Archive | September 2015

Is there a future for brick-and-mortar retailers?


E-commerce is a big threat to physical stores. The brick-and-mortar retailers are losing market share to webshops every year. The percentage of online shopping increased from 5% in 2007 to 9% in 2012 in the United States (Economist, 2012).

I think most retailers don’t invest enough effort in building a relationship with their customers. The main things that allow brick-and-mortar retailers to differentiate from online retailers is service and the shopping experience (Trafsys, 2015). So brick-and-mortar retailers should focus more on those things, such as expensive clothes and gadgets, that customers will want to try before they buy them. With these products the price isn’t the most important thing. More important is that there is a good relationship with the customers. A good relationship with the customers will also prevent against showrooming. Showrooming is that shoppers try products in physical stores before they buy them online for a cheaper price (Economist, 2012). This is a really big problem for physical stores who sell consumer electronics. Many people can acknowledge that they tried a laptop or mobile phone in a store before buying it online for a lower price.

So brick-and-mortar retailers should deliver a better service or shopping experience to compensate the higher price. In my opinion, the Apple store is one of the few physical stores in the Netherlands that deliver something extra. I bought my Mac Book in the Apple store The Hague last month. I didn’t buy it online because I like the experience of an Apple store and prefer the service of the physical store. Especially with these kind of prices, it gives a better feeling that you can go to a store when there is something wrong with your product. In conclusion, I think that brick-and-mortar retailers should focus more on service and shopping experience, instead of trying to compete with the low prices of online shops.

References :, (2015). Trend report: Why Personalized Retail Is the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Stores [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2015].

The Economist, (2012). Clicks and bricks. [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Sep. 2015].

‘’Education is broken. Come help us build the education the world deserves.’’

In a recent blogpost of (at least I can imagine) the most famous student of our year (‘First step to “speak” code? by gabriellapimpao), an argument was made that managers and programmers should aim to understand each other so that they can actually work together within organisations.

I thought about this very topic during the previous summer, being fully ignorant about the ‘world of coding’. I reached out to some of my friends, asking them for advice: ‘’How should I learn to code?’’ They advised me to have a try at Codecademy, which I would like to tell you some more about here.


Codecadamy is an online interactive learning platform with over 25 million users. It provides free courses in various programming languages, including HTML & CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Python & Ruby. For each language, there is a course in which you can learn the language step by step, in a very convenient and informative way. The learning material is partly co-created by the users their selves. For example, Codecadamy has an active forum community that is willing to help you out when you get stuck in your code (which happened to me, frequently).

What I find (most) inspiring about Codecadamy is the way they think about education. They acknowledge that learning to code may not be optimally done in classrooms. Instead, the founders (Zach Sims & Ryan Bubinski) felt that the skills required in the current working environment could be much more effectively and efficiently learned in alternative ways. According to Codecadamy themselves, they are ‘building the education the world needs’ by providing a learning environment that is net native. Thereby, Codecadamy provides individuals with a set of skills that are relevant out there, at this very moment.

Have you ever tried Codecademy? What is your opinion on such online learning sources, and are there any other sources you know of which may facilitate the learning process of coding?

Have you also looked for an alternative to Spotify or Pandora?

There you are, sitting in front of your computer, trying to study while listening to Spotify in order to boost your productivity. You are tired of the ads in Spotify, but do not want to pay any subscription fee, because yes, you think listening to music online should be free. In this context, you also avoid paying for downloads on ITunes, because it’s simply too costly to spend a dollar on every song you would like to have on your desktop. If that is the case and you do not want to let neither ITunes nor Spotify off the hook, then I might have a solution for you.

In fact, music is a significant part of the emerging evolution of digital goods and several trends nowadays seem to differentiate between key players. One of them, crucial for the online music market, is that users tend to favor subscription and usage fees over buying. Hence, the ITunes store is likely to experience a downward shifting over the next couple of years. What’s more, customers expect to have access to their goods, in this case songs or playlists, on all of their devices, as – we all know it – the usage of mobile devices is increasing tremendously. And there’s a couple more trends that appear for digital goods in the next years, but what has this all got to do with Spotify?

In fact, there is an alternative for Spotify users that incorporates these trends. Even though it does not possess the exact same strategy as Spotify, if you are tired of the latter, you should give it a go. I am talking about a tool called 8tracks. Based on Napster and also available on tablets and smartphones, 8tracks is an online music social media platform (“the social alternative to Pandora”) that fosters interaction, creativity and enables people to listen to and upload music playlists. One disadvantage of other online music marketplaces like Spotify is the fact that once you have put the music you know in a playlist, you are kind of stuck. Here is where 8tracks comes in, because its greatest strength is that enables users to successfully seek for new music variety, depending on their genre, mood, activity or location. Whether it might be the running playlist you were looking for that includes dubstep, or the study playlist that offers instrumental deep house, you will find it on 8tracks.

Even though the website contains a couple of drawbacks, i.e. you cannot skip tracks more than without causing a playlist change, it offers an outstanding music and playlist variety that you can, similar to Facebook, “like” in order to save on your account and to listen to it again. Further, the website efficiently uses ratings and word-of-mouth, enabling their users to observe how many people have liked a playlist or what comments have been posted. Even more, 8tracks, taking advantage of big data, provides its users with playlist recommendations based on their listening history, leading to 5 million users worldwide at this point.

What do you think about this application folks? I have been using it for two years and am still amazed by the tremendous variety and the great user talent to create playlists. Here is a short video how it works.

Author: Hugo Krier


Amazon Flex- The Uber for High Speed Deliver

Amazon launched yesterday in Seattle a new on-demand delivery service, Amazon Flex, that relies not on traditional couriers, but ordinary people to bring the packages to clients. Like with ridesharing, drivers have to bring their own car and install an app on their phone that will notify them of gigs; the only difference is that they will transport packages instead of people.

According to Amazon Website drivers will be paid $18 to $25 per hour (they can work as much as they want) to deliver packages ordered with Amazon Prime Now, the company one-hour delivery service. In order to be eligible, applicants must have valid drivers’ licenses, be over the age of 21, pass a background check and own an Android smartphone.

It’s worth to be mentioned that Amazon is also considering using the Flex service for less urgent packages, which suggests that the company sees this as a more than just a way to make its high-speed shipping dream a reality. Let’s think about Christmas for example: Flex could really be helpful to handle the crushing holiday demand.

As The Guardian reports, Amazon Flex appears to have taken its cue from Uber and other “gig economy”-based services. Flex is not the first one though: it joins services like Instacart and TaskRabbit that employ strangers to ride around town to run your chores and bring stuff to your doorstop. By adding this new service Amazon put itself right in the middle of an ongoing debate about the nature on work in a modern economy: the new sharing economy model has in fact led to lawsuits in a number of countries. Uber is probably the most well-known example: the company has been repeatedly sued in the last few years by former drivers claiming that they were not third-party contractors but in fact proper employees of the firm.

Let’s face it, it’s a gig economy world, and we are living in it, which often means screwing employees out of proper benefits and job security that full-time employees enjoy. One question remaining: is it really the type of economy we want to contribute to?


The Window Socket: will it work??

Sunlight, we all know that the future of our energy source lies within the sun. We have already started developing and implementing new ways of generating electricity from the sun through for example Solar Panels. However these panels take up a lot of room and are very expensive to install, not to mention the fact that these panels give power to huge electricity units such as houses and cars. However we, as modern day people, can struggle with a shortage of electricity on much smaller items as well, such as phones, camera’s, flashlights etc. You don’t always have a charger with you and definitely not a charger that runs on sunlight, well here is a solution, it is called the Window Socket.


