost an intermediary year as much as there are interesting things happening, nothing has settled. And I think that's that's going to be something to watch. So kind of the counterintuitive thing, as everybody says, don't go start something kind of social and consumer, maybe go and actually do that.

Phillip: [00:49:11] {laughter} All right.

Brian: [00:49:13] Good advice.

Phillip: [00:49:14] Well that you to our guest, Jason L Baptiste, who's sort of the inimitable original Jason L Baptiste, who's sort of a savant and a maven, if you will, in the space. So thank you so much for joining us, Jason.

Brian: [00:49:30] Fanboy. Fanboy. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:49:31] I can't say enough nice things.

Jason: [00:49:33] Thank you for having me. This was fun.

Phillip: [00:49:34] And as always, we want your feedback on this episode. We want you to do it right now. Don't delay. So scroll down. If you're listening on, scroll down to the bottom. Leave some feedback for our guests. We'll make sure that he gets it because we want you to be part of this episode. So please leave that for us. Also, if you're not subscribed, hit us up on iTunes or Google Play and you can also listen right from your Amazon Echo device. You know, one day if those things ever take off, people might actually use them. But you can listen to Future Commerce just say, "Alexa, play Future Commerce podcast." And anyway, thank you to our guest. Thank you, Brian. And to our listeners, keep looking toward the future.

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