There are advantages of developing mobile apps (and app stores): user experience, distribution and monetization opportunities.
However mobile apps don’t work like the mobile web in some pretty important ways.
For starters, developers must develop for each specific platform - iPhone, Android and Blackberry. That’s very different than developing for the open web and at a high level feels like a big step backwards.
A few weeks ago I was talking to one of the founders from one of our portfolio companies. He pointed out another downside of mobile apps. You can’t easily create links to specific pieces of content or “pages” from one mobile app to another. Can one mobile app link to a specific profile page in the foursquare app or the yelp app for example? Or can a link in the NYT app send the user to a specific tweet in a twitter client.
The web is built on many things and links are a key part of the network.
How do we get them fully native our mobile apps? Or am I missing something.
I am often asked if operating experience in a big company or startup is a requirement to become a great venture capitalist.
The logic is how can you help startups if you have never had the job yourself.
Even though I’ve worked in startups and a few big companies for 15 years before becoming a VC, i don’t buy that argument. The proof is in the pudding. There are too many great VCs that dont have operating experience.
So then is operating experience a negative? Nope, that’s not true either. Too many great VCs with operating experience.
The short answer is that you either need senior operating experience or a sigificant amount of experience in a vc firm. You need a lot of other things as well but i believe that is the requirement.
It’s stable. Haven’t had any issues and all of my main apps work fine
Folders work great. I have reduced 6 pages of apps down to 2
In the settings there is a toggle for character count in the sms app. But doesn’t seem to work yet. Looking forward to that feature as I still like sending txt to twitter
Multitasking. Right now it doesn’t seem to work in the beta. I launched last.fm app, double click home button and launch another app and the music stops. Right now it’s more like fast aol switching bs multitasking. I’m guessing apps have to be updated to take advantage of this. Apple should follow Android on this one. I love how you switch apps on Android
Gmail on iPhone has always been good not great. Apple added threading to their built in mail app which is fantastic.
Wallpaper works like iPad. Fun!
After you load up the beta you can sync with iTunes like before but you can’t back up. Not a big deal for me since most of my stuff also exists in the cloud. The only potential exposure for me is if I take photos with iPhone I need to make sure to regularly upload to flickr
That’s it for now.
5/30/10: Update: the camera app is super fast with the beta!
It’s well understood that ideas are one thing but execution is everything.
The execution part is pretty comprehensive as we all know. It’s about obsessing on the user experience, team building, product development, dealing with heartaches & setbacks, growth and turning a dream into a real company.
That’s why I have trouble investing in companies that are born from the ideas of great founders but who don’t actually want to join the startup. These founders want to create but not operate.
You see this happen within various universities. A brilliant faculty member comes up with an audacious, powerful idea and wants to form a company & raise venture capital. That’s great but not necessarily sufficient. The next part is they ought to commit to the venture in a meaningful way. That’s key. Universities need to encourage faculty members by giving them “startup credit” for their path to tenure (instead of limiting it to traditional things like grants & publications).
I’ve also seen this happen outside of the university as well.
Now, the counter arguement could be, “hey, bijan, venture capitalists spread out the risk, why shouldn’t we?”
Fair question and for better or worse here’s my response:
1. It’s harder to be an entrepreneur than a VC. The risk and reward is much more dramatic. Given all of that I believe entrepreneurs need to be focused on one company at a time.
2. As a VC I am working for one firm. I’m not a VC at one firm, and at the same time an entrepreneur working on a few side projects in parallel. My LPs wouldn’t go for that and I wouldn’t be doing my partners any favors either. Plus, it would be a distraction from the work that I love.
But after last weeks Google I/O conference, I’m more excited than ever about Android for Mobile for two important reasons:
1. Developers. Android is now activating 100k mobile phones per day. That’s huge and if you are a developer you need to pay attention to that.
2. Android Platform. They released several new usability features but the platform is getting very interesting, particularly the Cloud to Device API. I first read about this on Daring Fireball and then I went over the Google project page for C2DM and read up on the details. John Gruber points out examples of how C2DM is going to work:
Buy an app (or song, or anything) from the Android Marketplace using a PC web browser, select one of your Android devices, and the item you just purchased will be pushed directly to that device over the air.