It is a small socket that has on one side a electricity plug in entry and on the other side a small solar panel. You use it by sticking this socket (using the suction pad situated around the solar panel) on a window of your house or on your car for example. The solar panel then collects sunlight and turns it into energy/electricity which then allows you to use it as a power source for your phone or some other item that is in need of electricity. Not only does it transform sunlight into electricity it can also store it for up to 10 hours of electricity when it is fully charged (which takes about 5-6 hours), this way you can take it with you and use it when you are away from home.



This seems like the perfect solution, however there is one important characteristic that I’ve have been hiding from you guys, and that is that this is an idea, it hasn’t been transformed into a real product. The reason that this is still a concept and not an actual product is due to the fact that there quite a few problems concerning the process of attracting and generating the sunlight into electricity. There are many critics who have brought up some serious concerns regarding the size of the Window Socket. One such a critic is Chris Clarke, in an online article he wrote he states that this product isn’t able to work because of its size. According to Clarke the Socket is much too small to create enough energy to completely charge a phone, “50 square centimeters of photovoltaic surface,…, maximum power output of the PV cells drops to 1 watt” ( Another problem is that the 1 watt is the absolute maximum amount of electricity the Window Socket can produce when it is in direct sight of the sun for up to 5-6 hours. Five to six hours is a long time, and the chance that a window stays in the sun for so long is short, not to mention the fact that it has to be a clear sky day, with absolutely no clouds at all. According to Clarke the window will also absorb light and therefore make it even harder for the Window Socket to charge fully. Just for clarity reasons, a toothbrush requires 5 watt, so with 1 watt it is almost impossible to charge a phone completely.

There are thus some flaws that have require some attention, and I personally think it is going to take a while before the ultimate solution is created, however I am very much impressed by this idea and personally I think, with some changes here and there the Window Socket could become a success. But I want to know from you guys the following: 1) do YOU think this can be success and if yes, then 2) how can you tackle these problems to make it become a success? I am eager to here your thoughts.


Philip van Zadelhoff



Biometrics in our daily lives, useful or threatening?

Biometrics are a variety of technologies used to identify a person by certain unique attributes, such as fingerprint or iris recognition. Furthermore, some of the tech can be used to track a person’s activity, health, even his sleep patterns. Nowadays biometric technology is used on a daily basis. From the simplest of tasks, such as unlocking your mobile phone, to ensuring national security, biometric technology has impacted everyone’s life. But do its uses outweigh the hidden dangers?

Endless amounts of data are created every day through the use of biometrics. When you go for a run and bring your iPhone, Apple knows where you went, how fast you ran and how that compares to your previous runs. Google usually chips in on this as well, tracking your movement wherever you go.
If you wear an activity tracker, such Jawbone or Fitbit, your sleep patterns are tracked and stored, allowing you to optimize your sleep. Some trackers can even measure your heart rate. Combine all this data and you get a pretty complete picture of a person’s health and daily routine. Rather private information, don’t you agree?

­In New York the so-called Domain Awareness System is a network of 3000 camera’s that allows law enforcement agencies to review video material in order to better solve crimes that were committed. A very powerful and useful tool that is only a face recognition software upgrade away from being able to follow our every move, effectively putting the last nail in the coffin when it comes to our privacy.

All these data combined are very valuable. But who stores it and who has access to it? What if someone gains unlawful access to my biometric data? The consequences could be far reaching. Blocking my credit card and getting a new one when it’s stolen is one thing. Changing my fingerprint is a whole different ball game.

There are plenty of benefits to biometric technology. Imagine a scenario where everyone was wearing a health tracker. If someone would get sick, say a fever, the tracker would instantly notice the change in body temperature. It would alert the person wearing it to take a day off, both minimizing the chance of spreading the virus and optimizing recovery time. The economic benefits would be significant. However, you would no longer be able to play hooky from work..

Chances are we are going to see a lot more biometric technology the coming years. Anything from national security to playing video games will be influenced by it. Lets just hope all that data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.


Letting consumers work for you

A retail dilemma

You have started your own company which creates a consumer product, sold through your own web shop. The product turns out to be a big success and you decide to expand your company’s sales channels by collaborating with several big retail chains (each with multiple stores throughout the country) which will sell your product in their physical stores. After a few months, you’ve analysed sales data of these different retail chains and notice that your product is, on average, sold significantly less often in some of these stores than in others (after controlling for store reach, close competitors, etc.). You decide that it might have something to do with the stores itself; maybe your product isn’t placed in an optimal way, maybe the store personnel has little knowledge of your product? The question is; how are you going to find out whether the stores are the problem, not your product? Visiting each retail location takes too much time and can be quite costly, not a very desirable solution.


A company that can aid you in this search for information is Roamler. Roamler was founded in 2011 by two Dutch guys and can formally be described as a “retail analytics company” (Roamler, 2015a). Roamler is able to execute large scale field research in a relatively short amount of time including product placement, campaign execution, competitor prices, product usage (by consumers), and much more. Roamler’s unique feature is that it deploys consumers as its field researchers. Roamler has an app which everyone can download on his or her smartphone. Roamler send out assignments (based on their clients whishes) via this app and people can choose to accept them or not. Every correct assignment rewards them with a small amount of money. These assignment are the research targets, they can consist of taking shelf pictures, questioning personnel or testing products at home, basically anything that that Roamler is asked to investigate by its client. This task force of consumers is considerably large, with over 10.000 active ‘Roamlers’ in the Netherlands alone (Roamler, 2015b). After Roamler has gathered a sufficient amount of data from its Roamlers, they will process the data into a presentable report which its client can use to make important retail decisions.

The consumer workforce
By deploying consumers as field researchers, Roamler has found an efficient way to gather large amounts of offline data relatively quickly. The great thing is that the possibilities are endless as Roamler simply provides the service and companies can come up with any assignment. Smartphones are powerful tools and as the vast majority of the Netherlands has one (81%) (Telecompaper, 2015), developping a system which can utilize this group can be extremely effective. Furthermore, Roamler’s service is quite unique in a world where companies quickly want to digitalize to increase efficiency and data management. IT provides companies with an efficient and effective way to manage their online retail channels while Roamler (for a large part) does the same for offline channels.

I believe Roamler has found the perfect formula for using online tools to tackle offline problems. Their service has great potential and retail analytics might just be the beginning. Can you think of any other way how to use Roamler’s cheap, mobile and effective workfore? How might Roamler help your future business?
By Niek Huisman


Roamler (2015a). Over Roamler. Retrieved at 28-09-2015 from

Roamler (2015b). Personal interview. Held at 01-05-2015

Telecompaper (2015). Majority of the elderly in the Netherlands has a smartphone. As found on–1088067

The Data Lovestory Of Amy Webb

One ultimate lifegoal is to find a partner, with whom you can spent the rest of your days.  Having the right person to found a family is highly desired. Everybody is looking for love – so does Amy Webb. Amy is a lecturer on emerging technologies and media at the Columbia University. Her age is unknown, according to Wikipedia, she is in her late thirties. She is a successful woman with a stable income and lives in Philadelphia. Amy has a big family – many of her relatives were starting to found families, which put her in an uncomfortable situation, because she couldn’t find a right partner. Hence, Amy decided to join dating websites. Using dating websites can be a convenient way to find a partner. For instance, if you approach an attractive person on the streets and ask for a date, you could be rejected which is awkward for you and for the other person. In contrast, dating websites provide a comfortable distance between the users. If you are being rejected, it doesn’t feel as bad as being rejected on the street, because you cannot see the other person physically.

