Media & Mobile Shine at LAUNCH Silicon Valley Event June 7, 2012Posted by Bipul Sinha in mobile.
Tags: brands, media, mobile, startups, startups entrepreneurship
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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to help judge a session on Media & Mobility at the LAUNCH Silicon Valley Conference in Mountain View. Five companies presented:
- AppSmyth which provides a mobile loyalty platform for retailers and brands
- KlickEx, a currency exchange service that helps consumers in markets around the world avoid paying banking fees
- Moodstocks provides an API and SDKs that brands can use to build image recognition into your apps
- Notous develops application software for NFC (near field communication and RFID software and hardware integration services.
- Wiz Communications which describes itself as a “disruptive cloud-based over the top push mobile messaging exchange”
It was an impressive group and while each company had a unique offering, there was one a common theme that many shared: enabling brands to reach their customers on mobile.
Where we are today in mobile reminds me a lot of the early days of social media when many big brands were struggling to figure it out. A number of interesting start-ups emerged that helped companies not only understand how to better engage with customers, but also how to mine the information they were getting from them to build better products and experiences.
Fast forward to today and brands are now challenged with how to reach and engage with their customers now that they are spending more and more time on their mobile devices. It’s an exciting time and space and I look forward to see which players emerge as the leaders.
Until then, congratulations to KlickEx for being named one of the day’s companies “Most Likely to Succeed” and to all of the companies for a job well done.
How to Build the Next Huge Mobile App April 19, 2012Posted by Bipul Sinha in discovery, distribution, location, mobile.
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
2010 Mobile Predictions December 14, 2009Posted by jseid in 2010, mobile, predictions.
We continue to be excited about the mobile sector and the opportunities for entrepreneurs to build large companies. The industry has seen the smartphone universe expand dramatically and now no smartphone is complete without an app store. New business models like mobile advertising, which were touted in 2005 and 2006 but failed to live up to early expectations now seem to be blossoming. That said, we believe we’re still in the early innings with many more innovations to come.
Here are our predictions for the mobile sector for 2010:
1. Virtual goods means real revenue in mobile
We’ve all seen the rise of the virtual-goods economy in the online world. Like its impact on the online world, virtual goods is poised to have profound positive impact on mobile-app startups for several reasons. First, unlike the subscription fee or one-time purchase business model, virtual goods can help eliminate the friction to adoption. The cost to the consumer to try the app can be $0 yet the app developer still has a way to make money by selling virtual goods.
Second, the virtual-goods business model has proven to be a very scalable one. It has helped to create multiple public companies valued in the billion-dollar plus range including DeNA (in mobile) and TenCent (in the online world). Finally, it’s not mutually exclusive with the existing purchase, subscription and advertising business models. Certainly widespread adoption of virtual goods in mobile will take time and, depending on the platform, various issues will have to be worked through. But this business model’s entrance into the mobile arena bodes well for the entire ecosystem.
2. Still waiting for “off-deck” to (really) happen
Well, in some ways it has happened—almost. Certainly, the iPhone App Store is a great step forward for the industry. But, compared to the success of the iPhone App Store, the rest of the industry’s major players—Android, Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Windows and RIM (NSDQ: RIMM)—have a lot of catching up to do. Those app stores are not quite functioning at where they need to be to give iPhone’s App Store a run for its money.
The most cynical in the industry may actually say the iPhone App Store is not truly “off-deck,” it’s just a different deck. But however you want to slice it, we’re still a long way off from mobile-app developers being able to create true direct-to-consumer offerings like their cousins in the web world.
3. Nokia or RIM buys Palm (and the next round of big battles begin)
Palm built a slick OS but it is in a tough spot as a standalone company. It’s not RIM and Nokia, big handset guys with material smartphone market share, and that creates a tough spot for Palm (NSDQ: PALM).
Apple’s iPhone not only created a great consumer experience but it created a great platform for developers. This platform allows developers to create compelling mobile apps, to reach the consumer without going through a carrier, and to bill the consumer leveraging the iTunes merchant
relationship. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) set off the virtuous cycles that feeds both the growth in the installed iPhones (and iPod Touches) and the growth in apps (and developers).
