Posts Tagged: Google

Mobile is eating the web

Marc Andreesen famously said that “software is eating the world.” Now it looks like mobile is eating the web.

Back in 2010, Mary Meeker and Morgan Stanley predicted that within the next five years, “more users will connect to the Internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs.” We’ve arrived at that milestone. The shift from desktop to mobile, whether smartphone or tablet, is happening across a variety of activities. For example, as of January 2013 Facebook has more mobile users than web users – as more and more people are checking their Facebook updates on their mobile device and skipping the desktop version entirely. Likewise in 2013, news consumption on mobile devices surpassed desktop, and consumers now spend more time interacting with online retailers on smartphone and tablets than they do on desktops and laptops.

Like any platform shift, this mobile wave obviously has major implications for any business. Here are four key trends that companies, whether web-first or mobile-first, need to be aware of.

1. Don’t just adapt for a smaller screen, but re-think UX

Most web-first companies have completely underestimated the radical change that mobile brings about. Many still think that mobile is simply an extension of the Web. After all, it’s human nature to view something new within the context of what we already know. That happened when we moved from radio to TV, print to web, and web to mobile. Luke Wroblewski speaks about this in a great talk (discussion of shift from one media to another begins around 10:30).

Every new medium needs a new way of thinking. A mobile device is not just a smaller or less powerful version of a desktop computer. It’s an entirely new form of media that’s unique to itself. For example, it’s always on; it’s always with us; and it offers more interactivity than ever before. Businesses need to invent new use cases and applications that make full use of the new platform, rather than just copying existing models from the web.

2.  The risk of unbundling

Albert Wenger discussed the risk of unbundling as it relates to Facebook: “On my phone another app is just a button push away and there is relatively little that fits on each screen.  So it is just as much effort to go to another part of the Facebook app as there is to go to a different app altogether.”

This means that each mobile app is continually competing for attention with countless other apps. It also means that one large platform/app doesn’t necessarily enjoy a monopoly, as users can just as easily opt for six best-of-breed point applications.

3. Distribution strategies are different

For companies looking to build a presence via mobile apps, there’s the matter of discoverability. Strong product market fit is often no longer enough to get to a large user base, instead “you need to master the “download app, use app, keep using app, put it on your home screen” flow and that is a hard one to master.” And many distribution strategies that worked on the web (like long-tail SEO), simply don’t work in an app ecosystem.

4. Customer support opportunities

Considering the fact that more than 50% of inbound customer service calls will be made from mobile devices by 2016, mobile presents a big opportunity to rethink the customer support experience. From a pure voice-call standpoint, it doesn’t matter whether a call originates from a landline or mobile device. However, mobile devices give companies even more ways to reach out and assist their customers. Customer service apps can provide a level of interaction not possible on a landline – including the ability to use video, send photos or instructions, chat, and voice. But companies need to think beyond what has been done before, and invent brand new experiences for mobile.

While the rapid pace of mobile adoption has caught many businesses off guard, there’s a big opportunity for start-ups to rethink a product or vertical in a mobile-first way. There’s also an opportunity to provide the infrastructure for traditional web companies to move to mobile.

More than half of Version One portfolio companies are either mobile-first or mobile-only companies, so it’s safe to say we’re excited about seeing the next generation of mobile businesses and experiences.

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Re-imagining the mobile use case

While Apple has not listened to my complaints ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Google recently released the results of a new study on mobile search and conversions. Along with Nielsen, Google analyzed over 6,000 mobile searches and the actions that came after the search.

While there are quite a few interesting findings (including the fact that 55 percent of conversions occur within the first hour of the mobile search), the most significant takeaway for me is the fact that 77% of all mobile searches occur at home or at work; only 17% occur on the go (and 2% are in store). That means that more than three-fourths of all mobile searches are performed where a computer is also available to them.

Survey respondents said they chose mobile over desktop search for convenience and speed. The study quoted one respondent: ““It was easier on the mobile device as I didn’t have to get up [to] turn on the computer and wait for it to boot up.”

So, it appears that the shift to mobile that’s happening across all verticals is mainly a shift of devices, rather than the emergence of new use cases.

Think back three to four years ago when we all believed that the on-the-go use case would be the main driver for mobile. Yet on-the-go and in-store behaviors haven’t fully materialized. As the Google survey shows, mobile doesn’t necessarily mean “mobile.” We’re using tablets and smartphones while on the couch, in the kitchen, etc.

Take-away: re-imagine the mobile use case

What does this mean for startups? For starters, every web business needs to design a great mobile experience, as users will increasingly opt for a mobile device to access websites. The mobile experience should ideally be native for the particular device type and optimized for conversions on a small screen. In my opinion, this is where many apps fall short: they optimize their conversion funnel for a web experience and make mobile users return to a desktop to complete their activity.

But perhaps even more importantly, the Google survey makes it clear that major opportunities exist to build better on-the-go experiences. Frontdesk and Jobber, two portfolio companies in the vertical SaaS space, have built mobile-only solutions for managing a service business. But in many cases, we have not yet fully re-imagined the mobile-only or mobile-first experience.

