How Moneyball Tactics Built a Basketball Juggernaut

As a longtime partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Joe Lacob had a reputation for backing high-risk, high-reward startups. But when he paid $450 million in 2010 for the Golden State Warriors—then valued at a measly $315 million and considered the worst team in the NBA—even die-hard fans scoffed.

Seven years later, the Warriors are two-time champs worth a reported $2.6 billion. In his new book, Betaball, Erik Malinowski (a former WIRED staffer) credits the slingshot turnaround not to Steph Curry’s swishing three-pointers but to Lacob’s application of Silicon Valley strategies to revitalize a sluggish team.

First off, Lacob used his newcomer status to build a thriving corporate culture. He paid a reported $1.6 million for a flashy, startup-style open office that encouraged collaboration. Then he set up an email account where fans could submit feedback—and actually get a response.

As the first in his family to go to college, Lacob was a firm believer in hiring based on potential, not experience. He appointed Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr as head coach and former sports agent Bob Myers as general manager. Neither had ever formally wielded an NBA clipboard, but their passion for the game swayed the new owners. On and off the court, Lacob emphasized character. He signed upstanding players like Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes, and he traded Monta Ellis, who had been sued by a staff member for sexual harassment. (The case was settled.) The message: zero tolerance for brilliant jerks.

Having spent decades investing in experimental technologies, Lacob was one of the first NBA execs to see potential in SportVU, a motion-capture camera system. Another company, MOCAP Analytics, used AI and machine learning to turn the raw SportVU data into play simulations. Like big-­data-obsessed startups, the War­riors began quantifying everything, from players’ sleep schedules to their shooting accuracy.

Coming from the land of nap rooms and Soylent, Lacob embraced Jobsian mindful­ness. His team experimented with meditation, sensory-deprivation pods, and electricity-transmitting headphones. Turns out ballers like butter coffee too.

Before pouring millions into a startup, investors set clear performance goals. Lacob’s target was ambitious: to win a championship within five years. His team clinched the title in four years, seven months. A Golden unicorn was born.

This article appears in the October issue. Subscribe now.

Just how Netflix Made ‘Stranger Things’ a Global Phenomenon

not exactly two years back, Netflix established simultaneously in 130 new nations. It now operates nearly everywhere in the world. With that expansion has come explosive worldwide growth—along using the challenge of just how best to introduce its homegrown favorites, like Stranger Things, to an audience that spans completely towards the inverted and back.

It’s hard to overstate how important its to Netflix’s long-term ambitions that presents like Stranger Things “travel.” The streaming service has to maintain a library that users will pay for year-round, and even having an original content spending plan pegged at $8 billion for 2018 this has to pay wisely to ensure it is producing content that plays also in Canada since it does in Cameroon. Or, from another angle: not Netflix has got the budget to get heavily in hyperlocal content for Estonia.

Making films or show that play well offshore depends to a certain degree on quality, needless to say, and Netflix has long maintained that geography is just a bad indicator of what folks will in truth watch. But also for a show like Stranger Things—which is definitely an Emmy-nominated and critically-praised show in the US—to succeed abroad, Netflix needs to translate its genius to as many markets as you are able to. Literally.

Within interpretation

The planet contains 1000s of languages. Figuring out the appropriate translation for “Demogorgon” in each of them could be singularly impractical. But also for the 20 languages by which Netflix does offer subtitles—and the significant number which it dubs shows—it sweats the small stuff.

Meaning the creation of a Key Names and Phrases device, a sprawling spreadsheet where teams of freelancers and vendors input translations in the title of consistency. Does the show incorporate a fictional location? A catchphrase? A sci-fi item which has no real-world corollary? All those things get in KNP, enabling Netflix to understand the way they read in Greek, Spanish, Swedish, Vietnamese, an such like.

Some translations are fairly simple; a university turns into a universidad for Spanish-language audiences, as an example. Other people, though, need significantly more legwork. Particularly for a ’80s-reference-heavy show like Stranger Things that is fairly out of step with the present.

To make sure it transcended language obstacles, Netflix dug into old Dungeons & Dragons materials to nail down exactly how different cultures translated ‘Demogorgon’ inside mid-1970s. Similar efforts were designed to track down decades-old advertising materials for, yes, Eggo waffles.

“it is a really deep plunge into what are the elements of the tale, what are the specifics of the story, that individuals must make sure our company is translating the same way that things had been translated, state, 30 years ago,” states Denny Sheehan, the manager of Netflix’s content localization and quality control efforts. “We compile all that into essentially a show bible, and we give that to all or any of our translators, all of our dub studios, so they can reference that.”

