About Tim Chang

Tim is a proven venture investor and experienced global executive. He has been named to the 2012 and 2011 Forbes Midas List of Top Tech Investors, the Always On Power Players West and Always On Mobile list of top investors. Tim invests in companies that leverage the drivers of mobile and social, and leads Mayfield Fund’s investment practice in China.

A Wearables Startup Playbook

ChalkboardFew sectors have received as much buzz as the wearables market. From fitness bands and anklet baby monitors, to smartwatches and Google Glass, wearables are fun, cool, and cutting-edge.

The rise of mobile broadband, commodity sensors, smartphone-based companion apps, virtualized manufacturing and supply chain, crowdfunding, and nimble design have converged to make wearables mainstream. With the category now validated as a strategic hotspot for all major corporations and platforms, investors are clamoring to fund wearable tech startups.

In 2013, investors poured $458 million into 49 wearable company deals, according to CB Insights. Year-over-year, deal activity in wearable startups rose 158 percent, while funding grew 80 percent. Companies like Thalmic Labs, InteraXon, Soundhawk, Misfit Wearables, Fitbit, Jawbone and Rest Devices have recently raised significant rounds.Continue Reading

5 myths about the marketplace that mobile strategies busted

mobile-786x305In the era of mobile, social, and the sharing economy, we’re seeing the emergence of next-gen mobile-enabled marketplaces in every ecommerce category, from fashion (Poshmark), to health (Brighter and HealthTap), lodging (Airbnb and HotelTonight), transportation (Uber and Lyft), and real estate (Zillow).

However, we have noticed that several conventional wisdoms surrounding marketplaces are getting disrupted. It’s important to constantly question traditional assumptions whenever new platforms arise, as it’s these disruptions which incumbents often fail to adopt, leaving room for innovative startups to spring ahead in new land-grab opportunities.

Mayfield recently hosted a Mobile Marketplaces dinner with leading entrepreneurs, which yielded several insights.

Myth #1: Online marketplaces have no offline component

Many of the newer service marketplaces feel more like “movements” rather than “businesses,” and actually require very careful architecture of the end-to-end experience both online and offline, including areas such as culture and workflow.

“Mobile is a foundational part of the Airbnb experience. When you travel, you are constantly on the go, so being connected to your mobile device might be your only digital lens into the world,” says Shaun Modi, designer at Airbnb. “How do we design and build a world-class mobile experience that not only satisfies the needs of our users, but fuels growth and inspires more people to join the Airbnb global community? It all starts with culture.

“By focusing on designing our internal culture, it seamlessly translates to the experience we create, both online and offline. Everything from the layout of our office, design principles, team structures, and interview process definitively reflects who we are.”

Modi also says startups should invest internally to inspire employees to have empathy for each other and for their customers.Continue Reading

From Mad Men to Big Bang Theory: The evolution of adtech

Move over Don Draper. The slick, martini-drinking, chain-smoking smooth talkers of Mad Men no longer rule Madison Avenue. It’s geeky quant jocks like Dr. Rajesh Koothrapalli from Big Bang Theory who rule in the world of advertising today.

Far from living by John Wanamaker’s maxim about not knowing which half of advertising spend works, the explosion of measurable real-time data has transformed the world of adtech (advertising technology) away from the traditional “ad” and much further towards the emerging “tech.” Here are some trends we are seeing:

Networks Shift to Platforms: Technology, data, and audience targeting have evolved the world of display advertising from basic ad networks to ad exchanges with real-time bidding in a marketplace. That requires demand-side platforms such as Turn on one side (for brand advertisers) and supply-side platforms like Rubicon Project on the other (for publishers). (Disclosure: Mayfield is an investor in Rubicon Project.) Humans are becoming less involved in decisions to buy and sell ad space, as those trades are made in milliseconds through a market that looks more and more like a Wall Street trading desk. The industry is shifting away from older ad network and agency business models, which investors tend to disdain because of inherent challenges with scalability and arbitrage.Continue Reading

Gamification: Insights And Emerging Trends

monopolyI have been active in the field of gamification for the past couple of years, working with companies like Badgeville, HealthTap, Gigya, Basis and others on leveraging game mechanics for end user behavior measurement, scoring and shaping. Last week, I participated on an investor panel of at VatorSplash’s Gamification Summit and the group shared several noteworthy points:

Gamification is expanding beyond the initial verticals of media and fitness: The next target verticals are education, eCommerce, local retail (example: Belly), and financial services.

