Founded in China in 2010, Xiaomi is the world’s third largest smartphone maker. It has ventured beyond smartphones into other consumer and smart home devices. As of 2014, it has over 8,000 employees and a valuation of over US$46 billion.
Xiaomi doesn’t want to make money by selling phones. Instead, it sells phones at or near cost. It relies purely on online distribution while others ship their goods to physical retail stores. It uses Android. It manufactures and sells its products in small batches, and relies on its users heavily for feedback. It plans to make money from ecommerce and services.
The combination of these practices drove its product prices down. As a result, its devices punch above their pricing points, providing value for money to consumers. Manufacturing in small batches serves two purposes; it saves money from warehousing, and enables quick changes to its products.
Gathering and implementing user feedback drives up user loyalty: the users are flattered their suggestions made it into the product, which turns them into fans and evangelists. Next to Apple, Xiaomi is one of a few consumer electronics companies with as devoted a following.
Slack is an office communications chat tool. It launched in August 2013 and is now valued at over a billion US dollars, with over 30,000 teams using it. It was founded by Stewart Butterfield, who started photo sharing site Flickr and sold it to Yahoo.
Slacks wants to replace your office email by centralizing your communications and work documents. It wants to be the one app you use all the time in the office.
It integrates with major enterprise apps like Dropbox, Google Apps, GitHub, Heroku, Zendesk, and more. Slack keeps track of what you do on these services, and has a search feature that allows you to instantly access your document data and history. Chat is the trojan horse. It’s really a Google for your internal office communications. The app has gotten off to a hot start, and its future seems bright.
Flipkart is India’s largest ecommerce site. Started by former Amazon employees Sachin and Binny Bansal in 2007, Flipkart has grown to a valuation of US$11 billion. Not bad at all for the duo, who had to face up to family and friends who thought they were out of their minds to leave their cushy jobs and start a company.
Flipkart began at a time when India lacked the delivery infrastructure for ecommerce and the people weren’t familiar with offline retail or online shopping.
It began by focusing on a category which had low start-up costs – books. It developed a cash on delivery payment system to earn the trust of consumers and slowly won them over to online shopping. It built its own supply chain management system to deliver goods on time. The founders realized that customer service for ecommerce then was lacking, and they sought to focus on that.
Given the price sensitive nature of Indian consumers, Flipkart offered huge discounts for its items. Its low operational costs enable it to offer discounts that physical stores can’t match. The limited reach of physical retail in India benefits ecommerce, since consumers tend to have a limited selection from nearby stores. Flipkart gives them access to a wider range of goods than ever.
Uber is the largest on-demand transportation company in the world, valued at US$40 billion. For passengers, it brings a ride to your doorstep which you can order from your app. For drivers, it offers an optimized way to pick up passengers and earn income. No cash is exchanged, since all transactions are handled by Uber’s system in the background.
Uber believes the smartphone can become the dominant way people get a ride. It also believes an army of private drivers can complement or even replace the taxi industry.
The app first took off among Silicon Valley elites with the premium Uber Black service, which focuses on making users look and feel good. Its biggest benefit for consumers, however, lies in its convenience. The smartphone detects the user’s location, allowing drivers to easily find the passenger. Ordering a ride is just a couple of button presses away. Payment is seamless and the app automatically deducts from the credit card.
Less obvious but equally crucial is how Uber is increasing the supply of taxi drivers. It’s putting more vehicles on the road to service passengers by signing up drivers to complement the taxi industry. It’s proactively matching drivers with demand, allowing them to make fuller use of their vehicle and time.
Razer is a US company that builds consumer electronics for gamers. Founded in 1998 and valued at US$1 billion, Razer builds gaming mice, keyboards, and laptops. It recently launched its own smart wristband, the Nabu.
Razer believes it can build a hardware company just by serving gamers. That was in 1998, where PC gaming revenue was nowhere near where it is today. It also stuck to its core business of investing in the PC despite the stagnation and decline of the platform.
Gaming has exploded and become mainstream, growing four times in the US from 1998 to 2008. The competitive and esports scene has also grown. Twitch, a site that streams video games as they are being played, was acquired by Amazon for almost a billion US dollars. Razer seems prescient by building niche products almost before that niche existed. It owns 30 percent of the gaming mice and keyboard market through tight integrations between hardware and software.