Ben Alpers - Selected Work


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KPCB Product Challenge

My dad is a music lover and collector. He keeps his vinyl around, as well as having collected and traded with friends to amass over 30,000 digital tracks of music from the last 50 years. With his old school speaker system, he has no way to enjoy this treasure trove of digital music through his speakers at home, save burning 2000 CDs to hold his collection in a format the speaker will take. I hoped to fix his problems for his Christmas present.

Enter Chromecast Audio by Google. Chromecast Audio makes any speaker a wireless speaker, which you can "cast" to from a phone, tablet or computer. 


Not only was the actual product extremely easy to use - but the kicker was the ability to upload up to 50,000 of your own songs to Google Play storage, for FREE, to be able to cast. It was almost too good to be true. I could upload all my dad's songs to the cloud, plug this dongle into the back of his current speaker system, and he could control what played in his 20 year old speakers from his phone or computer. All for $35.

The makers of Chromecast Audio got something right here. In a world of Spotify/Google Play/etc streaming, it's not immediately obvious that the need to upload songs to the cloud would exist for people interested in casting music to a speaker. But somehow they were able to come to an insight about those who could use their product. For people like my dad, the music lovers, what they really love is nostalgia. They keep their vinyl and their old speakers. They hang on to this idea of "ownership" of their music; they aren't flocking to streaming services. But when they venture to try "collecting" digital media the same way they did vinyl - their keepsake speakers won't let them play it. The same people who need to "upgrade" their speakers also need to "unlock" their digital content. If you went up to my dad and showed him Chromecast Audio, and didn't have the cloud storage service, he wouldn't ask for it - he doesn't know it can exist. He would say he doesn't stream music so the product doesn't seem right for him. But if you ask why is that? enough times, then you can get at the heart of the problem. That requires getting to know my dad, not sitting in an office trying to drum up cool features for a new product.

The Chromecast team was able to turn that insight into just the right service to accompany their new product, and thus open the product up to a whole other user category. It probably helped them choose to the number of songs able to upload, and other smaller details of the experience. A+!

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