“The most important thing about travel is experience. And as travelers become more sophisticated, they become much more focused on the experience. And so things and innovations that help enrich the experience is where the opportunity is. I don’t think things that tend to diminish the experience or minimize it, like kiosks, have a future.”—Skift Q&A: Hospitality Investor Lee Pillsbury on 100 Years of Industry Disruption
“Mobile-game design is all about psychological manipulation. Candy Crush Saga, for example, baits players by making them wait 24 hours for a new influx of free lives, and telling them that the only way to keep playing immediately is to pay for new lives or ask their Facebook friends for help. This is what game designers call “pain avoidance,” and it’s helped games like Candy Crush Saga become hugely profitable. QuizUp, though, doesn’t have any stealth mechanisms for forcing you to pay, and it doesn’t require you to do anything with your Facebook friends. It just makes it as easy and addictive as possible to play, and the nature of the game means that people want to invite their friends organically. “Candy Crush is a good example of what I call forced virality,” Fridriksson says. “You get to a level, it’s addicting, but in order to continue you need to share it or ask your friends for help. We are trying to do the exact opposite. We don’t really reward people at all for sharing.”—QuizUp’s Growth Secrets
“In mobile this is quite different: nothing is settled. We have the web and apps and of course app stores, and then we have many complications - voice, in-app payments, web apps, hybrid apps, widgets, push notifications, social messaging apps, Google Now and Siri. Then there’s the hardware layer - images, barcodes, NFC, bluetooth, location, motion sensors etc. Innovative and disruptive new interaction models can very often find a route to market, far more easily than they could on the desktop internet. Sometimes, they scale to a hundred million users in a year to two. And we have more and more waves of innovation coming, with things like local wireless from Apple and deep linking to within apps from Android, and a very fast-evolving social messaging space, and more things in 2014 and beyond.”—Mobile interaction models — Benedict Evans
“The best emails feel personal. And they are. Flash sales site Gilt Groupe, for example, sends over 3,000 variations of its daily email, each tailored to past user click-throughs, browsing history, and purchase history. Of course, building true customization and targeting abilities is a transformative process that requires specific capabilities and supporting infrastructure. Customer information – which often lives in different parts of the organization – must be aggregated to create a single view of each consumer. A targeting engine must be built to guide the right message to the right person. And operations need to be ready for the change; creating and sending 3,000 emails per day is very different than sending one mass email blast.”—Email Marketing: Think Inside The New Inbox - Forbes
“In a seed round, you can get by on who you are or some buzz or social capital, but a Series A is about the kinds of plans and numbers that come out of a rigorous dedication to traditional business processes. You may be able to get away with raising a seed round without even taking a guess around the economics of an individual salesperson, but don’t attempt to raise $5mm without knowing that answer—and if it turns out not to work, why wouldn’t you want to know the answer to that question a year ahead of time at your seed round?”—Tough Questions
You never get a second chance to make a first (ad) impression. When making the decision to expose your “virgin” audience to advertising for the first time it’s especially important to focus on the quality of the ads. Why? Because the quality of that content will impact the audience’s future…
Many first time founders began their path towards entrepreneurship while working at a larger company. In fact, the experience of working for a company is typically the catalyst for starting their new business. Perhaps they were frustrated with how slow things moved within the corporate environment or they found the day-to-day becoming increasingly boring.
The common “big company” problems and inefficiencies eventually lead to a “big idea” and that’s when a person transforms from employee to founder. Night and weekend projects become more important in mental energy than checking in and clocking out Monday through Friday.
So, the founder leaves the company and ships the idea. She runs with it and builds. Along the way, the first time founder experiences the infamous “troph of sorrow" and continues to focus. Releases of improvement begin and then wiggles of false hope appear. Signs of the promised land come into realization…and then, a larger company comes in to swoop up the team and potentially the product (read: an “acqui-hire”), ideally having an acquisition of liquidity.
And now, as the story goes, the founder is back at a big company.
Granted, this is one outcome in the journey from employee to founder (and one that’s become increasingly commonplace lately) and it may be the best option at the time. Others include building a startup, having a larger company purchase the business and staying on to grow it as a separate business line - as another example.
But, can entrepreneurs really sustain and reside in a big company atmosphere? It’s a bit of an oxymoron and a question that comes up often with the current M&A trend of “acqui-hiring” in New York and Silicon Valley.
Simply, the definition of reside (to be situated or be in a permanent place) doesn’t correlate to the first experience (that initial genesis in the story above) when the original employee transformed into a founder. This same person who witnessed the inefficiencies of larger companies and made a decision to leave a stable work life is most likely not the same person who could re-enter such a world and be content as well as thrive.
At a startup, you’re tasked with growth and building something people want. At a big company, you’re tasked with a specific role, to carry out an existing business and support something people already use.
Stop and read that last paragraph. The statements are two, very different ends of the spectrum. On one end, your mission is tackling a wide unknown. It’s an unknown that is the riskiest of prospects, with no certainty of reward and more likely than not, you’ll end up failing. On the other end, lies a path that may have been set by a previous employee before you, with a structure that was more mature and protected from failure than the early stage business you built.
*Note: There are exceptions to this. A handful of big (even public) companies are filled with amazing entrepreneurs that I can count in private discussions with friends. Bigger companies are becoming smarter about acquiring growth-oriented talent rather than role-oriented, particularly learning from the passion each founder showcases about her business. The logic is that a growth-oriented employee can become a “jack of all trades” through all functions of the organization.
I think it’s time I talked about money for a little bit. This will be slightly awkward but I would like to get it off my chest, because I can often see people wanting to ask me, and some brave souls just go for it. Gotta admire those people. No fear.
