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5 Years Ago, the iPhone Changed Everything June 29, 2012

Posted by justincaldbeck in communication, culture, discovery, iphone.
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While it almost seems hard to believe, it was just five years ago today that the first iPhones were sold.  I remember the enormous amount of people lined up outside of Apple Stores eagerly waiting for their new device.  It was easy to understand the hype of the device, but what many did not predict would be the way it would shape our behaviors and give birth to an entire industry.

The iPhone itself is a game changer, few could deny that, but much like iTunes was the real power behind the iPod, the App Store has been the big game changer for our industry.

We didn’t all immediate realize the power of the App Store, in fact my partners wrote an interesting post in 2009 about how little revenue Apple was making from apps.  But today, we have seen companies emerge as App providers and other that have started as popular Apps and then expand to other platforms.  Rovio, makers of Angry Birds, Pulse*, Instagram, Uber and Foursquare are just a few examples of companies that have seen incredible success as mobile apps.

In addition, the iPhone has played a big role in reducing the friction for consumers to use products from businesses that were previously web-centric such as TaskRabbit*, LivingSocial* and GrubHub* as well as retailers like Gilt.  These companies not only built better customer engagement through the iPhone but also attracted new users who discovered the brand for the first time on a mobile device.

Despite all of these early successes, the market is still in its infancy in many ways.  While it may seem that everyone we know has an iPhone or Android device, Nielson recently reported that only about 50 percent of US consumers have a smartphone today.  As that number grows, the audience and demand for new applications and types of mobile solutions will grow too.

For my part, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to watch the market emerge and evolve and help companies take advantage of this amazing platform.

*Lightspeed portfolio companies

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How to Build the Next Huge Mobile App April 19, 2012

Posted by Bipul Sinha in discovery, distribution, location, mobile.
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The advent and growth of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and, now, Pinterest has heralded a new era in the Internet where people are connected to one another to share, discover, curate, and collaborate. The mobile applications are fast becoming the primary vehicle to access what I call “connected services” to discover people, information and entertainment. However unlike the intent oriented desktop Internet search, the mobile platform is about discovery. Thus the application developers would have to think differently about getting user attention and engagement.

User Time Slices

I view smart phones as bite-size infotainment consumption devices. Users launch different applications for short spurts during the day to interact live, get updates, transact, share experiences, and generally play. I call these 2-5 minute spurts “time slices” and examples of these time slices include waiting for a coffee, a short break from work, waiting for everyone to gather for a meeting etc. Users typically don’t have any fixed plans for these time slices and they like to discover infotainment through their applications. To build a mass market application, developers should consider two core factors: a unique discovery oriented infotainment experience and a bite-size time slice filler. An application that fits this paradigm would get huge user attention and engagement. Pulse News* is a great example of such an application. It allows users to discover news and information in a bite-size consumption format – you launch your Pulse when you have a few minutes and would like to be in the know.

How do you think about building the next large scale mobile app? I’m all ears.

* Lightspeed Portfolio Company

Discovery versus Search October 17, 2007

Posted by jeremyliew in discovery, Search, time poor.
12 comments

I’ve posted in the past about the difference between internet users who are time rich and time poor.

Time Rich people use the internet to kill some time. They are bored. They are willing to be diverted and entertained.

Web services based on discovery are often useful to the time rich. Last Sunday’s NY Times has a good article on one of the leading discovery services, Stumbleupon. Since its acquisition by Ebay, Stumble has continued to add functionality and grow:

In recent months, StumbleUpon has added the ability to stumble through specific sites, including Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, TheOnion.com, CNN.com and PBS.org.

It is when you are stumbling through YouTube or through Web videos in general that the StumbleUpon experience most resembles the TV remote — though one that tries to serve up programming to match your interests and whose suggestions get better with time.

That is one reason Mr. Camp is confident that StumbleUpon, or some other discovery service, will become a Web-wide hit over the next few years, as people increasingly shift their consumption of media to online from offline. “People aren’t going to stop channel surfing just because they don’t have a TV and they have laptops instead,” he said.

My hypothesis is that discovery works best when the cost of being wrong is very low. With Stumble, you get presented new websites (or videos, or news stories) and can almost instantly figure out if they are of interest to you. Channel surfing works similarly – you can often quickly identify if a show is of interest, especially if its a show that you’re somewhat familiar with. Browsing through Flickr’s interesting pictures works that way as well.

But some other forms of content (e.g. music, audiobooks, novels, movies, video games) can take you a little longer to tell if you like them or not. Songs often take more than one listen to develop an appreciation. Audiobooks and novels require a commitment of at least 15-30 minutes before you get drawn in. Completely new movies are the same way. If they are not interesting, then you’ve wasted a meaningful amount of time – the cost of being wrong is higher. This makes you less willing to keep on “discovering” more content at random – you want more data (e.g. reviews, plot summaries, information on the actors/bands etc) before you’re willing to try something new.

Do readers have any thoughts on this?