Take the current URL from your PC web browser and push it to your device, over the air. If it’s a web page, it’ll open in the Android web browser; if it’s a Google Maps URL, it’ll open in the Android Maps app.
Developers are going to have a field day with that API and I can’t wait.
I’ve been using ExtensionFM almost every day since it first came out in private beta several months ago. It’s a simple, lightweight, amazing web service that organizes all the mp3 you come across on various websites and blogs and puts them into an ExtensionFM Queue (think music timeline) and Library. And once you do that it will automatically update your queue and library every time those sites add music.
Since then ExtensionFM has had at least three significant changes. First, they improved the look & feel of the product significantly. Second, they added the ability to sync your ExtensionFM library across multiple computers and third, they opened it up to the general public.
Actually there is a fourth change. Today, the company announced a first round of funding and I’m delighted that our firm Spark Capital led that round and were joined by our friends at Betaworks, Founders Collective and Dave Morgan.
I’m absolutely pumped to work with Dan, Charles and Marshall at ExtensionFM. If you love music, download the ExtensionFM today, browse over to your favorite music sites and blogs and enjoy.
I gave up using Outlook & Entourage a few years back and moved on to Gmail.
It’s the best for my needs especially on a Mac. It’s fast and I’ve fallen hard for all of the keyboard shortcuts, Google labs, archive and conversation threading.
Over the last month or so I’ve gone back to the dreaded two phone combo - the Verizon Blackberry Tour and the iPhone. I hate the idea of two phones but I just need the voice reliability when i’m on a train in nyc or when i’m running around SF. And I hate when I miss inbound calls from my family.
So here’s the thing I’m realizing. Gmail on the blackberry is awful. In fact it’s so bad that I’m convinced it’s a user error (me!).
I’ve tried the Gmail app for blackberry based on a few recommendations. But there are three huge drawbacks with that app:
"There are a number of ways to do it but two of our portfolio companies recently told me about people that wanted to work for their companies so badly they offered to work for free for a month. These folks had the self confidence and belief that after a month the company would fall in love with their determination, talent, personality and contribution."
I was one of those folks and today I start work with Boxee, NY. Here’s what I’d recommend to others.
Find A Place You Really Want To Work.
Find somewhere that you’re inspired to work. Don’t just settle for ‘a startup’, go and find a company that you believe in. When small companies hire, there’s a huge emphasis on making sure any new additions to the team are a good fit. You’re going to be working hard for long stretches in close quarters and you want to be able to look over to the desk beside you and like and trust the person you’re working with. This is much moreso the case at a startup than in bigger companies. If you really want to work somewhere, you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm and curiosity. This will make you a better workmate.
Be Clear In Your Pitch.
Ask yourself, ‘if I was running a company and someone came to me looking for a job, what would I want?’ Startups are short on time. Your pitch to get a job needs to be absolutely clear so that whoever’s agreeing can understand straight away the value you’re offering. After calling Zach and letting him know my intentions, this was my pitch:
"I am writing to suggest that I join Boxee in its New York office for 2 weeks. I will cover flights, expenses and accommodation. You have no obligation to employ me after the two week period. We can sort everything else out in the coming weeks."
All they had to do was say ‘OK’.
Don’t worry about a resume, just build something.
Every decent startup gets a flood of resumes every week. I was lucky, in that my resume was the We Are Hunted app on Boxee. That was the proof of my capabilities. If you want to work at a startup I’d advise you don’t work too much on your resume and instead work on building something you love or that’s useful to you. By building something useful, you have tangible proof of what you are capable of doing what value you can bring to an organisation.
Just get in the door.
I offered to work for free and I think it’s the right choice if you really believe in the company. Startups don’t need extra, unplanned overhead, so expect to go unpaid while you prove your value. There are downsides to working for free, but I looked at it like this: Boxee has hundreds of people wanting to work for them and no time to sift through every application they receive. I knew the only way I could differentiate myself was by being there, in the room, in conversations and doing things. I figured that once I was in the door they’d at least have a chance to see me up close. If it didn’t work out, I’d still be spending two weeks working with a brilliant startup. There was no downside.
Listen in and find somewhere you can become useful.