Dating websites work with algorithms. Before signing up, users have to fill out questionnaires about their hobbies, their age, gender, sexual orientation and what activities they like to do. Based on these data, an algorithm program will propose profiles that might be interesting to the user. Hence, Amy decided to sign up for a dating website. The online portal proposed many matches to her, so she ended up with meeting many people from the dating website. Unfortunately, none of the dates were pleasant for her. For example, Amy met Steve in one of the most expensive restaurants in Philadelphia. At first, the date was pretty good. Steve shared a lot of interests with Amy like music from the eighties or technical gadgets. Both talked a lot and enjoyed classy meals. Than Steve stood up to go the toilet. Unfortunately he never returned back, leaving a bill over 1300 dollars for Amy.

Being frustrated about the bad dates, Amy recognised, that the algorithms of the dating websites were not detailed enough. Hence, she made an attempt to re-engineer the algorithm system by stating attributes for her desired man. For example, one criterion for Amy was that her partner shall weigh twenty pounds more than herself. Other attributes were that the man should be smart and jewish. She ended up with 72 criterions and grouped these into a three stage importance ranking. Every attribute was linked with a certain amount of points, depending on the ranking. The criterions in the highest importance stage were associated with the most points. Hence, Amy only contacted dates that received a certain number of points. To be more specific, different scores were linked to specific actions:

With a score of 700 pts: Amy contacts the match via e-Mail

With a score of 850 pts: Amy would be willing to go on a date with the match

With a score of 1500 pts: Amy could consider a long term relationship

Using the scoring system, Amy could filter profiles that were not appealing to her in a rational and quantitative way. Apparently, one match scored high on the importance ranking, hence Amy decided to contact the man behind the profile. However, she did not consider the possibility that the counterpart wouldn’t respond, which indeed happened. Being frustrated about the missing response, Amy investigated which kind of profiles were likely to receive a high response rate. Her analysis was based on ten fake profiles, that she created herself. These profiles included different attributes like a profile picture that displayed an attractive women, who showed a lot of skin, or a personal profile description that was linked to an open minded and adventurous women. By analyzing her findings of her research she was able to create a profile that was very likely to get a high response rate. Attributes of this “super-profile” were:

  • A short profile description about the user herself with an average text length of 97 words
  • Including simple, optimistic language, thereby avoiding specific academic terms in the user description was benefitial to the response rate
  • Timing matters: profiles with high response rates waited 23 hours on average, before they continued with the e-Mail conversation with the match.
  • Profile pictures that showed some skin were linked to high response rates.

By creating the super profile, Amy indeed found an interesting date that appealed to her. The profilename of the match was Thevenin. He scored exactly 850 points on her importance ranking, hence Amy decided to date him. The relationship between Thevenin and Amy went pretty good, after one year Thevenin proposed to Amy in Jordan during holiday. They married two years after the first date and shortly after that, their daughter, Petra, was born.

Amy’s data lovestory shows, how incredible valuable data can be.


Finding your iPhone… And a news story

Who does not know the Find My iPhone function? Better yet, who has not used it before7e2d040d9?

That little moment of panic when you feel your pockets or look into your purse and it’s gone. Most of us find it within an hour, because we simply misplaced it. But for the less fortunate amongst us, the iPhone may really be stolen. Luckily, we nowadays make use of the Cloud, in which we store all our pictures, notes, reminders, video’s… Basically, our lives. When your iPh
one disappears, it is hard to believe that it is actually “stolen” and will be used again by someone else, who will, like you did
, use this iPhone. Naturally, your content on the iPhone will be erased, and the content will slowly but surely reflect the
life of someone else. This happened to Maura, who lost her iPhone in the Hamptons and, after purchasing a new one, realised that pictures of her old phone appeared on her Cloud, giving her a glimpse in
o the lives of Yemen family members. This news story was all over the Internet. Looking at the pictures, you can imagine why..


In class, we have learned a lot about the impact of new technologies, how these technologies can transform industries, disrupt businesses and change consumers’ needs. Throughout the past years, news industries were forced to change their information strategies by, first of all, making the big switch from offline to online news, slowly moving to more devices and platforms, delivering news which is personal and personalised. However,
no news story, regardless of its perspective, platform, or device, can compare to the stories told by people who are living the news… Like the Yemen family through Maura’s iPhone.

This story also shows the vulnerability of the news industry. As the news industry relies on information sources and is, through new technologies and platforms, very easy to distribute,  it can be considered an economy of scale (Shapiro & Varian, 1998). While the distribution costs are consistently close to zero, the production costs depend on variables such as distance, emotional appeal, accessibility etc. Up until now, news corporations have taken on the responsibility of creating news items, however, the increasing importance of emotional appeal and true nature of stories, shift this role from news creators to the people “living” the news. After all, they are much better at explaining, communicating the feelings they are going through, capturing their stories in pictures, providing background information on the topic, and so on. Using the literature by Granados et al (2008), one could argue that, due to these emerging characteristics, the news market is turning (once again) into a newly vulnerable market. It is easy to enter, attractive to attack and difficult to enter (Granados et al, 2008). Nonetheless, the big difference with the traditional form of competition is the underlying purpose of publishing such news information: While news corporations want to make money, locals want to tell their story – for free. The fact that technology is slowly but surely disrupting developing countries, too, means that individuals can cheaply distribute their news stories worldwide  and that everyone can gain access to information without being dependent on news corporations.

I do realize that this approach may be far fetched, but the example does illustrate threats to the news market which are in line with the literature we discussed in class.

Do you think news corporations will be redundant in a few years? How should they change their production, distribution and pricing strategy to compete with individuals that do not want to earn money of sharing their information? What is the role of news corporations in the future? How do you think the developing countries will react to the disruptive technologies in terms of information provision?




Granados, N., Kauffman, R.J., and King, B. 2008. How Has Electronic Travel Distribution Been Transformed? A Test of the Theory of Newly-Vulnerable Markets. Journal of Management Information Systems 25(2) 73-96.

Shapiro, C., and Varian, H. 1998. Pricing Information. In Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Is 2015 Instagram Year?

On 9th of September 2015 Instagram has introduced its worldwide Advertising service to the public. The service is available to all companies ranging from small to large ones. The Advertising service has been in testing phase for the past 2 years.


The Advertisement service works as self-service platform and any company can create the advertisement using the Facebook’s selve-serve platform, Power Editor or easily though Instagram’s Ads API system which is a software, that helps the advertisements to be automatically created (, 2015).

Instagram offers easy to follow manual with tips how to create the content which will fit the platform and make users love it rather than hate it. The Ads work on the same Ad Auction system same as Facebook, which selects the best suitable Ads based on the maximum bids and Ad performance. Since Facebook is a parent company of Instagram, Instagram also has access to targeting tools which Facebook already has in use, which helps Instagram since a lot of capital is saved and marketers know what quality of targeting to expect. The short time span within which Instagram managed to enter the Online Ad market was this fast mostly to the boost which it gained from Facebook (Sloane, 2015).

The main 3 types of new advertisement on Instagram Image Ads, Video Ads (30 seconds) and Carousel Ads consisting of multiple pictures. The types of advertising are shown in the picture below (Constine, 2015).

