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Is this Google’s reckoning?
"Most Americans don't think about antitrust law when they look at their cable bill, flip channels on TV, or worry about what their favorite website knows about them. But they should" - Al Franken
Hey there! Welcome back to Future of Product! This week I’m experimenting with format a bit - let me know if you like the new style by commenting here on Substack, I’m always open to your feedback! 😊
How to compete with Goliath┃Expert insight┃Nick Gomez, Founder & CEO @ Inkeep
Nick Gomez is a former MIT researcher, Microsoft Senior Product Manager, and current Founder & CEO @ YC-backed AI startup, Inkeep. Having been at the top of Microsoft’s product discipline before entering the AI space, I was curious what his thoughts were on the question of moats and the often-made assertion that so many of the current crop of AI companies will be made quickly obsolete by larger incumbents like Microsoft, Google and Meta. You can listen to our full conversation here.
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Q (Max): “For us smaller startup AI products, one thing I wonder about is how quickly budgets will get filled, right? Because there are suddenly so many different AI tools... one thing I worry about is the larger companies kind of swooping in and offering like a platform play. Right? Have you thought about that at all? And do you have any kind of, you know, thoughts on how we can compete?”
A (Nick): [regarding moat] “We heard this a ton when we were fundraising. VCs love to ask that question. I think for us, it's like, if we're just able to make customers really happy, we'll figure out what the continue value proposition is. Right? So things are always going to change and evolve. And I think this has always been historically true. It just feels more permanent now, because it's changing so fast, and the technology moving forward so quickly.”
A (Nick): [regarding top-down disruption] “This is something that I think a lot of startups are thinking about... it does feel like the incumbents in this wave are moving faster than they have in previous kind of innovation cycles, right. And they have a distribution advantage, and with the tech, they happen to own the actual IP that powers all the platforms. So it's definitely I think, more challenging than it has historically been. I think it's very similar to what we were just talking about... I think it's still true that startups are able to move more quickly and be more responsive to their customers than larger companies. So even if they have more capital, or distribution advantage, oftentimes they don't have the scrappiness and ability to move quickly and, you know, have Slack channels with every single one of their customers, etc.
Really, that’s like the only type of defense I guess, but I think that's always been true. You know, that it's always been a question of, ‘why wouldn’t a giant just sidestep and squash me?’ Right? I think that has always been the case. And I don't know if the solution to that really has changed that much. Except, you know, you just have to be even sharper with kind of what we do in execution.”
The takeaway: for product people at startups, now is the time to double down on what your customers are asking for, regardless of whether you’re an AI company. The concentrated power of LLM infrastructure being in the hands of relatively few very large companies is a very real threat, but the only solution is innovation. With their 100,000 employee organizations, it isn’t possible to outwork them - we have to be smarter and we have to move faster.
The big picture - antitrust and big tech
All the way back in January of this year, something pretty huge happened - the federal government sued Google for its monopolization of digital advertising technologies (namely through Google Search ads). Linked here is the official Justice Department press release on the subject.
As of a couple of days ago, the courtroom is packed with Google loyalists, Justice Department representatives and both parties’ corresponding fleets of lawyers. Here’s everything you’ve missed so far:
Opening & background
The U.S. Justice Department opened its antitrust case against Google in Washington, marking the start of a trial that could reshape Silicon Valley's tech powerhouses.
This case, the first major tech antitrust trial in over two decades (the last of which being Microsoft, learn more about that here), examines whether Google misused its industry dominance to thwart competition, especially in search and search advertising.
The Justice Department's argument
Kenneth Dintzer, representing the Justice Department, claimed that Google's dominant position consistently benefits the company and alleges that Google concealed and even destroyed documents aware of their violation of antitrust regulations. In his words: “The evidence will show they hid and destroyed documents because they knew they were violating the antitrust laws”
Google's lead litigator, John Schmidtlein, emphasized that Google's success was due to product quality, not anti-competitive behavior.
Google's rise in search dominance over Microsoft was attributed to Microsoft's failure to sufficiently innovate.
The defense further questioned the government’s reliance on complaints and lack of clear evidence of antitrust violations.
The broader context
This trial has been anticipated for years and is seen as a significant event in U.S. competition regulation. With increasing calls in Washington for stricter enforcement of antitrust laws against Big Tech, the outcome will be pivotal in determining future enforcement actions.
If the government wins, Google may be prohibited from using its financial strength to monopolize default search engine placements on devices.
If Google wins, the extensive exposure from the trial could still impact the company's operations.
Microsoft's Role - Schmidtlein argued that the government's case was highly dependent on Google's alleged effects on Microsoft, contending that Google's success over Microsoft was due to the latter's lack of innovation.