Startups are always short on time. There is always something that isn’t getting done that someone could do. This puts you at a great advantage when you’re trying to find a job at a startup because you can ask questions, sit in on meetings and listen in to people’s conversations until you hear someone say, “I just don’t think I have time for that right now”. That’s when you come in with the words “I’ll do it.” If you say those words enough times, pretty soon you’ll be indispensable.
In the end, it took a few weeks before I could start. And then I stuck around working longer than the two weeks we’d planned and then it took another few weeks after that for a job offer to be made and another few months to get started. You need to be patient in this process. There’s a thousand other drains on the startup’s time and you need to fit in around them. For lots of people, especially those who ‘need’ a job, this is not possible. But the more patient you are, the more likely it is you’ll end up where you want to be.
Just ask for what you want.
It all starts by asking for what you want. Pick up the phone, connect with someone in the company and explain your intentions without fear of failure. As Paul Graham says:
“Fear of failure is an extraordinarily powerful force. Usually it prevents people from starting things, but once you publish some definite ambition, it switches directions and starts working in your favor.”
I was in a meeting last week with a startup and the founder mentioned that long awaited AT&T MicroCell was available.
My phone barely works in my house. Most of the time incoming calls go straight to voicemail. So when this founder gave me the news, I immediately added it to my to-do list and picked one up yesterday.
The AT&T MicroCell is a femtocell that essentially puts a mini 3g base station in your house. Your AT&T phone connects to the unit over the cellular network and the unit connects to the network with your broadband connection.
It’s designed to improve coverage - voice & data.
Setting it up was pretty straightforward:
1. The first step is activating the device on AT&T’s website. After you activate it, you create an authorized list of phone numbers. These are the phones that can connect to your femtocell. You can add up to 10 numbers while only 4 can use it simultaneously.
2. Then you simply power it & connect the unit to your router. Very simple. Steps 1 & 2 took 5 minutes.
3. The next step is simple but long. You wait. For approx 90 minutes (I was warned by the instructions of this delay). That’s the time it takes to get provisioned. Once the unit is successfully provisioned, the 3g light goes solid green and you receive a confirmation text message. Then your phone will show it’s connected to the AT&T MicroCell as you can see here in mine:
But all of this really doesn’t the matter. The real question is does the MicroCell works?
And in my experience….it does not. It’s rather lame actually.
If I make a call and then walk 40 feet away from the microcell my call drops. Everytime. The range is poor and it doesn’t switch from the unit to the local tower during a call like it’s supposed to.
Now I’m not quite sure if it’s the femtocell itself or maybe it’s the iphone and this femtocell. But it doesn’t work for me.
“Nicole Wahl, a 35-year-old communications manager at the University of Toronto, estimates she talks on her phone only about 10 minutes a month. “The only reason I ever call someone anymore is if I don’t have their Twitter handle or e-mail address,” Ms. Wahl said. “Like my hairdresser to see if she has a last-minute appointment or my parents to say I’m dropping by.”—
Many consumer web services start out in life very specific and very simple.
Then they start adding stuff.
In the best case, it works because the company innovates and users are delighted with the new capabilities
In the worst case, the product becomes heavy and complicated.
Truthfully its never this cut and dry but I believe the point stands.
Yesterday I was at the Tumblr board meeting. The service is growing faster than ever which would make most CEOs happy
David Karp, Tumblr’s founder and ceo, said that while the Tumblr Dashboard has gained a tremendous amount of functionality over the past three years, many of the newer features are simply unnecessary for first time users.
For example, things like number of followers, or number of “likes”, messages or even Radar don’t mean much for day 1 users.
So they are trying out something different.
Now when first time users sign up for Tumblr, they don’t see many of the newer things. They get a focused Tumblr dashboard that gets them engaged. Then after a few posts the social features start to elegantly appear.
I think that’s brilliant and not intuitive.
Last night I was at small gathering in nyc. One of the entrepreneurs for a cool local startup said out loud that he thought Tumblr’s onboarding was the best out there.
I think he’s probably right. And I love the new approach that they are taking to balance keeping things simple while adding new functionality.
Its moving from a pure ‘less is more’ to a “less and more”. Its not easy to pull off but its a powerful idea.
(Pls excuse typos and lack of links. Wrote this on my phone)
I am a big fan of the Android platform for mobile.