“When you think of how smartphones are changing the way we do things, it’s that device, it’s that computer in your pocket, it’s that map in your pocket, and we think it [TripAdvisor] will be the personal travel assistant in your pocket in part for planning, but very much so in-market,” Kaufer says.”—
“The impact has been not only economic but also cultural. Apple’s innovations have set off an entire rethinking of how humans interact with machines. It’s not simply that we use our fingers now instead of a mouse. Smartphones, in particular, have become extensions of our brains. They have fundamentally changed the way people receive and process information. Ponder the individual impacts of the book, the newspaper, the telephone, the radio, the tape recorder, the camera, the video camera, the compass, the television, the VCR and the DVD, the personal computer, the cellphone, the video game and the iPod. The smartphone is all those things, and it fits in your pocket. Its technology is changing the way we learn in school, the way doctors treat patients, the way we travel and explore. Entertainment and media are accessed and experienced in entirely new ways.”—And Then Steve Said, ‘Let There Be an iPhone’ - NYTimes.com
“In the grind of a startup, you’ll always need someone yesterday and it’s easy to hire someone that is not quite smart enough or a good enough culture fit because you really need a specific job done. Especially in the early days, never compromise. A single bad hire left unfixed for long can kill a company. It’s better to lose a deal or be late on a product or whatever than to hire someone mediocre. Great people attract other great people; as soon as you get a mediocre person in the building, this entire phenomenon can unwind.”—How to hire - Sam Altman
“We started by focusing on New York, making sure we had high-quality product in New York—I’m talking just 40 properties, making sure they were professionally photographed, reasonable prices, etc. Before you know it, people from around the world start wanting to stay there. The owners start making money, and they tell their friends. The friends see the quality of the product and they emulate it: good photos, good prices. Now you have more supply, now you can support more demand, and people who were going to New York go to back where they came from—Paris, Berlin, Moscow, wherever—and either they themselves become hosts or they tell their friends who would become hosts. So the number one source of supply is guests—people who have already traveled becoming hosts.”—Airbnb Goes After Young Chinese Travelers as Asia Inventory Grows
“The Internet likes snacks – simple, focused products that capture an atomic behavior and become compound only by linking in and out to other services. This has become even more so with the shift to mobile. People check their phones frequently, in short bursts, looking for nuggets of information.”—The Internet is for snacking - Chris Dixon
“I told my friend that we discovered this “upside down funnel” approach in the early days, and never really grew out of it (because it’s worked). When you see our strange billboards that don’t even say our name, or when you see our random “high five” shirts, vinyl toys, or hear ridiculous radio ads, just know that they defy logic because they’re for our existing customers. We’re not going for new leads, let alone conversions or whatever they teach you in Marketing 101. We’re going for customer service. Which, by the way, leads to leads.”—
“Wireless is freedom. It’s about being unleashed from the telephone cord and having the ability to be virtually anywhere when you want to be. That freedom is what cellular is all about. It pleases me no end to have had some small impact on people’s lives because these phones do make people’s lives better. They promote productivity, they make people more comfortable, they make them feel safe and all of those things. In the sense I had a small contribution there makes me feel very good.”—
It’s no surprise that acquiring customers online is difficult and expensive. Many founders are looking to identify ways to lower costs for gaining new users while doing so in some scalable manner. Historically, expansive user acquisition has been in performance or direct response marketing (if you’re interested in this, read Wayne Mulligan’s excellent blog). However, trying to find new means of growth outside of performance marketing is challenging, largely because it’s not well documented on the web or examples disappear in a fleeting moment. I’m hoping to change that in a new series I’m calling “Social Media Business Development 101” where I deep dive into a user growth cases and document results.
First is Everlane, a vertical retailer selling fine quality goods on the web. In order to introduce a new line of bags, their team created a unique content theme with the hashtag of #howipack asking select photographers to curate photos of what and naturally, how they pack.
Here’s how it worked:
Everlane sends a tweet covering a content theme (“daily essentials” and “#howipack”) to their ~10k followers
“And there’s something that’s specific to these types of apps, regardless of preference: they offer a this-week or right-now idea of what to do at night. As WillCall’s K. Tighe points out, if you buy tickets months in advance — which is the current system for most concert-goers — you have no idea if you’ll feel like going out the night of that show. With these apps, it’s instant pleasure on the night you want.”—
“The rapidly growing technology company, NoWait, today announces that restaurants across the country have used its product to seat more than 16 million diners and are currently seating more than 2 million diners monthly. In 2013, NoWait will seat over 20 million diners, and by the end of the year will reach an annual rate of 36 million.”—
So your engineers are building an API and it’s your job to get people to use it. This isn’t a Field of Dreams situation: just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. It’s your job in business development to spur adoption of your company’s API, and like any good BD effort, that requires…
Great post covering the ins and outs of creating an API-side of the business, in this case GroupMe.
“In the travel sector, the number of Facebook fans are generally much smaller than for fashion or beauty, however the overall engagement rates tend to be higher. The average global travel and leisure engagement rate is 4.8 per cent - but Thomas Cook, Thomson Holidays and Travelzoo beat this with 6, 5 and 12.2 per cent respectively”—
Just last summer, Mark Zuckerberg was hammered with questions about mobile monetization — which was zero — and he promised to improve Facebook’s crappy mobile app. Then the company’s IPO fell flat. Fast forward to this summer, and Facebook’s new mobile numbers should make your head spin:
“Building a call center, however, was only part of the process. “We went to hotels, we told them what we were doing, and we said, ‘We need lower rates for the call center,’” Diener said. “‘We can hide them and we don’t publish them on the Internet, but if you give us 20%, 30%, 40%, 50% off the rate, we’ll move a lot more rooms, and we won’t publish it online.’”—