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 11.11.28

There are 2 million advertisers on Facebook today—that’s the size and scale we’re looking at. Plus expanding from eight markets to 30 and then global, that gives you a sense of the broadening of availability.” said James Quarles, Instagram’s global head of business and brand development (Boorstin, 2015).

According to eMarketer research, Instagram will generate almost $600 million in ad sales this year 2015. It also predicts that Instagram will earn $2.81 billion in ad sales by 2017, which would make them overrun Google and Twitter in U.S. display ads (Sloane, 2015).

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 11.17.02

Secondly on 22nd of September 2015 Instagram has reached 400 million users. The increase from 300 million to 400 million happened only within 9 months. Instagram is at the moment having more users then Twitter, which has lastly reported 316 million users (Olanoff, 2015).


Instagram offers a guide in which the companies can customise their advertisement in a way that they blend with the rest of users content and user is not disturb by the sponsored posts. When Instagram first introduced the sponsored images, there was a clear disagreement from the users who didn’t welcome posts from brands they weren’t following (Sloane, 2015).

The increase of numbers of users clearly shows that people did not start leaving the platform after the Instagram Ads have been introduced as the first waves of reactions were hinting.

Do you think that the fact that Instagram will overrun Google in advertising revenue is feasible in the near future? Further do you think that this is the right way which Instagram should lead themselves and following and implementing what Facebook is doing or will it lead to customer loss?

Author: Natalie Jonasova


Boorstin, J. (2015). Finally! Here comes Instagram’s big ad push. [online] CNBC. Available at: [Accessed 27 Sep. 2015]., (2015). Instagram Business. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Sep. 2015].

Constine, J. (2015). Instagram Ads Go Global, Including New 30-Second Commercials. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: [Accessed 26 Sep. 2015].

Olanoff, D. (2015). Instagram Hits 400M Users Just 9 Months After Announcing 300M. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: [Accessed 28 Sep. 2015].

Sloane, G. (2015). Instagram Unleashes a Fully Operational Ad Business. [online] AdWeek. Available at: [Accessed 27 Sep. 2015].

Sloane, G. (2015). Instagram’s Ad Sales Are Expected to Top $2 Billion by 2017. [online] AdWeek. Available at: [Accessed 27 Sep. 2015]. – loans that change lives

Roughly 4 billion people in developing countries do not have access to financial markets, such as credit, savings and insurance (Rabobank, 2015). Formal financial institutions like banks usually refuse to serve poor households and micro-enterprises because of the high transaction-costs involved.

However, access to financial markets and the resulting increase in entrepreneurial activities is often the only way for developing countries to get out of poverty (King & Levine, 1993). Another important function of financial markets is the prevention of newly arising conditions of poverty through, for instance, accidents.

Micro-financing institutions help the poorest of the poor to get access to money, but often do not have the financial resources to serve many people.

Thats where comes in:

Kiva is a non-profit organisation with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty ( The organisation brings small loans to entrepreneurs all around the world to start their own businesses, by cooperating and supporting micro finance institutions all over the world. The company provides their services through a digital platform, that connects you, the lender, with people looking for micro loans.

100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes directly towards funding loans; Kiva does not take a cut.

I am lending on Kiva for around 1,5 years now. The relatively small amount of money that I invested (25$ per month for the first 6 months = 150$ ), has been relent over 3 times now (450$). I have been able to support 17 entrepreneurs from 7 different countries. The fact that you are not donating, but lending money to motivated individuals who will be empowered to ultimately strengthen their local economies is very inspiring – and FUN!

Sign up and see for your self!


R.G. King & R. Levine, 1993, “Finance, entrepreneurship and growth”, Journal of Monetary Economics, 32(3), pp. 513-542

Rabobank, 2015, “The Rabobank View: Access to Financial Services in Developing Countries”

Big data only matters if you have a question

Everybody is talking about “big data”. The possibilities of collecting, generating & storing data are endless. Because of its popularity, big data is also more and more becoming a buzz. It has assumed such a variety of terms that it big date has become an unclear term if it is not further specified. When somebody is talking about big data, chances are slim that everybody in the room is thinking about the same thing.


Today, every company feels the need to start using big data. Everybody is talking about it, more and more companies are doing it, hence we need to use it as well ! But often they forget a very important thing

…data on its own is meaningless. The value of data is not the data itself – it’s what you do with the data.

First you need to know what data you need and only after that you should start collecting. Because why would you put so much energy and effort in collecting data that you cannot use to deliver relevant business insights?

Many people try to start with the solution; “we need to use big data”, rather than start with the problem. In order to have a successful data strategy, you need to begin with defining the insights needed to identify the pathways towards growth, otherwise you will drown in all the data available. The focus should always lie on the questions and not on the solution. Big data can offer many answers but it will always require a person to frame the question, identify the data that will be able to provide an answer and interpret the obtained results. Then these results can be used to create a strategy that can add value to your business.


For example, if you wish to enter the weight management market, questions you will need answers to might be, ‘How many people are overweight?’, ‘how many people are interested in losing weight?’, ‘what is the average income of these people?’ and so on. Identifying what needs to be done in order to collect this data will then be a lot easier.

Everybody now has the opportunity to use data. Availability is not the issue anymore. However answers to things that don’t matter, won’t bring you any further. If you focus on the relevant questions first, and tackle them with big data, then the power of data will be of great value to your company.

By: Melanie Pieters, 420914MP


Human Attention Span shorter than a Goldfish

According to the National Center for Biotechnology information the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. The average attention span of a human being, however, has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015. This is not the only change in human behavior. 25% of the teens forget major details of close friends and relatives and 7% of the people forget their birthdays from time to time (statistic brain research institute, 2015).

Research showed that Canadians with more digital lifestyles struggle to remain focus for extended periods of time, in the long-term. This is because of the thrill of finding something new. While connecting consumers are jumping from one experience into another the neurotransmitter dopamine is released. This neurotransmitter makes them feel rewarded (Gausby, 2015).

This only happens in the long-term. Early adopters and heavy social media users have more intermittent bursts of high attention. Therefore, tech adoption and social media usage is training consumers to become better at processing and encoding information through short bursts of high attention. Consumers are able to do more with less through higher bursts of attention and more efficient encoding to memory (Gausby, 2015).

Multi-screening also impacts consumers. It trains them to be less effective at filtering out distractions because they are seeking for the trill of finding something new (Gausby, 2015).

Our shrinking attention span and the trill of finding something new is especially important for marketers. They need to find ways to grab the attention of a consumer and to keep it long enough to get their message across. It takes 10 seconds for a consumer to decide whether they will stay on the webpage or not (Conner, 2015). Therefore, it is important to eliminate distraction and stick to the main message. Moving and rich media ads help to capture attention and to improve engagement. This is also shown in the figure below.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 15.43.44

Shifting between different tasks and thereby demanding different cognitive skills also helps to capture attention. Multi-screening behavior plays an important role in shifting tasks. Research has shown that multi-screen environments do not only improve overall attention, but hat they also improve emotional connection and encoding to memory. While consumers are looking at there mobile phone (rather then television), they are still responding to auditory cues, like laughing at jokes. Also ‘calls to action’ within content were effective in encouraging consumers to look up at key moments. While consumers may not be watching they are likely listening (Gausby, 2015).

In order to fulfill the thrill of something new it is also good to encourage consumers to seek out additional content on other devices, for example a website.