Simply take that Demogorgon, the big bad the Stranger Things kids known as following a Dungeons & Dragons demon prince. To ensure that connection transcended language barriers, Sheehan’s group dug into old D&D materials to nail straight down how different countries translated “Demogorgon” into the mid-1970s. Similar efforts were made to track down decades-old advertising materials for, yes, Eggo waffles, which play an outsized role in Season 1.

That consider consistency goes beyond the words by themselves on vocals actors saying them. Netflix claims it actively seeks people who appear to be the initial cast but additionally, as Sheehan sets it, “embody the spirit of this character and tone.” Not surprising here. But the company also aims for sounds that can work across titles. The actress who voices Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers in Stranger Things, as an example, also offers the dubs for Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice, and Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

“We think of the subtitles and dubs as allowing use of the tale,” Sheehan says. “Our objective is to utilize imaginative intent whilst the North Star, to essentially create culturally appropriate and resonant translations for the continent which have a broad international appeal.”



An International Concern

That’s increasingly a company imperative and.

“Localization is vital internationally,” claims Tony Gunnarsson, a streaming analyst with Ovum who follows Netflix closely. “European audiences have become acquainted with US television and films nevertheless the expectation is usually to have local-language subtitles. This is a must-have every where.”

Netflix has reaped some of those gains, states Todd Yellin, the business’s VP of item innovation.

“if your wanting to localize it, you have the very early adopters who talk English good enough that they’ll use the service in those nations,” Yellin claims. “But after you localize the thing is considerably more growth in those nations.”

Netflix’s international rooms go beyond subtitles and dubs, naturally. The company has advanced efforts lately to produce its service more usable in growing markets, countries where bandwidth are restricted or unreliable. That features the recent introduction of online content, which allows users grab an episode while on Wi-Fi to look at on the run.

“that which we’re doing is trying to complete things like, when individuals are viewing over a mobile network, getting higher quality for less components of data, how to avoid rebuffering in more challenging internet situations, as you often hit in India or Malaysia and/or Philippines and so forth,” says Yellin. “Those markets are very essential for the expansion of Netflix.”

Definitely, those technical and linguistic solutions don’t mean a great deal whether or not it’s a show people do not want to view to begin with. It is no accident that Netflix includes a multi-series handle Marvel, whoever stable of comic guide characters has integral international cache. Or that this year it invested heavily in anime, a genre that demonstrably transcends both geography and demographics.

Being a Spielbergian genre throwback, Stranger Things appears similarly built for worldwide success. The movie stars and creators was general unknowns before the series debuted, but its tropes are universal. And it is not just Spielberg; fans of David Lynch and Stand By me personally will discover familiar nuggets and.

“My hunch is that the commercial success outcomes from attracting many different audiences for every single that this is a cult show,” states Nigel Morris, composer of The Cinema of Spielberg: Empire of Light plus movie studies professor during the University of Lincoln. “All of the allusions ensure it is some sort of interactive game as people ‘spot the references’, feel flattered by their capability to do this and interested in those they understand they have to be missing, and share them through social media, together with speculation by what is being conducted and just what the many clues might suggest.”

The effect? A show that went viral first in Canada, and slowly spread discover enthusiasts around the globe. In a single thirty days, Netflix users in 190 nations watched Stranger Things, and people in 70 of those nations became devoted fans. A small number of people tuned in from Bhutan, and from Chad. In a primary the streaming service, somebody watched Season 1 in Antarctica.

Stranger Things, too, is simply one show. The method repeats itself across thousands of hours of content. Netflix currently made shows considering just what the planet desired to watch; the difficult component, now, is presenting it in a fashion that people can understand, wherever they live or exactly what language they speak.

Prezi’s Augmented Reality Presentation Software Wants to Kill Boring PowerPoints

When Peter Arvai founded Prezi in 2009, he didn’t set out to topple PowerPoint. He just wanted to see better presentations. With the right tools, he figured, he could help people create visual aids that felt more engaging. Arvai was sick of sitting through slide decks containing walls of text and bullet-pointed lists, listening to the speaker ramble on while the audience squinted at the words on the screen.

So he, along with co-founders Péter Halácsy and Adam Somlai-Fischer, set out to build something that looked more like a digital poster board. You could pepper it with images and animations, then zoom in and out to focus on specific things at specific moments during a talk. The tool, which they named Prezi, uses what Arvai calls “a spatial metaphor” rather than simple paginated slides.

