Business process API-ification: The LEGO promise fulfilled

Lego to WorkMy 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.Continue Reading

Navin Chaddha Shares Mayfield View on Marketplaces

SocialThe 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).Continue Reading

Solving the pain points of mobile developers

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.Continue Reading

The API-ificiation of software – and LEGOs

LegosToday 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.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

Going Green: Investing In Consumer Focused Energy Tech

In recent years, the revolutionary opportunities in the energy sector have attracted billions of dollars from early stage venture investors. But the venture world has learned some hard lessons on the difficulty of building energy businesses: they face science risk, often take a long time to scale and can be capital intensive.

While the overall appetite for venture-backed energy suppliers has cooled, we believe there are abundant opportunities for entrepreneurs to innovate on the ‘demand-side’ of energy markets. We are seeing a wave of new energy companies developing technologies focused on energy efficiency. Alas, most of these companies fall short when it comes to bridging that crucial gap between technical innovation and customer adoption. Similar to the trend toward consumerization of IT, we believe the companies that are poised to explode and redefine the energy tech landscape are the ones that are putting the consumer in the driver’s seat. Their value goes beyond the promise of energy efficiency, to deliver products and services that delight users, make them accessible through innovative business models, and understand the mindset of the energy consumer.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