Amazon, even more than Google, has corporate America talking (AMZN, GOOGL, FL, MSFT)

Microsoft and then Google used to be the exemplars of companies whose ambition seemed to know no bounds. Increasingly, though, that title seems to belong to Amazon. With its latest purchase of Whole Foods, it’s started to seem like the e-commerce giant has its hands in nearly every industry out there.

Other companies — and their investors — have certainly noticed. Amazon has become a popular point of discussion when executives at rival firms are talking with analysts and shareholders. As we can see in this chart from Statista — based on data from FactSet and Recode — Amazon has overtaken Google as the most mentioned company in public corporate conference calls.

It’s unclear from the data whether these discussions are largely focused on executives praising and wanting to emulate Amazon or investors worried the Seattle tech behemoth will hurt their companies’ businesses. But there’s some reason to think its the latter. Foot Locker executives, for example, were recently put on the defensive about the e-commerce giant’s impact on the footwear retailer’s business when the company’s quarterly results, which came soon after Amazon announced a partnership with Nike, fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

Chart of the Day 10/12

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THE CONVERSATIONAL COMMERCE REPORT: Chatbots’ impact on the payments ecosystem and how merchants can capitalize on them

2 chat app users

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

To keep pace with the ongoing shift toward e- and m-commerce, retailers are turning to chat apps, where smartphone users spend considerable time each day.

One way they’ve been accessing consumers on these platforms is through chatbots, or software programs that use business-to-consumer (B2C) text-based messaging as an interface through which customers can communicate with merchants in a question-and-answer format. 

For merchants, these offerings are valuable because sales increase as customers communicate with and shop from their brand on more channels. But there’s considerable friction — in chat apps, payments offerings are limited, which means users who might be browsing in a messaging app will still be redirected to another app or the mobile web to complete a purchase. 

This is creating an opportunity for payments processors and card networks, which are beginning to partner with merchants to capture potential volume from chat apps. And as the hype increases, other payments firms, like remittance providers and banks are also entering the game, in the hopes of increasing user engagement or attracting new types of clients.

There’s a long road ahead: We’re just at the beginning of what’s likely to be a long adoption cycle, with payments firms only starting to dip their toes into the space. But improvements in the ecosystem, combined with rising consumer appetite for these services and increasing trust, will eventually lead to moderate gains in usage that open up a massive volume opportunity for Western firms.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has put together a detailed report on chatbots’ role in the payments ecosystem.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Chat apps are the next frontier for digital commerce, but without payments functionality, the opportunity is extremely limited. Customers can — and do — ask for support, take advantage of deals, and browse many stores within chat apps. But when it comes time to pay, users have to switch to another app or the mobile web — a turnoff that could hinder adoption and lower conversion rates.
  • Most payments firms are teaming up with retailers, often those they already count as clients, to enable customers to make payments using their mobile wallets or processing features within chat apps. That’s allowing retailers to get to the space faster while opening a revenue opportunity for payments players. Others are taking less direct approaches, working to increase consumer engagement in a way that promotes more spending offline.
  • We’re at the beginning of an adoption curve, so digital payments providers shouldn’t expect massive success quickly, but in the long run, it’s likely to be a large market. As firms work to grow consumer awareness and improve the experience, the technology will eventually become mainstream, which makes getting in early and becoming established worthwhile. 

In full, the report:

  • Explains why the chat app is the next frontier for commerce, and why payments functionality is a linchpin of that success.
  • Details different types of chat app payments and their potential use cases.
  • Evaluates the hurdles that could prevent consumers from using chatbot payments.
  • Suggests ways firms can overcome these hurdles and begin seeing adoption.
  • Sizes the potential long-run market for chatbot payments in the West.

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GitHub, the ‘Facebook for programmers,’ has quietly built up an enterprise business that accounts for half its $200 million in sales

GitHub_Keynote_Day_1 5 2 Chris Wanstrath

GitHub may have a reputation as a hub for up-and-coming young coders, but the $2 billion company has a secret user base driving its success: corporations.  

About half of GitHub’s $200 million in annual revenue comes from businesses, according to chief strategy officer Julio Avalos. And that number is growing as more and more software developers who learned to code on GitHub’s site get hired by corporations and encourage their new companies to use GitHub as well. 

The distinction between “enterprise versus consumer is going away,” Avalos said.

GitHub offers its core services — project spaces, code libraries, and forums — for free to anyone who wants to create open-source software. But for corporations who are willing to pay for a service it calls GitHub Enterprise, the company offers additional features, including private workspaces, 24-7 support, and more dynamic cloud hosting options.

Julio_Alvalos_GitHub_0129 (1)The company offers another paid service that allows users to keep their code private. Subscription fees from that service account for the other half of its total revenue.

