Posts tagged “poor”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Start-Ups Follow Twitter, and Become Neighbors [] – [The supposed demand to be co-located in the same office building as Twitter, hoping for some f2f meatspace benefits from proximity to a virtual powerhouse] And so he snagged an office at 795 Folsom, Twitter’s headquarters in the SoMa neighborhood. There, he has been stalking executives on — where else? — Twitter, to see who is to visit Twitter’s offices. When he finds out, he pounces and “hijacks the meeting,” he said, by asking them to swing by his company, Klout. By doing that, he has met Robert Scoble, the influential technology blogger, and Steve Rubel, director of insights for the digital division of Edelman, the big public relations firm, and has spotted Kanye West in the lobby on his way to Twitter. Through elevator and lobby run-ins, he has also forged a close enough relationship with Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, that Mr. Costolo is helping Klout raise venture capital. “Now I have his cellphone, and I text him,” Mr. Fernandez said.
  • [from steve_portigal] User-centered Innovation in Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability class [SF Chronicle] – [The article mostly focuses on a specific innovative design – a low-cost incubator-type-solution for Nepal; but the most quotable bits were towards the end, where they discuss the operating framework of this class.] About to start its eighth year in January, the class has completed about 60 projects for 15 partner organizations in 10 countries. It brings together students from different academic backgrounds…They all have one goal in common: to design products for the poor and to treat them as customers rather than handing them our leftovers and castoffs. "We are trying to figure out what they want and need," said Jim Patell, the Stanford professor who leads the class. "It is not our job to tell them what they want."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Devising the stove that could save the world [The New Yorker] – The effort to develop a better stove (safer, healthier, uses less fuel) for developing nations, and the challenges in getting that solution adopted once it's development is funded and the engineering problems are solved.
  • What means to find out what your customers want – The idea behind the centers is to foster innovation by combining a richer understanding of customer needs with creative links among 3M technologies. “Being customer-driven doesn’t mean asking customers what they want and then giving it to them,” says Ranjay Gulati, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “It’s about building a deep awareness of how the customer uses your product.”

Paying for ease-of-use/trust

Yesterday’s NYT Magazine article about the check cashing industry offered an insightful anecdote about the sometimes counter-intuitive tradeoffs people make:

I met Oscar Enriquez leaving the Nix branch in Highland Park, a working-class area near Pasadena. He was skinny and just shy of middle age, with a quick grin and tattoos down his sunburned forearms. Enriquez worked in the neighborhood as a street cleaner; he picks up trash and scrubs graffiti. The job paid about $425 a week, he told me, a good chunk of which he wired to his wife, who has been living in Mississippi and taking care of her ailing mother. He told me he tries to avoid debt whenever he can. “If I don’t have money, I wait until the next payday,” he said firmly. “That’s it.” But he pays a fee to cash his paychecks. Then he pays even more to send a Moneygram to his wife. There’s a bank, just down the street, that could do those things free. I asked him why he didn’t take his business there.

“Oh, man, I won’t work with them no more,” Enriquez explained. “They’re not truthful.”

Two years ago, Enriquez opened his first bank account. “I said I wanted to start a savings account,” he said. He thought the account was free, until he got his first statement. “They were charging me for checks!” he said, still upset about it. “I didn’t want checks. They’re always charging you fees. For a while, I didn’t use the bank at all, they charged like $100 in fees.” Even studying his monthly statements, he couldn’t always figure out why they charged what they charged. Nix is almost certainly more expensive, but it’s also more predictable and transparent, and that was a big deal to Enriquez.

Banks (and phone companies, cable companies, airlines, etc.) are institutions that are not easy to use. There’s a lot of fine print, arcane legalese, hidden fees, and a general lack of transparency. Here’s someone with a limited amount of income that makes the calculation and pays a significant amount of that limited income to avoid going through that. The relationship with the bank failed for Oscar, and he’s paying money to avoid dealing with them.

We normally think of the privileged as those who buy their way out of inconvenience and hassle, but really, it’s something we do at all income levels. It’s just that our experiences frame what is and isn’t a hassle. If we’re middle class then we expect to be jerked around by Big Business because we have all our lives-as-consumers. If we’re lower class and we haven’t had those experiences, it may be less likely that we’ll tolerate them.


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