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How LastMinute.Com Taught Me That The Real Time Web Needs The Real Time Enterprise June 25, 2012

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Enterprise Web 2.0.
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I had never used LastMinute.com before, but I knew of the concept and I had a perfect use case, so it was time to give it a try. I had to get a flight on short notice and wanted to see if there were any last minute bargains. I started on my iPhone, found a click to call, spoke to a rep who quickly got me a flight that looked like 50% off the list price I was seeing elsewhere. Go for it, I told him, gave my card details etc and after some fluffing around was told:

– the price just went up (about 10%). OK, it was still a bargain, so though I was annoyed I eventually said yes.

– then I was told to pay an additional 2% because I was using Amex, even though that was the card they had taken and confirmed the price was “everything included”. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I stopped the transaction.

I went back to my laptop, found WiFi and went to book it online, found the original price, booked it and got email confirmation. I patted myself on the back and went out for the evening, thinking all was OK with my flight.


At checkin, they had no record of my reservation. Went to their ticket counter, to a helpful lady who got LastMinute on the phone. No reservation had been made. My card had been debited and I had confirmation, I had an Order Number from LastMinute. I also had  an Airline Reference Locator. Silly me, I do not know the intricacies of airline reservation systems. What I needed was a Ticket Number. Note to self, store this knowledge in lifehack file.

Here is what seems to have happened:

– Airline sends LastMinute a price.

– Last Minute posts that price to me.

– During the booking process – it is a multi-leg transaction – the price gets changed by the airline

– So the ticket is never issued.

The consumer i.e. me, holds LastMinute responsible. I assume the interface to the Airline was all messed up and probably the Airline (not a major) had old-fashioned systems. But that is LastMinute’s job to manage. I think all the travel sites suffer from some version of this problem. I have seen that at times when flights are cancelled due to weather and everybody scrambles to get on a new flight.

The real time web sounds fun but we cannot live on fun real time tweets. At some stage we have to connect to the real world of enterprise systems and transactional systems that involve money. That interface seems to be horribly broken. Methinks any tech platform that can fix that is going to do very well.


What Sport Defines Your Venture’s Culture? June 13, 2012

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Uncategorized.
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When I moved from London to New York in 1990, I had a hard time understanding all the sports analogies because I had never played American Football or Baseball (and watching a sport you have never played is boring), but eventually I figured out things like:

Hail mary pass (Football)

All the bases are loaded (Baseball)

My favourite sport is skiing and sadly it took me a long time before I heard anybody use a skiing analogy, which was “don’t get too far over your skis”. For non-skiers, translate that to “let’s cross that bridge when we get to it”.

I had spent enough time in England and India to figure out cricket analogies such as “you have to get off the back foot to hit the ball”.

Corporate culture emerges from the founder CEOs sports enthusiasm. In America that tends to mean Football or Baseball. As business is an aggressive sport, a lot of CEOs tend to be Football jocks when they are young.

So the corporate culture of a lot of America is defined by the Football analogy. This means a highly structured workplace. Your roles are very strictly defined. Somebody “calls the play”.

Rugby is an English version of Football – although Brits would clearly reverse that statement. It is also both structured and aggressive. The phrase “get it over the line” resonates with anybody who has played Rugby and sold enterprise software (getting it over the line translates to get the signature on the contract).

When I could not ski, because my school was in England, I enjoyed Rugby (was never a star, but still enjoyed it). But what I would play with my pals in free time was soccer. I should have guessed then that I would get into the startup game. Soccer is:

A. Global (the ROW calls it “football” but I am respectful of my American readers). Maybe we can track the impact of Globalization by the growth of soccer in America?

B. Freeform. Switching to a music analogy, startups are more like a Jazz Band than a Philharmonic Orchestra. Everybody has a role to play, but nobody is “calling the play”, everybody is sensing what they need to do next based on what just happened. This is the kind of real time, emergent behavior world that most startups live in.

My apology to geeks who are vehemently anti-jock culture based on awful experience at school. That is fine, but there are plenty of geeks who also enjoy athletic sport. As we all know “the geek shall inherit the earth” but for most geeks who really want to do that would probably be well advised to add some jocks on their team to create a balanced team.