GitHub first launched its enterprise service as a way to allow companies to store code on their own servers, rather than in GitHub’s data centers, Avalos told Business Insider. This spring, GitHub added on an option that allows corporate customers to store their work on the major cloud services, including Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. 

Its enterprise service has proven to be popular. In its recently released user report, the company said 52% of Fortune 50 corporations are GitHub Enterprise customers, as are 45% of those in the Fortune 100. Microsoft and Facebook run the two largest projects on GitHub’s site.

The company’s enterprise push comes as it is rumored to be preparing for an IPO. With investors likely eager for a growth story, GitHub could be pressed to offer one. 

Avalos sees some opportunities for the company. More than half of the Fortune 100 aren’t yet GitHub customers, so there’s room for growth there, he said. And he noted that the company has set a major goal of expanding its international reach, particularly to China.

But Avalos acknowledges the company faces some growth challenges ahead.

There are only about 21 million software developers in the world, according to market research firm IDC. GitHub already has 24 million users, although many of them likely aren’t actual coders.

Regardless, there just aren’t enough software developers globally, Avalos said, adding that GitHub needs to help produce more. He thinks it’s GitHub’s responsibility to explore ways to reach populations who might not think about computer science as a viable career path for themselves.

GitHub can help, particularly in the US, by “playing a role in education and on-ramping,” he said.

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A PayPal exec always tells job candidates exactly what he wants to hear before the interview even starts

job interview friends talking colleagues

If you’re looking for a job at PayPal and you score an interview with chief learning officer Derek Hann, consider yourself lucky. His interviews are like an open-book test.

The CLO, who focuses on learning and development initiatives at PayPal, told Business Insider that he wants job candidates to know exactly how they need to answer his questions.

So before he begins asking his questions, he’ll prep them.

“How selfish would it be for me not to take that moment to teach them?” he told Business Insider. “That just makes for an uncomfortable interview for everyone. Then the candidate stumbles around in the dark.”

 

Candidates then provide answers based on their own experiences. Ideal responses identify a situation and the task at hand, explain whatever action the individual took, and reveal the result of that action.

Before the interview starts, Hann said he makes sure the individual is familiar with the STAR method.

As part of this interviewing method, he sticks to a series of behavioral questions, which typically start with the phrase, “Tell me about a time when.”

Hann said he encourages candidates to take a second to think about their responses. He’ll even suggest jotting down notes breaking down the required elements of each answer — situation, task, action, and result.

“A real response reflects not only on your past experience but how you think about those opportunities,” he said.

He said candidates are most likely to forget to include the most important aspect of their response — the result. Instead, they focus on the situation, task, and action, without going into impact. He wants job candidates to explain why what they’ve done matters.

“What are the fingerprints that you left behind?” Hann asked.

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THE SELF-INSTALLED SMART HOME REPORT: Why current smart home device owners are appealing to tech companies

This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.

Not that long ago, many home-appliance and consumer-electronics makers were gearing up for what they thought would soon be a rapidly growing market for smart home devices.

The instant popularity of the Nest thermostat, introduced in 2011, seemed to confirm their hopes. But those expectations were dashed in the coming years as the market for connected home devices later stagnated. 

Even with these challenges, many of the biggest consumer technology companies are now moving into the smart home market. For example, Apple, which recently released its self-installed smart home ecosystem, called the Apple Home, traditionally doesn’t move into a market until it’s very mature and only when it can release a perfected product. Further, Google this fall launched the Google Home and its companion ecosystem, hoping to jump into the voice-activated smart home speaker market, which Amazon currently dominates with its Echo product line. 

In a new report, BI Intelligence examines the demographics of the average smart home device owner and discuss why current smart home device owners are appealing to tech companies. The report also examines the plans of various tech giants in the smart home market and discuss their monetization strategies, and makes suggestions for how these companies can position themselves to make their products and devices more appealing to the mass market.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Tech companies primarily enter the market to enhance a core revenue stream or service, while device makers desire to collect data to improve their products and prevent costly recalls.
  • We forecast there will be $4.8 trillion in aggregate IoT investment between 2016 and 2021.
  • These companies are also seeking to create an early-mover advantage for themselves, where they gain an advantage by this head start on adoption.
  • Major barriers to mass market adoption that still must overcome include technological fragmentation and persistently high device prices.

In full, the report:

  • Details the market strategy of prominent tech companies and device makers, and analyzes why which ones are best poised to succeed once adoption ticks up.
  • Offers insight into current ownership through an exclusive survey from BI Intelligence and analyzes what demographics will drive adoption moving forward.
  • Explains in detail which companies are poised to succeed in the market in the coming years as adoption increases and mass market consumers begin to purchase smart home devices.

