Tag Archives: Google

Business Interest: the Research

HBR has written previously about the current low rate of interest in the UK’s economy.  Indeed the Bank of England’s current strategy is to keep it that way, at least until the money men work out what on earth they are doing.  In this series, HBR investigates the low rate of interest in the British economy amongst the general public, and tries to work out what is best to do about it.

The first step, of course, is primary research.  The bank announces the interest rate on a regular basis, but we very rarely get to see the data behind the press releases. How do we know that Carney et al have got their sums right? Are the people of Britain actually very interested in business after all? Thankfully, the wonderful people at Google have given the man on the street a means by which to canvas other men on the street, the Google Survey.  We asked 350 UK internet browsers how interested they were in Business, on a scale of 1 to 7, and this is what we found:

Survey results (UW)Crikey, that’s a lot of information! How do we read that? Well the first thing to note is that a large chunk of the population is not at all interested in business, so our friends at the Bank of England are not wrong. And it looks like men are more interested in business than women. Now that is interesting, I hear you murmur.  Misogynists will be nodding approvingly, while national programs will be launched to get our girls more interested in business. Maybe this is why the boards of the UK are so bereft of female directors?

But wait just one gosh-darned minute.  Because this column is not just a shrine to silly business satire, it is also a place where we care about proper data analysis. Because there is a problem in the raw data that Mr Google provided me with, in that the sample is not representative of the overall population.  And in fact, if you weight the data appropriately, this is what you get:

Survey results (W)Now that’s more like it.  Once again, it looks like overall no one is that interested in business (40% totally uninterested overall!), but this time round women are actually even more interested than men in business, so pipe down misogynists. What is really going on here? It turns out that the problem was that our sample contained a disproportionate number of older women, and age is actually the area where you start to see differences between respondents:



The chart above shows the percentage selecting 6 or 7 (i.e. very interested), vs. the percentage selecting 1, or not interested at all, and isn’t it interesting? Older people are the most uninterested, while the most interested people are aged 25-34. Obviously the question is whether that means interest rates will naturally rise as people get older, or whether people just lose interest as they get older. Either way that is some intriguing information.

So what have we learnt? We have learned to avoid sexist stereotypes, because ladies love business, and we have learnt that data always tells the truth, except when it doesn’t.  We have learnt that the youth of today aren’t so indifferent after all. And finally, the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street has been spot on, as when it comes to business, interest rates in the UK remain low.

Hat tip: Google Surveys

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Driverless cars LikeHumansDo

Championed by tech giant Google, driverless cars are widely purported to be the future of the road transport industry.  However not everyone is in favour of the driver-free revolution, with some members of the public expressing concerns around privacy and more importantly safety.

While some may see this lack of wholesale acceptance as a barrier for the industry, some manufacturers are addressing these concerns head on.  LikeHumansDo is a driverless car manufacturer based just outside Cambridge, part of so-called Silicon Fen.

Founder Ben Rickman started making driverless cars in 2012, after several years spent as a Postdoc at the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Department. His aim was to build a computer that could act as the ‘perfect driver’, and his creation, e-Fred (after Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred) was more than up to scratch, with a flawless record in all public road tests.

However after speaking to members of the general public at various trade shows, he was dispirited. “They just didn’t trust the computer as much as a human being,” explains Ben. “It soon became clear that we would have to re-focus on creating a driverless car that drives exactly like a person.”

Ben and his team approached their task with renewed vigour, building additional features on top of the original e-Fred prototype. “We started with the basics, building in a tiredness feature that would steadily reduce alertness over time. We also found we could perfectly mimic a driver taking his eyes off the road by periodically turning off all e-Fred’s sensors.”

Over a painstaking period of months, LikeHumansDo developed road rage, late indication and occasional drunk driving into e-Fred’s arsenal. The driverless car’s performance in public road tests went down accordingly, much to the team’s pleasure. “Where previously we had no accidents, our car is now performing precisely at the level of an average human,” said Ben, describing the vehicle lovingly as “a danger to itself and other drivers.”

The car is still in the final testing stages, but overall Ben is delighted: “It even blows its horn when older drivers are slightly slow to pull off from traffic lights, and will occasionally stall in the middle of a junction. e-Fred is a car that your everyday driver can relate to, and I’m sure they will sell like hotcakes.”

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Googling for Bitcoin

Cryptocurrency is a hot topic right now. While still a relatively new idea, its legitimacy is such that the word has even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. There are more than 275 different currencies as of May 2014, and Bitcoin first and foremost, with a market cap of more than $6.2B.

The fluctuating price of Bitcoin has made it a source of much speculation, with some advocates saying it is here to say, while others are more skeptical.

A major point of concern amongst the naysayers is that it’s a bubble, that the currently volatile price may one day fall to nothing.  Indeed that was our concern at Simeon Capital when we first considered Bitcoin.  However once we dug around, we found a way to guarantee that the price would keep going up and up: Google.

As part of our Bitcoin due diligence, we were trying to piece together the key drivers of Bitcoin price.  One of our favourite research tools is Google trends, and upon downloading the trend data for Bitcoin, we were astonished to learn that the weekly price of Bitcoin moves almost perfectly with the level of Google interest in Bitcoin.

Bitcoin testThe implications are clear – the more times people Google “Bitcoin”, the higher the price per Bitcoin. Indeed, according to our proprietary regression analysis, the level of Google interest in Bitcoin is able to explain more than 70% of the weekly price of Bitcoin!

Upon seeing this, we of course acted quickly, purchasing millions of dollars of Bitcoin, and walls and walls of computer servers. We are currently in the final stages before the search-launch, when we will effectively triple the number of “Bitcoin” Google searches, which according to our analysis should add an incremental $1000 to the price of Bitcoin in one fell swoop!

So buy yourself some Bitcoin, and fire up Firefox.  We are long in Bitcoin, and our wealth is only limited by our Googling capability.  I’m feeling lucky.

(Graph created with Tableau, Sources: Google Trends, Coinbase)

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