Embracing a Mobile-First Mentality for a Brave, New World

Mobile-icon-largeWith over one billion smartphones and over 120 million tablets in use today, the PC era has given way to the world of mobile. Consumers, developers and businesses are being presented with innovative products from disruptive entrepreneurs. At Mayfield Fund, we believe that a new world order is being formed, where many mobile-first companies will grow into industry giants.

CONSUMERS

Consumerization of health:
With the emergence of the quantified self movement, many exciting new devices with cloud-connected apps have come to market, which allow consumers to measure vital statistics about their health and take actions based on the data. Basis has developed a smart watch with sensors that measures your heart rate, perspiration, sleep, activity and other metrics, and tracks your data on a personalized Web site and soon-to-come mobile app, which encourages you to adopt healthy habits. Consumers are using mobile apps to directly access and schedule appointments with doctors, comparison shop for prices, expertise and quality. Healthtap is a doctor-patient network where consumers ask doctors questions and get an answer back that is rated for accuracy and quality by other doctors.

E-commerce & Marketplaces:
The metaphor of e-commerce and online marketplaces, established by Amazon and eBay, has endured and is flourishing once again – but in a way that is enabling new services that were not possible before. Successful marketplaces on mobile platforms now provide addictive, anywhere – anytime accessibility. Fab is an E-commerce company which curates high design items and offers deals to consumers every day through a personalized “shop” on an iPad. Poshmark is a women’s fashion marketplace where consumers can list and beautifully merchandize items in their closets in just a few clicks and also host offline/online trunk shows, called PoshParties, focused on specific fashion themes or categories. Members of the community can simply browse the listings or join a party and buy directly from the seller with their smartphone. The ease of listing via your camera on the smartphone and the simple browsing metaphor similar to Instagram were purpose-built for mobile, and the always-in-your purse quality of the phone makes the app addictive and engaging. In addition to products, there are services marketplaces as well, such as Lyft which has built a ridesharing community in which drivers offer rides to passengers and the entire transaction from booking, scheduling, payment and feedback, is enabled through a mobile app. Both Poshmark and Lyft are focused on building a trusted community first and a marketplace second. Both of them have organically created user loyalty in a market that welcomes new entrants every day.

SmartApps:
With the prevalence of smartphones and the easy accessibility and richness of data, users are expecting a set of smartapps which are personalized and intelligent — which know them (who); remember their past interactions and preferences (what); factor in their context (when, where); take permission-based actions on their behalf; and get smarter about them the more they are used. Many of these have been in the productivity areas such as personal assistant EasilyDo, the Tempo calendar, office docs suite Quick Office (acquired by Google) and email app Mailbox (acquired by Dropbox). And there are many more areas coming up such as travel, local commerce and the like.

DEVELOPERS
With the insatiable appetite for apps by consumers and businesses, the ability to rapidly develop native apps and deploy them across multiple mobile platforms has become critical. The mobile experience is powerful when it leverages back-end cloud-based services, combining mobile device capabilities like touch, location and personalization with cloud-based capabilities like streaming, social networking, push notifications, updates, scalable data storage and computing. Appcelerator is the leader in this space. Its platform allows developers to write apps in Javascript and deploy them across IOS, Android and other mobile platforms. Today, over 440,000 developers use Appcelerator in over 185 countries, over 120 million devices are running Appcelerator-powered apps and there are over 50,000 Appcelerator-powered apps in various app stores.

BUSINESS
With consumers addicted to their mobile devices and developers churning out apps as fast as possible, businesses are experiencing a transformation as well. The wave of BYOD (bring your own devices) and BYOA (bring your own apps) which has swept through companies has presented IT with several challenges. How to sandbox corporate data from private data, how to secure and manage devices and how to balance network loads? Everyone, from C-level executives to junior employees, takes a smartphone to work. Most of them use that phone – and consumer cloud services like Dropbox – to access corporate data so they can work wherever they are. If that phone then gets stolen or an employee leaves, there is the potential for security compromises. Zenprise, a mobile device management provider, (acquired by Citrix), offers security and systems management solutions for this new reality. Companies such as Wichorus, (acquired by Tellabs), provides network infrastructure for 4G and next generation high speed data networks.

Tablets complement and in many ways have eclipsed the PC. Making it seamless to use existing applications on these devices is essential as the transition takes place. Similar to how Citrix led the way for desktop applications to be accessed remotely in the 90s, by bringing Windows apps to users on dumb terminals and remote PCs, there will be new companies which do the same for the mobile era.

Users will choose which apps they download and bring into the office themselves, such as Evernote. The huge untapped opportunity today is to create apps and services that delight the user and make his or her job easier, more efficient and even fun! As the power and simplicity of mobile applications becomes the standard for end users, many new categories of applications never before possible will get created, and existing application categories may get recreated for the mobile world. ServiceMax is a company providing solutions for field service management (think Pitney Bowes repairmen). Its mobile app automatically updates a technician’s schedule with incoming service requests, based on parameters like customer revenue, customer and technician location, technician skills and prior interaction with the customer.

Opportunities in mobile require entrepreneurs who can create solutions for many tangible yet unsolved problems, and build new industry leaders who will define the mobile world order. The trick for today’s entrepreneurs is to hold steady as the mobile era emerges. We tell them, “Don’t sell out early” as you could be building the next Amazon, Citrix, eBay, Oracle, Salesforce, or VMWare.

This post originally appeared on SiliconIndia.