There are so many reasons to root for their success. And in many ways they deserve tremendous credit. The sheer number of android powered handsets, the openness in the app store ans code, google voice, speech reco, kick ass browser, best mobile gmail experience, out of box + add your gmail credentials and magic happens and plenty of other things too.
But right now I feel like the bookends of mobile are blackberry on one end and iphone on the other. Both do their own thing extremely well and their users love them for it.
Android is in the middle and the middle aint a great place to be.
I believe the Android folks need to do a few things to nail this opportunity.
-Ease of use. I consider myself a power user but Android is still too complicated. Even with htc sense ui it’s still confusing to me.
-speed. Navigating around the os and apps aren’t silky smooth. Flip thru photos on the htc incredible and compare to iPhone gs and you’ll know what I mean. It’s not the hardware.
-precision. I couldn’t figure out why the htc incredible needs that optical joystick thing. It’s there because you need it for precise ui gestures like moving the curser over one letter for example. Instead of adding a joystick, nail the precision
-media player. Android is starving for a local, beautiful media player. I’m picturing something that someone like David Karp or Zach Klein could design. It’s missing on Android and it would make a huge difference.
I’m betting that google solves these things with help from the developer community. Andy Rubin is brilliant and I know his team is superb.
They are so damn close. It’s exciting and frustrating at the same time.
(please excuse typos and lack of links. Wrote this post on my phone).
“My friend Stu Roseman is hacking together yet another web service to make email easier and I was testing it last week. He was seeing my email flow because of that and at one point he sent me an email which said “I am in awe that you can handle this amount of mail.” I am not in awe, I am in pain. And it is a pain that never goes away. That’s email and that’s why I am yet again bankrupt.”—
Oh, man. I feel Fred’s pain. I had a similar situation on Sunday that I wrote about in my post yesterday. I too have been using Stu’s web service. It’s been a big help to me and I can’t wait to talk more about it.
I went away for an entire week without checking work email. Not once. Not even a looksy
I set up my “out of office” message to let folks know that I wouldn’t be checking emails and to contact my assistant if there were any urgent matters (there were 2 such things and were handled with two quick phone calls)
Otherwise everyone in my work life was very helpful and supportive of my time away.
Last night after I put the kids to bed I took a look at my inbox. Oh, god.
I then spent the next four hours straight getting through the vast majority of my inbox. My initial thinking was “this is a lousy way to spend Sunday night”
But then I realized those four hours were a great trade. In the past I would have spent 30minutes-1 hour doing mail per day on vacation to avoid a nasty re-entry.
But email as we know isn’t something you can turn on and off. It lingers. In your head. Get an email from someone with good news or bad news and it’s stuck in your mind long after your turn off your phone. So that 30minutes per day thing isnt really how it works.
And getting through it Sunday night just made my re-entry this morning feel great.
So it took my 20+ years but I now have a new vacation move
Make a comittment to avoid work email on vacation.
Set your out of office message and let folks know that you won’t be checking email.
Spend the time the night before re-entry getting through most of your inbox
“When I step back and think about what motivates me early in a relationship with an entrepreneur, it’s the product. I only invest in domains that I know well, so I don’t need fancy market studies (which are always wrong), financial models (which are always wrong), or customer needs analyses (which are always wrong). I want to play with the product, touch the product, understand the product – and understand where the founder thinks the product is going.”—Brad Feld, My Obsession With The Product
I heard it somewhere that most VC's are wannabe entrepreneurs..while that may be a bit over the top, is there some truth somewhere? How do you balance the two. I'm asking because I'm considering a career choice between one or the other.
I don’t know if I would call VCs wannabe entrepreneurs and I hadn’t heard that one before.
I do know many VCs that truly love the products and people that they invest in. So they/we can get excitable about product ideas and market opportunities.
And I know several VCs that left their firms to join a company. For example, my friend Chamath left Mayfield years ago to join Facebook. @jess left Venrock and joined Twitter. So it does happen.
But most VCs want to be investors not operators.
Are you torn between starting your own company vs joining an existing VC? Or are you thinking about joining an existing startup?
Ultimately its about the people and which path will you love more.
Of course there are other factors like geography and other life issues. But thats the best advice I have for you since I don’t know you.