Prezi wants to bring audiences inside of a presentation using augmented reality.

That was eight years ago. The company has since grown to over 300 employees, split between Budapest and San Francisco, and its software product now counts 85 million users and holds a repository of over 325 million public presentations; pitch decks, lectures, and student projects. Last year, the company launched Prezi Business, a suite of tools designed for companies and teams; individuals can still use the basic Prezi tools for free, or pay for more premium features for a monthly subscription.

As high as Prezi has climbed, Microsoft PowerPoint is still the market leader. It has hundreds of millions of users—most of them creating the same boring slideshows Arvai has vowed to make extinct. So in order to take that next step and become the top name in presentation software, Prezi needs to evolve. How could Arvai and his team create tools to make presentations even more immersive, more exciting? The answer: bring audiences inside of the presentation using augmented reality.


Quite a Show

Arvai and his team have been watching the augmented reality takeover. It’s played out at Snapchat and Facebook, at Google and Apple. Companies are using AR to design cars, sell furniture, make little digital sharks swim around your breakfast table. What if Prezi could apply that same technology to make better presentations?

The company had the tech to do it. The Prezi Business software was built on a completely new set of software tools called Prezi Next. “This technology stack is something we’ve developed that works across mobile phones, browsers, installed on your computer—and it allows us to do things like AR,” says Arvai. The question would be what exactly those AR presentations might look like.

In a demo in Prezi’s San Francisco’s office, Arvai pulled up an early version of Prezi’s AR application. The software looks more or less like the regular Prezi presentation builder: It’s a blank canvas where you can place visual assets, drag them around, add commands to zoom in or out. Arvai added a string of dangling lightbulbs and some bunny ears. Then he turned on his webcam, and the visuals appeared next to his face.

In a traditional presentation, Arvai says, you might be standing in a room with a screen behind you displaying all of your visual aids. But what if you’re presenting your pitch deck in a web conference, or a Zoom Room? Remote presentations lose all of the benefits of good visual design and practiced body language. “Either you have the video but you don’t have visuals, or you see visuals but you don’t see who’s talking,” Arvai says.


In Arvai’s demo, the light bulbs dancde beside him on screen. He could also call up a graph or chart, or make the visuals swoop in and out at the touch of a button. It all looked sort of like he was talking in front of a green screen; the tool isn’t harnessing revolutionary technology or transporting the speaker to distant worlds. But Arvai says that’s the whole point. He doesn’t want to create software that distracts audiences from the person presenting. He doesn’t want you delivering a talk with Snapchat’s puppy filter on your face.

“We’re thinking about, OK, how can we actually enable human connections with the use of this technology, and enable people to be better understood?” Arvai says.

Arvai cites studies that show audiences get distracted by flashy visuals or too many animations. So with AR, the Prezi team didn’t want to make anything too showy. Instead, they built something that looks more or less a Prezi overlayed onto the presenter. The graphics are sometimes cartoonish, the imagery sometimes cheesy. But the pairing of the speaker and the AR visuals is somehow still powerful. Instead of standing in front of a visual aid, it’s as if the presentation plays out around, above, and in front of the speaker.

Sharp Vision

As of right now, Arvai and his team are still trying to decide what exactly their AR software should do. The company debuted an early version in a recent TED Talk, where neurologist Robert Sapolsky used Prezi’s tools to give a talk about the biology behind the best and worst of human behavior. At one point in Sapolsky’s talk, he calls up an image of a man holding a hand gun, his finger on the trigger. It’s pointed right at Sapolsky. The effect is weirdly chilling, and somehow more lifelike in augmented reality. It makes that part of his talk hard to forget.

That, Arvai says, is the potential of what software like this could do. But the product isn’t ready for a public launch yet. Prezi has enlisted a select group of influencers to try out the AR tools and offer feedback before the company releases a beta version. He expects to have a better developed sense of the product in the coming months.

Arvai knows his role in the augmented reality future is a modest one, but he also believes deeply in the power of storytelling and communication tools. He showed me a couple of presentations people have made on Prezi, detailing new projects in engineering and medicine. One presentation, created by a journalist, uses visual aids to explain the conflict in Syria. Just imagine, Arvai says, if you could explain that with the aid of AR.

“We won’t put a woman on Mars, we won’t cure cancer, and we won’t make peace in Syria,” he says. “But when we do our jobs correctly, we contribute to all of this.”