Gamification is not just for consumer end users, but also corporate employees: Corporations can not only gamify their products and services for consumers and end users, but also leverage game mechanics to make work more fun, measurable, productive, and rewarding for internal employees. In fact, the internal enterprise-facing gamification market may turn out to be just as large (if not larger) than the consumer-facing opportunity, given the budgets and SW/SaaS spending involved with worker productivity.Continue Reading

Non-gamers, here’s why you should care about games

gaming1As an early investor in social gaming, I’m often speaking on panels to audiences of gamers, investors, and game company execs. At one such event —  the Future of Media conference hosted by Stanford’s Graduate School of Business — the opening question was why gaming is relevant to people who are not gamers. The panelists — folks from IGN, Activision, GaiKai, and Riot Games as well as myself — gave some interesting reasons for why non-gamers should care about the game market:

Gaming has gone mainstream: Many sub-two-year-olds have played with a touch screen, and games are the No. 1 form of entertainment for the under-25 crowd.

Discoverability is still elusive: There is at least one game that is relevant to each of us, whether Call of Duty, League of Legends, Words with Friends, or whatever your taste might be. And many of the hidden gems on platforms like social, browser, and mobile are still hard to find. Continue Reading

We Are Our Scores: The Aspirational Self

I left off last time talking about how gamification and the Quantified Self — the use of sensors and devices to gather and analyze as much personal numeric data as possible for new insights into the self–can help us have fun while getting closer to our ideal selves. It’s time to explore how that last idea has evolved in the past few years and how savvy entrepreneurs are putting it to work.

Each of us has that picture of who we want to be and where we want to go. This is the version of ourselves we want the world to see. Convincing others that there is no gap between that image and our real selves used to be the domain of public relations professionals and doting parents. But in this era of social networks and constant connectivity, we all take the reins of our own reputations.

This brings up what I refer to as the “Aspirational Self.” It’s what we do when we post to Facebook or Twitter — constructing and branding the person we want to be seen as, by portraying our most desirable qualities. You tweet on the Saturday night when you’re at the club with Kanye, not the following Saturday when your date cancels and you wind up doing the laundry you’ve put off for two weeks. (In many ways, social media itself is an implicit “game,” in which failed status updates and tweets are the ones which attract no comments or likes…) Continue Reading

The ‘So What’ Of The Quantified Self

Assuming that each of us has a picture of the “real world superhero” we want to become someday, then the optimal way to level up and reach that goal begins with the ability to measure and score our lives. Thankfully, new technologies in mainstream gadgets like iPhones and the Nike+ enable this kind of measurement, and are fueling the so-called Quantified Self movement, starting with the continuous tracking of various aspects of our physical bodies.

Using sensors in our smartphones and other wearable devices, we can chart how many calories we burn, our body fat percentage, how many steps we take in a day, how long we sleep — even how many hours a week we spend commuting or sitting at a desk. Soon we’ll be able to access the same kind of statistics on our digital selves: Social reach and influence; tastes and preferences; achievements; credibility and reputation; habits; expertise.

All that information at your fingertips at all times theoretically allows you to carefully chart a path for improvement—and share your winning strategy and stats with others. On a grand scale, that makes for an interconnected world of healthier, happier people making much more informed decisions. Continue Reading

All The World’s A Game

dungeons-dragonsAs a lifelong gamer, I grew up fascinated with role-playing games, from pen-and-paper fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, to computer-based RPGs like Ultima and Wizardry. I’ve spent thousands of hours crafting and “leveling up” dozens of alternate personas, tuning their stats and experience point allocations across various character traits, and charting their virtual careers. I’ve always loved exploring all the different possible attributes and powers to minimize or maximize, and then mapping out how to achieve the optimal configuration for my style of play.

Several years ago I started wondering, “What if real life were the ultimate role-playing game? What character class would I be, and what would my current level be? Which skills would I go deep in and master?”

What started out as a fun thought experiment grew into a bit of an obsession — not only in how I approach life personally, but also in my job as a venture capitalist. Having been an early investor in social gaming and backing companies like Playdom, ngmoco, Lumos Labs, and Badgeville, I’ve witnessed the interplay between “real world” social media and “in game” behaviors generate tremendous value (Playdom was acquired by Disney for $763M, and ngmoco was bought by DeNA for $403M; Lumos Labs and Badgeville continue to grow like weeds). Now Gamification (the application of game mechanics to non-game fields) influences much of my ongoing thinking and investment.Continue Reading

Big Data Meets Ad Tech

By Tim Chang and Tim Hanlon, CEO, Vertere Group

The brand ad market is massive (multi-multi $B), with 67% of worldwide ad spend in branding.

However only 25% of digital ad spend is in branding and the online brand ad market is still relatively primitive for these reasons:

  • No standards or consistent measures of “success” other than outdated or inadequate metrics like CPM and CTR (clickthrough rate)
  • Limited real-time intelligence
  • Unsuitable display ad formats (still mostly banners)
  • Lack of creativity in formats

Today, marketers and their agencies are overwhelmed by media choices, and departments are not optimized for a data-driven future of real-time bidding in the digital world. Online advertising is driving the need for a new breed of marketer who can handle an exponential blizzard of data sets (external and proprietary) and derive actionable marketing insights/decisions. As a result, CMOs and CIOs are cross-pollinating, driven by CRM/loyalty programs tied to increasingly granular media measures.Continue Reading