However, with more mobile devices being sold than computers, it’s clear that there are countless opportunities for innovative mobile use cases in both the consumer and enterprise market. I for one am looking forward to seeing the next generation of mobile businesses.

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Does your product pass the toothbrush test?


Photo credit: Wade Brooks

Repeat usage is one of the most important success factors for building a large, stand-alone company. It’s hard to grab people’s mindshare and create a loyal user base when people only need to use your product or service occasionally.

One of the best metaphors I’ve come across to describe this reality is Google’stoothbrush test” – where Larry Page insists that new products must be important enough that people will use them at least twice a day.

The toothbrush test is definitely a great benchmark for any social networking site. It’s why Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest have done so well. And it’s also why social networks for travellers or events have struggled to really scale. For the majority of users, there’s just too much time in between trips or events when the app is completely unnecessary (except those lucky few who spend a year traveling around the world).

The toothbrush test is valid for SaaS products as well. Products that are critical to the daily workflow, like business management software and collaboration tools, tend to have the lowest churn rates. Yet, both marketing automation and HR tools often struggle (unless they are addressing core functions).

Commerce is certainly a different beast when it comes to this benchmark. My own rule of thumb is that customers should have a reason to visit a commerce site at least once per month. Monthly subscription services like Julep have a natural touch point every time they send out their new products. Frank & Oak has created monthly-curated product releases that create an important monthly rhythm.

High repeat usage = large potential business

Repeat usage is the basis to build a large business and is generally driven by two things:

  • How often people need to use the services/products your site offers
  • If people remember your site in the moment they need the service/product

So think deeply about what kind of feature set and/or product depth and breadth you are offering in order to maximize the reasons why people visit your site (of course, you want to do this without completely diluting your brand in the process). In addition, find smart and scalable ways to remind people of your site’s offering…without crossing the line into becoming spam.

If you fail to give people a reason to visit your site and remember you, users will turn to Google to find the best products and services for their current need. And this is exactly why Google’s search passes the toothbrush test so easily…

P.S.: Which products you are using pass the toothbrush test?

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Breaking into the Valley? Use the “Canadian mafia”

Canadian flag outside the Maritime Museum of t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a PayPal mafia, a Facebook mafia and a Twitter mafia, all powerful networks of entrepreneurs and investors based in the Valley. And now there is a really strong “Canadian mafia” emerging. It started to formalize with the launch of the C100 a few years ago. The organization is comprised of a select group of mostly Silicon Valley-based Canadian entrepreneurs, technology executives and VC’s and has launched some amazing programs like “48 Hours in the Valley” or the “Canada CEO tech summit“. But even more importantly, the Canadian angle is starting to open doors in all sorts of places.

I spent the past month in the Bay Area and found that one of the most successful ways to get into a specific organization is to find out if there is any Canadian connection. And interestingly enough, there are Canadians (or people with a connection to Canada) sitting almost everywhere. You can find them in the big Internet companies like Google, Apple or Facebook; you can find them in major tech blogs and among conference organizers; you can find them among VC’s or super-angels. And Canadians are actually starting to talk about a Canadian mafia and feeling proud about being part of this emerging community.

So the next time you are trying to get that important meeting, try the Canadian angle – it might be the most powerful way to break into the Valley.


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How to hire for your start-up

I recently read a great article about Google’s recruiting machine that described in some detail how Google’s hiring success is based on 4 elements: “data, money (lots of it), sophisticated programming, and an army of young, eager recruiters.” And while Google plays in a league by itself (and can throw tons of money at the problem), every start-up should consider 2 lessons learned from Google’s approach.

1. Be aggressive about filling the funnel:

One of the most important elements of running a successful hiring process is a company’s ability to feed the top of the funnel. Posting on job boards, offering internship programs, leveraging your existing team for referrals, networking and targeted PR are some of the basic strategies but the most successful is still to actively go after potential candidates. Identifying, contacting and qualifying them is a lot of manual work and unless you put serious resources against it, you will not make enough progress. Those resources can either be internal or contractors with the latter group having worked very well for Google.

Who are Google’s recruiters? They’re young, highly paid and, often, on a six month contract. “They’re probably the company that I’ve seen that uses the most [contractors],” says Michael A. Morell, co-founder and managing partner of Silicon Valley recruiting firm Riviera Partners. “There’s a lot to be said for new people trying to prove themselves in the first six to 12 months.” It’s difficult to find an accurate or exact employee-to-recruiter ratio at the company, the number of recruiters varies dramatically. At any given time, Sullivan says, 70% of the recruiting staff might be on contract.

2. Qualifying the leads

The other important element of the hiring process is to qualify the leads by using a systematic, data-driven approach. You can either look at past performance (e.g. GPA and standardized testing scores if a candidate has recently graduated) or have your candidates perform internal tests (like coding, writing or even Excel tests, depending on the position you try to fill). A really good example for an unique quantitative approach is Hubspot’s hiring process for inside sales.

There are many other important elements of a successful hiring process but aggressively thinking about the top of the funnel and using more data in the qualification of leads are probably the two areas where most start-ups can make an immediate difference to their hiring success rate.



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