Legacy software at Nokia and RIM and the lack of deep OS software expertise at other handset vendors meant Palm had a chance to create its own virtuous cycle. Until Android pulled the rug out and ran off with the momentum.
In the world of mobile operating systems, Palm has created a real asset. For large OEMs like Nokia and RIM that have solid hardware and massive distribution but legacy software, Palm may be an asset they can’t live without.
4. The enterprise moves past using mobile data for just email
RIM did a great thing for industry in driving mobile data into the enterprise. This was no easy task since the enterprise is complicated. It not only involves catering to the needs of the end user but also getting IT comfortable that you are conforming to and not breaking their network and security architecture. Mobile email now has a healthy adoption rate in the enterprise and the good news is that people believe in the productivity benefits and are looking for the next set of applications to mobilize (the bad news about mobile email adoption is that response-time expectations have shrunk to hours and there’s no such thing anymore as an “out of office” auto response for why you can’t read email).
Other smartphone platforms beyond RIM, such as the iPhone, have also seen interesting levels of adoption, and we expect that to grow. With a rich and growing smartphone base in the enterprise and a positive experience around the benefits of mobile data from both end users and IT, we expect 2010 will create an opportunity for a new generation hot mobile apps and technologies—this time focused on the enterprise.
In 2010, mobile innovations will branch out into new categories, while also benefiting as the recipient of long-awaited applications. Both these trends will create new methods for monetization in the U.S. and beyond, and ultimately, promise another important and profitable year for the category.
Skyfire Launches v1.0 of Mobile Browser May 28, 2009Posted by jseid in mobile.
Tags: mobile, skyfire
In the device form factor wars, the mobile phone has emerged as the unquestioned winner. It’s always on and always on you. There are more mobile phone users than PC users and the market is not close to saturation.
Mobile Predictions For 2009 December 9, 2008Posted by jseid in 2009, mobile, predictions.
Despite the troubles in the economy, the mobile industry is as dynamic as it has ever been. The changing landscape creates significant opportunities for entrepreneurs and should deliver exciting products and services to the consumer.
Here are our predictions for what’s to come in mobile in 2009:
1. The iPhone’s impact is not directly due to iPhone usage.
With all the buzz around the iPhone and its great stats, people might question this. However, I think 2009 will show that it’s not iPhone usage that will have the greatest impact on mobile but the wave of iPhone/appstore-like offerings being created by Apple’s competitors. Apple showed the device manfuacturers that sell the vast majority of the world’s phones how to rethink the phone from the ground up to make sense for data and apps and that will be the iPhone’s biggest impact on the industry in 2009.
A number of other large players like Google/HTC, RIM, Samsung, LG and Nokia are each coming to market with multiple offerings that have large high-res touch screens and in several important cases app stores that facilitate mobile content discovery and payments. The number of iPhone-like products by the end of 2009 should outnumber the iPhone. Despite the down economy and people watching their pocketbooks, expect the growth of these more expensive smart phones to be a real bright spot for the mobile industry. Choice and competition is a great thing for consumers.
2. 3G networks break.
Well, what else would you expect with all those iPhones and iPhone-like phones out there? These networks were designed for voice not for data and the stress placed on these networks with this new generation of phones will be significant. Areas that will continue to see innovation will include the access part of the network which will make use of intelligent smaller cells and which will leverage wifi where possible. The backhaul portion of the network will also be ripe for innovation. In a year where telecom spending is likely to go down, we would expect spending on key stress points like backhaul to continue to grow.
3. Mobile app/wap business models are put through the crucible.
There have been a number of mobile app/wap startups funded over the last few years and 2009 will be the crucible test for their business models. I can’t predict which business model will win but I can predict that the winners will be the companies that have the capability to rapidly evolve and test different business models in order to move down the learning curve as quickly as possible. Unlike in the web world, mobile startups will have to think creatively about their business models given the complex ecosystem of carriers and phone vendors and will also have to understand from day one how their business model maps to geographies outside of the US.