Technology introduces some challenges but is not a threat or problem for marketers. Digital media consumption is a given, multi-screening increases, social media becomes integrated in different ways, and consumers continue to adopt new technologies. This is not only happening in the young generation, but in the entire population (Gausby, 2015).

Therefore, it is important for brands to find different, more creative and increasingly immersive ways to market themselves and engage with consumers.


Connor, M. (2015), ‘The vanishing attention span of consumers’. [online] Infographic. Availablet at: [Accessed 29 September 2015].

Gausby, A. (2015), ‘Attention Spans’, Consumer Insides Microsoft Canada, Spring 2015.

Statistic Brain Research Insitute (2015), ‘Attention span statistics’, [online]. Availble at: [Accessed 29 September 2015].

Trello: A Great way to organise your group work

No need to look further, whether you’re in need to organise your personal life, working on a group project or even when working on a software development project, I have got the perfect tool for you. Let me introduce you to Trello. I have started using Trello myself as I was involved in a software development project. At the moment I am also using it to organise my personal life.

Trello is used by over 5 million people these days. It has won its popularity by adding an extra layer into the traditional to-do lists while keeping its interface easy and understandable for everyone. It is like a digital whiteboard filled with post-its that can be easily moved around. So imagine a big whiteboard on which you can make lists, for example “Technology of the Week Assignment” and put in cards or to-do’s related to the assignment. Your cards could be something like “Ideas” or “Blogpost”. All these cards can be edited by adding, deadline dates, checklists, attachments, images and even discussion notes from others. Through Trello you can easily divide the tasks, engage in discussions on the topics and track work others are doing and which tasks are already done.

Two weeks ago, Trello has introduced Trello Business Class, focusing on the business needs of its consumers. What is new about Business Class is that you can install so called power-ups. This enables you to incorporate all the other applications that you are using into one place. You are now able to connect applications such as Dropbox, Twitter and Slack to Trello. Connecting Slack for example, enables you to come back to a task at a later moment and getting a reminder in Slack. What is even more interesting, developers can connect GitHub to Trello, enabling them to add pull requests, commits and issues to cards. The details that are relevant are shows directly on the card.

Do you think Trello can make a difference in organising your personal life? And do you know any other tools that do similar things as Trello?–cms-21450

Internet a human right?


Last Saturday, Mark Zuckerberg plead that internet is a key enabler of human rights as he joined a group of speakers from global NGOs at the UN. He wants the world to understand that Internet access should be a basic human right and that Facebook’s role in this whole process is driven by his deep social belief that in this way, poverty will be eliminated. As he said: “Research shows that when you give people access to the internet, one in ten people is lifted from poverty”.

Even though it is hard to imagine this highly innovative world without Internet nowadays, still two third of the world still does not have any access to this amazing feature. is an initiative of Facebook brining technology leaders, nonprofits and local communities together to join the part of this planet that is not connected.

But how is planning to do this? Of course this process goes with baby steps, the application Free Basics by Facebook is a good start. This application provides free basic services in markets where Internet access is too pricy. This app allows people to browse selected health, employment and local information websites without data charges. As Free Basics is already available in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia, it will continue to more countries around the World.

Of course is there also a lot of criticism involved with this project. Even though the initiative of Facebook is very noteworthy, it still does not contribute to the fact that most of the people in developing countries does not even have the equipment to go online as smartphones of computers are not part of the most necessary attributes to survive. Furthermore, the motivation of Facebook to start this project is not always clear, which leads to the following types of comments: e.g. “Hundreds of millions of emerging market users will think that Facebook and the Internet are one and the same”. According to Zuckerberg, the only thing they want is for as many people to join the internet so that everyone can be connected.

Besides the motives Facebook may have, if this project might help even the smallest amount of people to escape their current living conditions, why not be supportive?

Consumers actually don’t like online auctions

The recent lecture on auctions discussed many examples of auctions and why they work well. If auctions are so great, then why are offerings on online marketplaces increasingly dominated by fixed prices (Einav et all, 2015)? Take a look at the distribution of price formations at eBay in figure 1.

Figure 1: eBay sales by value in the US (The Economist)

Theoretically, auctions should be better for both buyers and sellers due to the efficient allocation of goods to the person that values them most highly. Online platforms like eBay make connecting enough buyers and sellers together both cheap and convienent. Due to eBay’s first mover advantage, the theoretical desireability of auctions, and network effects we should see an ever increasing amount of online auctions. Why then, is the exact opposite happening?

It turns out that the theoretical desireability of auctions doesn’t transfer well to the real world at eBay. Most new users use an incremental bidding technique -they manually place a higher bid when they are outbid- and don’t use an automatic reserve based system. This opens them up to auction sniping, and apperently people really don’t like getting ‘sniped’.

So what is sniping? Snipers place bids in the final seconds of auctions with predetermined ending times (like those at eBay), with the aim of getting the deal. In this way, incremental bidders can lose an auction at a price that is still under their reserve. Bidders respond strongly to sniping, when someone gets sniped they are between 4 and 18 percent less likely to return to the platform (Backus et al, 2015).

Other than sniping, there is the required investment of time and energy associated with auctions. Einav et al suggest that users don’t want to spend that time and energy when shopping, they want to spend it on social media instead.

So as it turns out, consumers don’t like online auctions that much. They think they are too labor-intensive and care a great deal about the sniping problem.



IS SNIPING A PROBLEM FOR ONLINE AUCTION MARKETS? Matthew Backus Tom Blake Dimitriy V. Masterov Steven Tadelis

Customer Centricity in a Digital World

In this blog, we will take a look at how the digital world is having an impact on the consumer of today. What are the characteristics of the modern consumer? Consumer behavior changed, and is changing, drastically over the past few years. There might be more characteristics, or others, than I mention, but these are clearly visible.


1. Personalized products and services

Personalizing products is one of the important features of the modern consumer. These days, the perfect and ideal segment size is 1. We are moving towards a situation where everyone has their own services and products. And more and more companies are meeting that need.

For example: the company called ‘Normal’, form New York ( They produce personalized earphones, different for each customer. What you need to do is pretty simple: you take 5 pictures from your ear, and based on that pictures the company makes custom-made earphones, just for you. They are made in their shop, and your package is adjusted by a 3D-printer, so that your earphones fit perfectly.

2. Fast and easy

Everything has to be fast and easy for the consumer these days. Speed and simplicity is the new base for customer loyalty. If a product or service is not easy enough, than consumers would no longer consume. All new interfaces (with the help of IT applications) makes life easier. Companies that are not born in the digital world, often have difficulty with this aspect. Their succes criteria are still more like ‘complete and perfect’. This will make their product or service big and complex, and customers don’t love that. Extreme simplicity is crucial for the modern consumer.

3. Personal approach

Empathy, passion and creativity are difficult aspects for a computer. However, these (human) aspects are of great value for consumers. Honest human interaction is still appreciated and requested.

4. Awesome companies to buy from

Consumers want to link themselves with cool companies. Companies that go further than only delivering products or services. They typically have a vision that will change the world, in their opinion. For example: Apple, Google, Tesla, Coolblue. Consumers like to buy from them.


Conclusion: It’s about digital ánd human skills. When you, as a company, are good at data, user interfaces and simplicty, but also at personalization, story-telling and attitude, you have much potential! (check slideshare link for interesting LinkedIN slideshare about this subject!)