To get your copy of this invaluable guide to the IoT, choose one of these options:

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The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of smart homes.

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Here’s how people in happy relationships can wind up cheating

Couples therapist Esther Perel , author of “Mating in Captivity” and “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity and the host of the Audible original series “Where Should We Begin?,” explains how people might cheat on their partner even when they are happy with the relationship. Following is a transcript of the video.

Esther Perel:  Today we are very comfortable with the idea that we have no-fault divorce. We still have not found a way of thinking about affairs as no-fault affairs.

I am Esther Perel. I am a couples therapist, and I’m the author of “Mating in Captivity” and “The State of Affairs,” as well the host and co-producer of the podcast “Where Should We Begin?”

“There must be something wrong” is what is at the core of how we try to understand why would people risk losing everything and cheat on their partner to whom they have made a vow.

Our typical idea is that if I have found the one, and if with that one I have everything that I need, obviously, if I am going to look elsewhere, it must mean that there is something missing. And either there is something missing in our relationship or there is something missing in the person who is straying. But it is a deficiency model. It is seeing infidelity as a symptom of a relationship gone awry. This is true in many cases. There are many motives for why people stray that have to do with the discontents of a relationship — loneliness, neglect, rejection, complacency, sexlessness. But then there is also the motivation that often has nothing to do with the partner. And that has to do with a form of self-seeking — that many times, people who stray are also hoping to reconnect with lost parts of themselves, with the lives unlived, with the sense that life is short and that there are certain experiences, but not in the vain sense of the word, that they are longing for, and that they are not just looking for another person but, in a way, they are looking for another self.

Instead of thinking that the person who cheats is unhappy with their partner or with their relationship, it is sometimes important to think that they may be unhappy with themselves, or at least uncomfortable, restless, longing for something else. Longing to reconnect with lost parts of themselves. Longing to transcend a sense of deadness that they are feeling inside. Longing to experience a sense of autonomy over their life — that they are finally doing something that they want. And, paradoxically, while they are lying to their partner, sometimes they find themselves in this strange situation where maybe for the first time they are not lying to themselves.

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Alphabet quietly made its experimental balloon project a full-fledged corporation — a first step to a new Google spinout (GOOG, GOOGL)

Sergey Brin

Alphabet has quietly upgraded its internet balloon initiative from a research lab “project” to an official corporation, setting the stage for what could be the latest standalone business to spin out from Google’s parent company.

Project Loon, which develops solar-powered balloons that beam internet access down to earth, has been incorporated as Loon Inc, according to regulatory filings. 

Business Insider first noticed Loon was listed as “Loon Inc.” in a recent filing to the FCC seeking permission to float Loon balloons above Puerto Rico and provide internet access to areas affected by hurricane Maria. Previously, Loon was officially referred to as a project under Alphabet, or under X, the Alphabet subsidiary dedicated to creating ambitious “moonshot” technologies.

Loon’s incorporation is a sign that Alphabet may be preparing to spin Loon out of the X division and let it operate as its own company. Alphabet went through a similar process last year with Waymo, the company formed out of X’s self-driving car project. X also spun out Dandelion, a geothermal energy company, earlier this year, but Dandelion is not under the Alphabet umbrella.

A Loon spokesperson declined to comment.

Next candidate

One person close to X told Business Insider a few months ago that Loon was the next likely candidate for a spin out of X. In February, Alphabet X’s business tapped Alastair Westgarth, a telecom industry veteran, to be the new CEO of Project Loon

Getting spun out from the mothership often indicates that Alphabet believes an experimental technology or product has matured enough to be ready for commercialization. That gives the spinout company the freedom to pursue its own business objectives, while at the same time subjecting it to the financial pressures of an independent business.

Google has previously said that it believes Loon’s “floating cell towers in the sky” could one day become a business that generates billions of dollars in revenue. So far however, Loon has only seen limited deployments in areas like Sri Lanka, Peru, and more recently Puerto Rico.

As a standalone company, Loon would join a growing roster of Alphabet subsidiaries, known as “Other Bets,” such as high-speed internet service Access, smart appliance maker Nest and Waymo, the self-driving car company. In the second quarter of the year, Alphabet’s Other Bets posted an operating loss of $772 million, on revenue of $248 million.

Spencer Hosie, a lawyer representing Loon competitor SpaceData in a lawsuit, told Business Insider that he noticed the change in Loon’s status in the recent FCC filing. Hosie said he plans to add Loon Inc. as a defendant in SpaceData’s case against Alphabet. It’s unclear when exactly Alphabet incorporated Loon, but Hosie said he suspected that it could have been as recently as last week.

Julie Bort contributed to this report. 

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