All this change will create a lot of opportunity for the right mobile startups.
US teens send 7.5x more text messages than they make calls September 30, 2008Posted by jeremyliew in mobile, sms, teens, text.
Neilsen Mobile recently reported on US 2008 Q2 mobile phone usage. They find that the number of calls made per month averages 204 across all users but does not vary all that much with age between 13-54:
On the other hand, as stereotypes would suggest, teens drive by far the highest number of text messages per month. Although the average across all users is 357, there is very high variability:
When looking at the ratio of texts to calls, the difference is even more marked. Teens (13-17) text 7.5x more often than they call whereas seniors (65+) call 7x more often than they text:
As an aside, the overall ratio of texts to calls is about 1.75:1 and has been greater than 1:1 since q4 of 2007.
Tags: iphone, mobile internet
iPhone users browse the web on their phones far more than the users of other phones. According to the NY Times, over Christmas 2007, Google got more traffic from iPhones than from any other type of phone, despite the iPhone’s small market share:
The data is striking because the iPhone, an Apple product, accounts for just 2 percent of smartphones worldwide, according to IDC, a market research firm. Phones powered by Symbian make up 63 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, while those powered by Microsoft’s Windows Mobile have 11 percent and those running the BlackBerry system have 10 percent.
Info World notes:
The key to the iPhone’s success is the fact that it provides a unified, full browser experience, said Neil MacDonald, a Gartner analyst. By comparison, Windows Mobile is a fractured platform, with separate PDA and smartphone versions, as well as a version of the browser that doesn’t support full HTML.
But at the same time we have an increase in full web browsing on the phone, web pages are getting bigger. Much bigger. The average web page tripled in size since 2003. Why? WebsiteOptimization.com says:
As broadband becomes more widespread web designers have created more elaborate designs, assuming that a large proportion of their audience is on broadband, or ignoring dial-up users entirely.
Even iPhone users will acknowledge that visiting big web pages, especially those incorporating rich user interactions, can be a frustrating experience. Yet most pundits agree that web usage is only going to increase on mobile devices, despite the triple constraints of slower connections, slower processors and smaller form factors.
I’d be curious to hear what readers think will happen as these two trends collide.
Freemium service models – paying for convenience in games February 20, 2008Posted by jeremyliew in asynchronous gaming, business models, digital goods, freemium, mobile, subscription, virtual goods.
Last week I noted that free-to-play games will become increasingly dominant. I’ve also noted in the past several use cases for the digital goods business models that will be one of the primary monetization mechanisms for free-to-play games. Selling increased functionality can result in user dissatisfaction if players perceive that the only way that they can “win” is to buy more powerful in game functionality. This can be managed through the use of a dual currency system, as Matt Mihaly noted in a guest post.
One other monetization mechanism that free-to-play games can offer is services. Some games, especially real time strategy games, can be somewhat inconvenient to play because they require constant monitoring and occasionally require actions to be taken in game at a certain time. Gameplay can inconveniently interfere with other activities, like work and sleep.
Travian is a good example of this. In Travian each action takes a certain amount of time, and there is no way to “queue up” orders (e.g. if you want to upgrade your mine after you’ve finished upgrading your farm field), or to “schedule” orders to be carried out at a certain time (e.g. if you want to time a raid on another village to be coordinated with another attack). Instead, Travian requires a player to be in the game at a specific time to give an order.
Offering a player the ability to queue up orders or schedule orders as a premium service is a non controversial way to monetize users. Players who do not want to play can be just as effective as players who are willing to pay (they just need to be able to get online at the right times to give their orders). Players who pay for the service are paying simply for convenience, not for additional in game power.
Managerzone‘s mobile premium service is another example of such a service. As I noted previously, the mobile service gives a player certain alerts and allows a player to take a number of actions in the game from their mobile phone, without having to log on to the website from a computer. This makes the game much more convenient to play, but again doesn’t disadvantage a player who choses not to pay for the mobile service since they can still do everything from the website. It looks like Blizzard may also be considering a mobile version of World of Warcraft.
I’d be interested to hear from readers of other examples of games monetizing premium services.