Harm-Jan Rijneveld



How Virtual Reality is more useful than just a new way to watch Porn: Combining Virtual Workplaces with Virtual Reality

Now that I’ve grabbed your attention, take five minutes of your time to read this post.  What do we know about virtual reality? Virtual reality can be understood as a three-dimensional world generated with the aid of computers. It allows users to participate and interact on a virtual and simulated setting using tools such as head-mounted display (HMD) and a DataGlobe. The HDM can be described as a helmet which allows the user to hear the sounds and see the images that are being simulated and the DataGlobe allows the user to interact in this virtual world with his/her hands.

But where are virtual workspaces affected when using only conventional means such as video-conferencing or telepresence?  For instance, under a training scenario at a hospital; there is a master operator (the chief surgeon) and performer (subordinate surgeon). The master operator is in the central hospital, while the performer is at a remote hospital. The master operator goes first (teaches a certain surgical method), and the performer tries to replicate the operator, while the two communicate via real time video-conference.

Now after understanding the concept, we see there are two extreme design schemes, i.e.: the method by which the video-telephony or video conferencing method can be performed:

  • The performer is another surgeon; In this case the master surgeon’s actions can be seen as instructions from a remote location. The feedback concerns the interpretation of the remote surgeon’s vocal remarks and some images of the operated patient. Here the technologies used by the master instructor are simple: microphone, camera, keyboard, graphics, etc.
  • The performer is a kind of surgical robot without any autonomy, he must follow what the master surgeon is performing. The master’s actions are occurring at the very low level. This means that the surgeon must guide the subordinate since the surgical act is made by the adequate tool but through subordinate guidance. The feedback must occur at a very low level as well. Indeed, the surgeon must feel on the same wave-length of the subordinate .

The important point to notice is that the control and the feedback depends on the autonomy capacities of the remote performer. It is also to be noticed that in any case, the performing surgeon’s behavior is unknown to the master surgeon, thus he cannot really predict what the surgeon will do (even when the master is giving instructions).

Now, if we imagine the same scenario again, but this time the performer has now used the VR device to understand what surgical action to carry-out with the help by carrying out the scenario in the pre-programmed situation. While creating a reality-like setting of being in the theatre room, the master surgeon can assign a scoring based system for every correct method that the performer has performed. The surgical process which was autonomous before has now become interactive, and in the supposed ‘surgeon game,’ it is possible to create a training situation along with an assessment situation. To continue, the VR device has now solved several of difficulties and costs with teleworking method. The VR device will reduce the difficulties in repeating the same process for many individuals, the same program can be run simultaneously for many different surgeons, regardless of whether time, place, or connectivity. The learning process has also now presumably become ‘fun’ as the gamification of the process can lead to higher levels of interest.

Now, don’t you think it’s the part of the real VR future?


Kheddar, A. Tzafestas, C. Blazevic, P. Coiffet, Ph, 1998, ‘Fitting teleoperation and virtual reality technologies towards teleworking.’ Laboratoire de Robotique de Paris. Available on:;jsessionid=9E6FA81C6715C3DD13B54A48E9D92AA6?doi=

iFlow: ICT support for the daily trade of floriculture

Can we structurally improve and better stabilise the price-setting in the daily trade of floricultural products? How can revised logistics contribute to this process? To answer these questions, growers and traders along with Wageningen University and Rotterdam School of Management, part of Erasmus University, initiated the project iFlow. The goal of iFlow is to support the daily trade between growers and customers by providing information on prices, suppliers and skills and ultimately to strengthen the power of the Netherlands as a marketplace. The information for traders and growers will be accessible via various ICT tools (, 2015).

The clock has always been an effective and efficient tool in the determination of a good market price and in the rapid processing of many logistics and commercial transactions. The direct flows between growers and customers, however, are greatly increased. The process of pricing on the clock is still very decisive for the pricing in the overall market. At the same time, this way of pricing is under influence of various factors and therefore has become less stable over the past few years.


The use of new and advanced IT tools to support decisions, make it possible to renew the daily trade process and the associated supply chain network, to make it more competitive and more sustainable. Research by RSM has shown that it is possible to support growers and customers in making better decisions about buying and selling flowers and plants (, 2015).

Besides selling the flowers at the auction, it is also possible for growers to opt for a contract with a floral wholesaler. The grower hereby receives a fixed price per flower during the whole season. However, the wholesaler has much power, as the prices are low at the auction, and therefore it would have been better for wholesalers to purchase through the auction, the wholesaler will whine at the grower of quality, even though it might be good. It happens regularly, in that case, that the wholesaler can take the flowers for a lower price than the price of the contract or that flowers are rejected. The grower brings the flowers over to the auction if the flowers are rejected by the wholesaler. These actions between wholesalers and growers also affect the price volatility in the auction. If there appear more flowers at the auction, as a result of rejection, the price drops even further. This can be explained by the supply and demand mechanism.

Do you think iFlow can (partly) solve the problem of price instability in the floriculture industry or do you think that the power of the wholesalers is too strong in this industry?, 2015, last visited 29 September 2015, 2015, last visited 29 September 2015, 2015, last visited 29 September 2015


WAITBUTWHY, the blog that you should not miss.

Once we were told in the lecture that we had to write a blog post there was one thing that immediately came to my mind that I needed to share: WAITBUTWHY. This is the website of Tim Urban,  where he does a “new post every sometimes”. I ended up on his blogging-website beginning of this year via a tweet of Elon Musk who posted the following:

The above post is part one of an incredible two-part post about the revolution of Artificial Intelligence, which of course is crazy interesting as well as a good fit with our current choice of education.

Tim Urban has an amazing style of writing and real talent for telling a story though his posts. He also makes his own drawings which makes his posts even better. The main reason for the success of his blog is, in my opinion, that he is able to take incredibly huge and sometimes difficult subjects and manages to tell everything about it in a very interesting way that everyone will understand.

This is probably the reason that he got the opportunity to make the following post, which starts as follows:

Last month, I got a surprising phone call.

Well, to see how this continues and to what amazing posts this will lead you’ll have to check it yourself:


On there are many other interesting and entertaining posts which will take a lot of your time to read, especially when you actually need to study or do other stuff. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Besides some of the very high quality posts about the course related subject Artificial Intelligence there is another reason for sharing this blog. In today’s world, information is abundant and available 24/7.  The majority of news articles, social media updates, headlines and other information that comes your way are short pieces of information. This is useful and keeps you up-to-date with what is happening around the world. But for a lot of these news flashes the main focus is to let you know something as soon as possible before you actually lose attention and switch over to the next article, Youtube-video, Facebook-chat or Whatsapp message. We are distracted continuously with these unlimited amounts of data pushed on the world wide web and to our devices. Even without the internet, it is the innate bias of the human brain to be distracted. Reading long sequences of pages from longer articles and/or books lets us develop a mental discipline (Carr, 2010). This mental discipline helps us to focus better, be more creative and be more productive.

That brings me to the other reason for sharing this blog. My guess is that most of us (including myself) don’t really get a lot of opportunity for those long reads in our daily lives and that seems to be a huge miss. This is actually not so strange if you think about it. A really long and indepth analys of something is quite rare in between all those quick and all-the-time updates. So with all the information that we encounter in our everyday lives, reading a somewhat bigger blog, article or book now and then seems to be a good strategy to keep our focus.


Technology of the Week [Team 9] – vs Priceline

For our technology of the week we chose 2 businesses that, in our opinion, have an innovative business model: and Priceline.

First of all, the Internet has become a vehicle for electronic collaboration through e-markets that exchange both information and knowledge (Standing, 2000). is one those e-markets. It is an intermediary that allows the offering companies (the sellers) to put up products and/or services for auction which potential buyers can bid on. This is an example of an English auction (Businessdirectory, 2012).

