There are over a billion smartphones being used around the world today, but most apps running on them are still quite dumb, in that they throw away a lot of valuable information that could be harnessed to serve users better and to provide a better overall experience.
Don’t believe us? Just look at the highly popular apps from Yelp and Amazon. Yelp’s app search ignores your implicit cuisine preferences, which it could easily extract from your prior queries and navigation. Yelp also overlooks contextual factors like weather and time of day, showing “Bars” and “Nightlife” prominently in its Nearby feature, even at seven in the morning!
Ditto for Amazon’s PriceCheck app, which seems to not only ignore your purchase history but also whether you’re searching for that toaster oven from your home or at your local Target. (more…)
I have been involved in the technology industry for 20 years as a serial entrepreneur, corporate executive and investor. There are some key rules of the road that have guided my journey and these are especially relevant in the current era when the social Web is dominant, mobile platforms are ubiquitous and consumers are demanding simplicity. As an entrepreneur, I believe that living by some core beliefs is key to leading teams and building companies that last. Here are a few of my fundamental beliefs, illustrated with examples from the entrepreneurs that we are working with.
The Customer is Queen:
Actively listening to your customers and rapidly iterating to reflect customer needs has never been so important. From a vendor of cloud-integrated storage appliances to a mobile fashion marketplace, Mayfield Fund entrepreneurs like Ursheet Parikh and Guru Pangal of StorSimple and Manish Chandra of Poshmark, who constantly listen, react and respond to customer feedback, are finding a quick path to customer engagement. (more…)
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. (more…)
My previous post on the API-ification of software focused on the ecosystem of infrastructure-level APIs. Today, I want to discuss companies providing APIs that operate at the business process or application layer, which brings a whole new level of productivity and revenue potential to businesses.
Amazon has clearly been leading the way in API-fication by providing a broad range of fundamental software services packaged as APIs. From the basic EC2 compute and S3 storage capabilities, they have expanded to now offer more than 30 services across infrastructure categories of compute, storage, networking, database, deployment/management and messaging. All of these components are incredibly valuable and important, but an application developer still has to construct higher level business processes from these fundamental building blocks. In addition, they have launched the AWS Marketplace, which is a catalog of hundreds of software packages that cover everything from application development to traditional business software. However, this marketplace has only taken the first step in making it easy to install and deploy software applications or stacks as machine images. They haven’t yet enabled third-party companies to provide application components packaged purely as APIs. (more…)
The U.S. e-commerce market is estimated at $200 billion and is still projected to account for only 9 percent of total retail by 2016 (source: Forrester Research Feb. 2012 U.S. Online Retail forecast). We believe there is ample room for growth, and much of it will come from marketplaces. The metaphor of online marketplaces, established by Amazon and eBay starting in 1995, has endured and is flourishing once again – but in a different way than in the past. From an investor point of view, four things have changed:
The Rise of Vertical: The e-commerce market is large enough to support vertical marketplaces that super-serve consumer needs and are defying the “winner take all” theory that eBay or Amazon will be the only game in town. These vertical marketplaces have tuned the user experience to very specific needs by vertical and are easier to achieve liquidity due to their focus. Examples include Homeaway (vacation rentals), Etsy (niche artisan goods), and OpenTable (restaurant reservations). (more…)
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker pointed out the following facts in the 2012 Annual Internet Trends report and the Cisco Visual Networking Index report:
- There are 953 million smartphone subscribers today;
- The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population in 2012;
- Cloud-connected services will account for 71 percent of total mobile data traffic in 2016.
According to a recent survey conducted by mobile development and cloud platform provider (and one of my portfolio investments) Appcelerator, mobile developers are enthusiastically embracing cloud services. (more…)
Today everything has an API. Facebook has hundreds of APIs across such social areas as friends, photos, likes and events. Google has thousands of APIs across search/AdWords, Web analytics, YouTube, maps, email and many more. Amazon has APIs that cover the spectrum from Alexa Web traffic rankings to e-commerce product and pricing information and even the ability to start and stop individual machines. I spent a decade architecting and building component and services based software, and another decade after that evaluating and investing in infrastructure software, I believe this mobile and cloud influenced wave of RESTful service-oriented software may finally live up to its initial promise.
Although the majority of API attention has centered on consumer Web services, an emerging cadre of startups are focused on infrastructure and business processes. These newcomers are providing a broad range of critical services neatly packaged as frameworks or APIs. Some of these companies, such as Salesforce and Google Maps, are next generation SaaS providers that have built solutions to serve both end users and developers. Others, including Mailchimp and Twilio, are pure play offerings that solely target developers as customers.
Open source helped to reignite the open systems movement in the late 1990s, which popularized the idea of creating public projects and actively soliciting community feedback and involvement. Tens of thousands of open source projects have been created, but only those projects that built sizable communities have thrived. Most of the large infrastructure software categories were eventually filled by strong open source projects and some spawned successful commercial software companies, including RedHat, XenSource, Sourcefire, MySQL, JBoss, Talend and Alfresco. These companies span a broad range — from operating systems/hypervisors to security to middleware and database/content management. (more…)
I 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. (more…)
As 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. (more…)
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…) (more…)