What "Quality" wins? (thx Seth Godin)

Everyone has rituals that they practice while commuting to work: set activities that serve as a localized anesthetic for whatever waits for them at the other side of their trip. For me, I call my mom when traveling above ground and play a bit of Fruit Ninja when underground. (Personal best: 926, in case you’re wondering). 

That said, before I start slicing bananas on the subway, I do have one ritual that prepares me for my work day: I read Seth Godin’s blog. For those of you who aren’t already subscribers, go sign up now.  This isn’t some obscure recommendation: everyone knows Seth is a marketing god (not to make you feel bad, you ignoramus). His writing is delightfully accessible and to the point: he usually makes his case in two paragraphs or less, and, unlike yours truly, never succumbs to the run-on sentence. 

Yesterday, however, Seth took his time to draw an important distinction between two different definitions of “quality,” both of which often confused by businesses today. 

He contrasts quality of design with quality of manufacture as following:

Quality of design: Thoughtfulness and processes that lead to user delight, that make it likely that someone will seek out a product, pay extra for it or tell a friend.

Quality of manufacture: Removing any variation in tolerances that a user will notice or care about.

 I think this dichotomy is especially striking when applied to the SF vs. NYC VC community.  Here in New York, the pressure is always to scale, lending itself to (what some would say) a more old-school “quality of manufacture” goal.  Meanwhile, SF is much more focused on creating a product that will delight users. Will it make money? Doubtful. Will it be wildly popular? Likely. 

Example: Compare Groundlink vs. Uber

(disclosure:I recently interviewed at Groundlink and really, really liked them.  So, not only do I have an emotional preference, but also an informational bias in Groundlink’s favor). 

Both NY-based Groundlink and SF-based Uber allow users to reserve black cars via their mobile phones.  However, while Uber is disrupting the SF yellow cab business, responding the problem of scarcity, Groundlink is trying to be the global conglomerate of all limo reservations, responding to a market inefficiency arising from fragmentation. 

Despite Groundlink having the global fleet, the winning management team, and actually a killer app in hopper that fits Seth’s quality of definition design, they are still losing the marketing game.  Baby Uber has all the buzz: they sound like foursquare, they’ve successfully courted all of NY’s sexy tech celebrities, and they have this guy analyzing their data all day and making more accurate ETA calls than Google.  In short, this round goes to Uber: they’ve created a product that people want to recommend to their friends.  

That said, I’ll still place my bets on Groundlink.  Partially because their new app is so dope (designed by my friends at 39Argyle – best mobile design/dev shop around), but also because they have scale on their side.  They know that “good enough” – quality of manufacture – is actually perfectly adequate when it comes to ground transportation. They’re going to acquire a bunch of companies, get their clients, and be a better car service than said clients had before.  And that will do.  

Despite Groundlink taking the proverbially cake here, I have to agree with Seth that tiebreaker will more often than not fall on the side of those who achieve high quality of design.  Manufacturing gains become artificial in the interconnected, lightning-fast digital world we live in (progress is no longer proprietary information, and incremental gains are increasingly expensive), and let’s be honest:

Would you rather recommend the global giant who you can count on, or the shiny star who dazzles you with a new and unique experience?  

Makes New York think twice on it’s business rituals, if you ask me. 



Being here at New York Fashion Week, I have realized that I need to start telling people who I am wearing and using if I want to get sponsorship deals. You guys all want to see me with some fat sponsorship deals right? I think everyone should have some fat sponsorship deals.

My jacket is from Comune from NMRKT. Chicks dig it. My shirt is BSX Mini Che that I got in Hong Kong, and I have never worn it without getting a compliment from an Asian person. That’s not a stereotype. That is a fact. My Ocarina is from China… ummm… not sure about the maker. My car is from Groundlink, which is an iPhone/iPad app/company that grabs and books cars from several different car companies around the city- way harder to explain than it is to use. I am just trying to explain it, because I am just now fully understanding how they work their magic, and by magic, I mean giving me a ride places and making me feel like Jay-Z, cause these ain’t no, “Yellow Cab, Gypsy Cab, Dollar Cab, Holla back.” I’m talking town cars and Escalades cause that’s just how I got it made!

When did this post turn into a rap song?

As we get ready to bid goodnight to #NYFW, here’s a great shot from the Hudson rooftop. Special thanks to our awesome photographer Jeremy Gordon, for providing most of the shots featured on this blog this week. Check out his other work here.

Want him to shoot your band? That’s kind of his favorite thing to do, although he has a newfound love for fashion photography. Obviously.
We're presenting at the PhoCusWright Conference - November 15th, 2011

We’re excited to be named One of the 30 Most Innovative Companies in Travel by the PhoCusWright Conference! The event showcases new apps, ideas, and travel innovation. Our GM of Mobile, Daniel Leon will be presenting at the Travel Innovation Summit day of the conference, November 15, 2011 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He’ll demonstrate the GroundLink app- sure to change the way you think about using a car service- if you haven’t already experienced it! 


The GroundLink theme of the day: Turn it up to 11!


Yesterday we picked up 2 of the tumblr. bloggers at The Hudson, and headed down to the Bily Reid show at Milk Studios.

Check out the fashionable Noah and Liam.

We asked them Question of the Day, 2: What are your best fashion tips when it comes to travel? Liam told us he learned from a few years of travel to lay clothes flat and be neat, not just throw stuff in a suitcase. He also says to pack light and buy good leather luggage, a tip he got from his dad.

Packing light makes it easier to go from airport to car to hotel to out on the town!