Priceline uses a reverse auction. Reverse auctions can be used as a response to cost savings and differ from traditional auctions like English auctions such that the lowest unique bidder wins and not necessarily the highest (Gaggero, 2012). offers the customers value by putting effort into the content and its user-friendliness. It makes an attractive partner for (smaller) companies who need more promotion for their products/services and we expect their user-base to grow even more in the near future.

We would like to refer to the following table for’s SWOT and Porter’s five forces:


Naamloos3 provides the customers with flexibility to bid based on their own preferences. On the other hand, it helps vendors to sell the products that are unsold and provide extra revenue. Priceline also provides the suppliers show anonymously; it can avoid its regular retail business from being harmed, it protects the existing brand.

Priceline’s SWOT and Five Forces:



Similarities SWOT

Both companies have strong market position. However, the industry has low entry barriers for new competitors. They are both positioned in intensively competitive market.

Differences SWOT

Name your own price by is protected by a patent whereas the technology of is not patented. pays a lot for online advertising whereas relies more on word-of-mouth advertising. expand the market by acquiring companies, while try to grow beyond international boundaries on their own.

Similarities Business Model

Both firms are active on the B2C markets. Both businesses quickly expanded to neighboring countries (e.g. Belgium and Canada).Due to the first-mover advantage, the technology companies could obtain a strong position in their markets.

Differences Business Model

Revenue model used by claims a fixed share of five Euros for each transaction, while Priceline makes use of ‘Opaque’. provides product such as travel tickets where is much more diverse with tickets for leisure time activities.

Future predictions:

Travel booking is a highly competitive market, mainly as a result of low barrier to entry. Traditional travel booking system still has a considerable amount of market share, and auction-based travel booking is yet to become the frontrunner. and could both grow exponentially by increasing their exposure in foreign countries. We predict will continue this effort in the short and long run, and will start the same tactic when it expands internationally. The looming economic volatility casts uncertainty on the industry’s future outlook. However the concern is fairly minimal in the near future.

Team 9 

J.H. Aben – 171724

L. Keijzer – 355076

K.B.T. Tram – 355313

C.K. Nguyen – 361546

Electronic Markets, Computing Power and the Quants: Volatility & High Frequency Trading

Electronic Markets, Computing Power and the Quants:  Volatility & High Frequency Trading

Markets can be – and usually are – too active, and too volatile”

Joseph E. Stiglitz – Nobel prize-winning economist

As some of you might have noticed, the oil market is currently showing wilder fluctuations at a higher frequency than before: volatility has increased. This happened after the market enjoyed relative stability price stability during the last few years. Of course, this is partly due to U.S. shale oil production, quite high supply and lower demand due to the financial crisis aftermaths, and growing demand and supply uncertainties. However, another factor affecting volatility is the increased usage of trading indicators in combination with changes in trading practices: an increasing number of players in the financial markets tend to use algorithmic and high-frequency trading practices (HFT).

Like other derivative based markets, also the crude oil market has a wide range of market players of which many are not interested in buying physical oil. HFT traders are probably drawn towards oil futures due to the market’s volatility. Because, the greater the price swings, the greater their potential profit. HFT is not an entirely new practise, but as technology evolves it is increasingly present in today’s electronic financial markets.

These players make extensive use of computing and information technology in order to develop complex trading algorithms, which are often referred to as the “quants”. HFT trading firms try to gain advantage over other competitors which are still using mostly human intelligence and reaction times. The essence of the game is to use your algobots to get the quickest market access, fastest processing speeds, and perform the quickest calculations in order capture profits which would have otherwise been earned by someone who is processing market data slower (Salmon, 2014). At essentially the speed of light, these systems are capable of reacting to market data, transmitting thousands of order messages per second, as well as automatically cancelling and replacing orders based on shifting market conditions and capturing price discrepancies with little human intervention (Clark & Ranjan, 2012). New trading strategies are formulated by using, capturing and recombining new information with large datasets and other forms of big data available to the market. The analysis performed to derive the assumed direction of the market makes use of a bunch of indicators such as historical patterns, price behaviour, price corrections, peak-resistance and low-support levels, as well as (the moving average of) trends and counter-trends. By aggregating all this information, the databases and its (changes of) averages are usually a pretty good predictor of potential profits for HFT companies.

This information technology enabled way of trading is cheaper for the executors, but imposes great costs on workers and firms throughout the economy. Although quants provide a lot liquidity, but can also alter markets by placing more emphasis on techniques and linking electronic markets with other markets (as well information as financial linking). In most cases, non-overnight, short-term strategies are used. Thus, these traders are in the market for quick wins and use only technical analysis in order to predict market movements instead of trading based upon physical fundamentals, human intelligence or news inputs.

Recent oil price volatility increased

Recent oil price volatility increased

Although, some studies have not found direct prove that HFT can cause volatility, others concluded that HFT in certain cases can transmit disruptions almost simultaneously over markets due to its high speed in combination with the interconnectedness of markets (FT, 2011; Caivano, 2015). For example, Andrew Haldane, a top official at the Bank of England said that HFT was creating a system risks and the electronic markets may need a ‘redesign’ in future (Demos & Cohen, 2011). Further sophistication of “robot” trading at decreasing cost is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. This can impose a threat to the stability of financial markets due to amplified risks, undesired interactions, and unknown outcomes (FT, 2011). In addition, in a world with intensive HFT the acquisition of information will be discouraged as the value of information about stocks and the economy retrieved by human intelligence will be much lower due to the fact that robots now do all the work before a single human was able to process and act on the information (Salmon, 2014). For those interested in the issues of HFT in more detail, I would like to recommend the article of Felix Salmon (2014).

However, it is important to mention that not only HFT and automated systems and technicalities do cause all the volatility. Markets have known swift price swings for centuries. For example in the oil industry, geopolitical risk can cause price changes as it is an exhaustible commodity. As most people know, also human emotions can distort markets as well as terrorist actions. Even incomplete information such as tweets from Twitter and Facebook posts can cause shares to jump or plumb nowadays. As markets are becoming faster, more information is shared and systems can process and act on this information alone quickly due to (information) technological advancements, which will in turn increase volatility. Therefore, it is more important than ever that there are no flaws in market data streams, e.g. the electronic markets and its information systems need to have enough capacity to process, control, and display all the necessary information to market players in order to avoid information asymmetries.

In my opinion, HFT is strengthened by the current state of computing technology and cost reductions of computing power now enable the execution of highly complex algorithms in a split-second. As prices go down and speed goes up, these systems will become more and more attractive as they outperform human intelligence. This can potentially form an issue in the future: volatility might increase and it is this volatility that provides many opportunities for traders, but not the necessary stability for producers and consumers which are more long-term focussed.

Therefore, in the future action is necessary toquality-efficiency-speed-cost restrict, or at least reduce, HFT. Examples might be big data collection by regulators to monitor risk and predict future flash crash or volatility events. Another option can be the introduction of a “minimum resting period” for trading. So traders have to hold on to their equity or trade for a pre-specified time before selling it on, reducing the frequency and thus volatility. Also, widening spreads will help as it makes quick selling and buying more costly and thus HFT less attractive.

