4/18/14: Stories and Strategies from Real Life

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Some of the best learning happens when you read stories about real people and real companies. Read them for ideas, for lessons, and inspiration. This week’s stories and strategies from real life are about E La Carte, Alibaba, Blommer Chocolate, Home Depot, and Facebook.

From Ellen Huet: Ordering a meal and more on tabletop tablets

“In a sit-down restaurant, diners are at the mercy of the server every step of the way, unable to eat or leave without the server’s attention. But national chains like Applebee’s and Chili’s hope to soon have a server at the ready, perched on every table – a tablet that diners can use to order food, play games (for a fee) and pay or split the bill. Redwood City startup E La Carte is pushing to have its Presto tablet in front of more diners’ hungry faces this year “

From  Juro Osawa, Paul Mozur, and Rolfe Winkler: Alibaba Flexes Muscles Ahead of IPO

“Jack Ma still has the spartan apartment in the Chinese city of Hangzhou where the former English teacher started Alibaba.com in 1999. As the e-commerce company grew, executives and employees often hunkered down there for inspiration while trying to come up with the next big thing. Big doesn’t come close to describing Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. now”

From Jane M. Von Bergen: At Montco plant, feeding a huge chocolate craving

“That chocolate Easter bunny you’re buying – or, if that isn’t your thing, that artisanal dark chocolate, that chocolate milk, or that chocolate chip cookie – chances are that, no matter what it is, no matter whose name is on it, Blommer Chocolate Co. was involved.”

From Shelly Banjo: Home Depot Lumbers Into E-Commerce

“For decades, Home Depot excelled at the traditional retail model of growing by adding new locations. But the seller of tools, saws, particle board, and washing machines is making a hard turn toward the Internet in the face of changing shopper habits and fast diminishing returns from new store openings. This year, the home-improvement chain will open two distribution centers and just one store.  The move is a stark signal for an overbuilt industry that may be witnessing a permanent drop in shopper traffic, even in the middle of a housing recovery that is boosting sales.”

From Farhad Manjoo: The Future of Facebook May Not Say ‘Facebook’

“In the two years since its rocky initial public offering, Facebook has become a strong business that regularly releases financial results that set investors’ hearts aflutter. Despite every hipster prediction otherwise, the company’s user base keeps growing, and nearly a fifth of the time that Americans spend on their smartphones is spent on Facebook. That surpasses the amount of time we spend on any other single service by a wide margin — and beats just about anything else we do on our phones, or perhaps in our lives, period. And yet, when was the last time you swooned over some new feature in Facebook?”

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