Key points of contention & interest points
Google's agreements with device manufacturers to be the default search engine, which costs them over $10 billion annually.
Whether Google's delay in providing Microsoft access to its Search Ads 360 tool was anti-competitive.
Public interest - the high public interest led to the setting up of overflow and media rooms for the public and reporters, respectively
Judge - U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta, an Obama appointee, is overseeing the trial. He previously dismissed some government claims while allowing others.
Evidence presented - Dintzer highlighted Google's payments to secure default search engine placements and presented an internal memo from Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, that seemed to show the company's awareness of potential antitrust scrutiny.
The Justice Department will present its case for around three and a half weeks, followed by state attorneys general for two weeks.
Google will defend itself starting Oct. 25 for three weeks.
Post-trial activities, including rebuttals and closing arguments, are expected to extend for additional weeks.
The judgment might not be finalized until next year, and the full implications on Google, particularly regarding AI, might take even longer to unfold. Key testimonies to look forward to include Google CEO Sundar Pichai and senior Apple executives.
Read more about this unfolding story here:
Google trial begins in first major tech antitrust case in decades by Eva Dou, Christiano Lima and Gerrit De Vynk for The Washington Post
In Antitrust Trial, Former Google Employee Details History of Search Deals by David McCabe for The New York Times
Apple lodges confidentiality protest on Day 2 of Google antitrust trial by Eva Dou and Trisha Thadani for The Washington Post
AI tutorial - make your own Ghibli animation
How to create your own Ghibli movie with AI, step-by-step using free tools
All credit to PromptJungle for this one! Here’s my notes after trying it out:
If you’re using Pika Labs to generate your animations, submit your prompt numerous times - the vast majority of the outputs won’t be usable. Additionally, be sure to experiment with alternating between the /create command and the /animate command - I had mixed results with both.
In Midjourney, when you create your frames, be sure to start your prompt with the modifier “film still from a Studio Ghibli movie” - this will improve the viability of the options that Midjourney gives you.
If you’re using Runway for your animation, decrease the amount of motion to make the output more stable.
Unlike OP, I’m not sponsored by EpidemicSound, so here’s a free stock audio library for you to grab your sounds from: https://pixabay.com/sound-effects/search/
Creative note: obviously, this method isn’t limited to Ghibli-style animations, you could just as easily use any other artistic style you wanted, or even make a realistic video with the same technique.
3 AI tools that are actually worth a shot
The product - MarketMate AI is an AI-powered messaging generation platform built by and for B2B marketing and sales teams as well as product marketers and anybody looking to refine their messaging. What I personally love about it is that it allows you to create or upload your buyer personas, your messaging standards and more to effectively serve as a source of truth upon which every piece of messaging you create with the platform is based.
The use case - looking to crank out some social media content, a welcome series or even a sales playbook? MarketMate has you covered. Want to create targeted outreach for a specific person with several messaging variables for testing? Easy, just add their LinkedIn URL and MarketMate will create individually personalized email campaigns for them in the time it would take to come up with a subject line. My take - the product’s young and still growing but it has the potential to shake things up in a major way.
The product - turn your existing content into an LLM-powered search and support copilot. You can train it on your docs, GitHub, blogs, community forums, even books. It takes very little effort to setup and the output is a bot that can answer any question about your product in whatever form you prefer - be it an embedded chatbot, a chat button, a search bar, Discord or Slack bot or your own custom experience using their APIs.
The use case - for anyone with a technical audience, Inkeep is absolutely worth checking out. Automated support is downright impossible to get right, and docs often are written contextually enough to be easily navigable and quickly actionable. When your audience is developers, you really only have one shot to get buy in, and Inkeep could be that difference maker.
The product - love the benefits of good product data but hate the process of writing down sticky notes with a million Excel formulas? Formula Bot removes the need to ever memorize another one. With AI-generated formulas and plain language explanations for data analytics, it’s an incredible asset for anyone spending a ton of time in spreadsheets.
The use case - assuming you don’t already have access to OpenAI’s GPT 4 API, Formula Bot is a great option for automating and speeding up your data analysis workflows. I personally love spreadsheets, but there’s nothing that frustrates me more than not being able to put my finger on that one formula I need to accomplish a task. If you’re an Excel-frequenter, a tool like Formula Bot is an absolute must.
That wraps up another Future of Product! Thank you so much for joining me yet again, and please let me know down in the comments how you feel about the new format.
Oh, also a heads up - I’m taking a short break next week to focus on making sure the proceeding weeks’ content is as high quality as possible. So don’t worry if you don’t get an email from me - I’m just down in the content mines finding golden nuggets 😉
Until next time, your friend,
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