Given that the financial market’s watchdogs currently have difficulties with regulating automated trading. Some HFT firms have enjoyed enormous profits from their trading strategies (Jump trading, Tower Research capital, DRW). For example also during the last turmoil of August this year, a couple of HFT firms earned a lot of money (Hope, 2015). Due to these successes, new players enter the market and competition is growing. As speed is essential (even milliseconds matter) HFT firms try to place their servers physically near the exchanges (such as the NYSE), so they can increase their advantage. The HFT firms are expected to stay in the market, ultimately resulting in more price volatility (Hope, 2015).

What do you think, how far should we let our technology intervene with the financial markets? Do we really need to allow algobot’s or similar automated trading systems to influence our financial markets as they can perform the human job faster, fact-based and at a lower cost? Or should the financial markets be always human intelligence based, which might be ultimately better for the economy as a whole and also provides a richer knowledge base of the real world economy (as it this information remains valuable and numbers do not always say everything)?

In case you are interested in this dilemma, I can also recommend reading Stiglitz’ speech at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in 2014.

Author: Glenn de Jong, 357570gj

Read More…

Prosper and Billguard changing the finance industry

Recently Prosper marketplace, one of the fasted growing tech companies in the U.S., has acquired BillGuard, which is one of the fastest growing finance apps in the U.S. Both companies are disturbing the traditional banking industry by peer-2-peer lending and by revolutionizing personal finance management services (Sawers, 2015). This acquisition intrigues me because interesting future developments can evolve from it.

First, let’s briefly get to know Prosper marketplace. The company is market leader in the peer-to-peer lending industry and provides cheap loans and good returns on investment by cutting out the middle-man (Prosper, 2009). Moreover, lending or borrowing money through Prosper is a significantly faster process than the usual processes in banks, which include a lot of wait times. More specifically, the ability to require online, day or night, investment or loans provides excellent customer services (Prosper, 2009). More so, the safety application and the risk assessment tools are painting a thorough understanding of the project investing in (Prosper, 2009). This has resulted in issuing over $2.5 billion in personal loans in the U.S. over the past six years (Prosper, 2009).


Billguard is also disrupting the traditional finance industry, not by providing an investment platform but by enabling customers to manage their personal finances. Yaron Samid and Raphael Ouzan founded the company in 2010 after having determined the need for more transparency in unauthorized credit card charges (Billguard, 2009). BillGuard is a free service that harnesses our collective vigilance to protect everyone from hidden charges, billing errors, misleading subscriptions, scams and fraud (Sawers, 2015). More specifically, the crowdsourcing application allows users to ‘flag’ false charges, which will be distributed throughout the community, providing valuable information about ghost-chargers. It is estimated that the average consumer is wrongfully charged for $300 a year of which they have no knowledge that could have easily been avoided by using Billguard. The company has currently over 1.3 million registered users, which have generated more than $70 million in unauthorized charges over the years (Sawers, 2015).


Acquiring Billguard Prosper enables itself by to provide recommended financial decision-making tools to its current customers. By combining historic data from both platforms and applying big data technologies, Prosper could deliver impressive financial recommendation and provide valuable insight to investors (Sawers, 2015). Moreover, a marketplace lending system and personal finance management has never been combined and has in my opinion the potential to truly empower, protect and educate customers globally.


Billguard, 2009. Company profile. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 2015].

Prosper, 2009. Prosper. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 2015].

Sawers, P., 2015. P2P lending platform Prosper Marketplace acquires personal finance-tracking startup BillGuard for $30M+. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 24 September 2015].

Should you be paid for the information on your Facebook profile?

In today’s online world everyone knows everything about you. Companies seem to know you better, than you know yourself. And for some reason all online platforms are allowed to track you all day, everywhere you go on the World Wide Web. This is the “dark side” of using free online social media platforms. But, what do those online platforms earn per profile, and shouldn’t the users that provide the companies with their profiles and information compensat their users

According to statistics from eMarketer, Facebook will earn $6.82 billion on digital display ad revenues that is just over one quarter of the total market. In the coming years this market share will continue to increase, reaching 26.9% by 2017. We are making Facebook more profitable each year, by providing them with the ideal platform for targeted marketing though our personal profiles.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 09.11.38

The average Facebook user generated $12.76 in advertising this year, which will increase to $17.50 by 2017.  However, your value to social networks depends heavily on your location. An US user will add a total of $48.76 per profile to Facebook, whereas a European user will only add $7.71 value per profile.

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Why will Facebook’s market share increase over the coming two years? Due to a growing marketplace for online advertisements on the demand-side and social media platforms finding out more ways to show ads to its’ users on the supply side. As social media users tend to provide the platforms with more and more information on their profiles, the ad spaces become more valuable. On the other hand, ad-revenue based companies develop new and innovative styles of adverts, increasing the willingness to pay from companies wanting to advertise through social media on such platforms.

Musician and Internet theorist Jaron Lanier told Channel 4 “for every piece of data we hand over to “spy agencies”, we should be compensated. The reason that monetizing information is crucial, it’s the only path that creates moderation. People talk about rights and regulation. My concern is that those things can never keep up with computer programmers. Programmers move faster than the law. But monetizing will do it.”

In my opinion we will not be able to stop ad-revenue based companies from gaining information about their users. As Jaron Lanier argued, programmers will always move faster than the law. It is impossible to stop the constant innovation in ad-revenue based products that social media platforms use to attract firms in using their platform for marketing purposes. In the future, I believe, such social media platforms will be the leading platforms for advertising purposes. Traditional ad purposes will be derived from the market, making it possible for the “big spy agencies” to gain a lot of power. With constant innovation, nor monetizing, nor law, will create a stop to your increasing “online worth” and the use of your personal information.

What do you think? Should we be compensated for the personal information we provide to “big spy agencies”, which they in turn use to generate billions of dollars in revenue?

Do you want to know your worth on the Internet? AVG has created the application PrivacyFix, an app that provides you with the information on how much you are worth to “big-time data players” such as Facebook and Google. For Facebook, the app uses publically available shareholder information to determine how much each user in that country is worth to the company. Furthermore, the app gives you insight on how is tracking you online.

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Download the app via:

Author: Milou Saraber


Advertising is getting increasingly smarter…. and mobile.

Despite being so prevalent in our daily lives now, mobile phones continue to pose a challenge for advertisers to tackle. Mobile phone usage has surpassed desktop usage since 2014, and adults now (in the US) spend over 51% of their time online through mobile now – averaging 2.8 hours each day (1).  Forresters research suggests that 29 percent of all  online sales were generated from mobile in 2014, up 8 percent the year before. However, mobile advertising is still fragmented and has failed to find its home on our smartphones. So far this year, advertisers have spent $69 billion on mobile ads without much success in getting users to purchase on mobile devices. (2)

mobile ads

Quixey is approaching this challenge with a new lens: rather than displaying premade, targeted ads, they generate real time sales offers from different apps. An example of this would be if a user was browsing an article about a sports team, Quixey would display a real time offer for ticket sales from a variety of apps, even if the user hasn’t downloaded them. This real time, dynamic advertising has real potential to give users offers they care about since they are actively reading about them.

With the app economy booming like never before, this poses a great source for advertisers to extract the right data from within our phones to make the right kind of offer to us. To put it in perspective, there have been over 200 billion app downloads since 2008 from multiple app stores, 100 billion alone from 2013 (1).Google is working on similar technology (2) on what it calls app indexing, which it says looks inside apps and extracts useful information to generate ads.

While not the perfect answer to a difficult question, app extraction could very well be the way of the future for how we see those annoying offers pop up on our phones, however there may be a few good ones that make their way through.