Technology is an enabler

Experts from Google, Amazon, Netflix, Grab and GCash gathered in a virtual town hall discussion titled “What new technologies are these companies working on?” The event, sponsored by Stratbase ADR Institute in partnership with the Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering, discussed users’ changing behavior, significant tech trends and challenges, and the role of tech in shaping life in 2021. Let me share some insights from Netflix, Amazon and Google from the two-hour proceedings.


If you subscribe to Netflix, you would have noticed the new entertaining experiences such as the “Top 10,” or “New and Popular” added to your home page. So, you might ask “What is the next big thing at Netflix?” Anne Aaron, director of encoding technologies of Netflix said “I don’t think there are big things. The whole development of products is one small step at a time. You have an idea, you invent, build, test, fail or succeed. It goes around and around until you just get better.” It is an iterative cycle of innovation. Having surpassed 200 million subscribers, all these small iterations of success and failures just helped build a better product. Aaron added that it is not about the product, it is about escape and the connection that their stories bring to their members.


When I think of Amazon, I think it is an online store. Amazon reinvented itself to a physical shopping experience. Amazon Go, Amazon Just Walk Out, Amazon Dash Carts and Amazon One are just some of their physical stores. These stores aim to minimize your time and hassle by tracking your purchases through an app. Paul Echevarria, senior software developer of Amazon, explained that it made logical sense because there are things to like in a physical store. You could touch and smell things. There is a social aspect. Amazon’s biggest driver is to delight their customers. Amazon embedded in its culture to work backwards from a happy customer. “The end goal is not usually a good product. The end goal is a happy customer. We figure out what made the customer happy. We build a product to solve that problem. Your solutions might change, but the focus is the happy customer,” added Echevarria.


Paolo Malabuyo, director of user experience of Google, showed us a six second bumper ad. Malabuyo’s team serves end to end video advertising. Video creation is hard, he said, adding, “Making good video is hard. We provide guidelines and resources to create a video ad such as YouTube video builder, YouTube bumper machine and YouTube director mix.”
They want small businesses as well to use YouTube as a great advertising platform.

Breaking that complexity is important since it would encourage more advertisers.

The millions of subscribers of these three big tech companies are not just numbers.

Malabuyo shared his Netflix and Amazon experience as being unique because of his viewing or buying history. It is the same with YouTube. “That is part of the experience where the world has gone with all these big platforms. We don’t give you one product and you have to fit your life to the product. We give a product that would fit into your life. It creates this brand affinity and this feeling that technology is working for you rather than you working for technology. I think the three of us are working for companies that try very hard to do that.” Sometimes they don’t get it right because people’s expectations are high.

Just like Dr. Carlos Primo David, moderator of the discussion, I thought we would talk about more new technologies in two hours. Apparently, David concluded that it more than tech.

Technology is a platform that enables all these relationships and transactions. Technology is an enabler for Netflix, enhancing social relationships. Ironically, that aspect of being human is elevated because of technology. With Amazon, the end goal is not just in making a product but to create a happy customer. It goes back to relationships, and better user experience because of the social nature of people. Technology is just that platform that enables this for a better experience.

A lot of the discussion was not covered here so it is worth your time watching the full recording of the proceedings at the Stratbase website:
ADRi vTHD: “What new technologies are these companies working on?”

First published on Sunday Business & IT on January 31, 2021