Posts Tagged: mobile

Announcing our latest investment: Clio

At version one, we are big believers in the vertical SaaS opportunity. Small to mid-sized businesses have long been underusing technology. A mobile-first approach, combined with a laser-like focus on a specific vertical, can create the right toolset to help SMBs achieve huge productivity gains (I wrote about this nearly a year ago for TechCrunch).

That’s why I’m excited to announce our new investment. Clio is the leader in providing legal practice management software in the cloud. 80 percent of the legal market is made up of solo practitioners and small firms. These professionals have little support staff and no IT department…meaning they’re typically overwhelmed with all the administrative parts of their business.  That’s where Clio comes in. They’ve moved all of practice management to the cloud, including time tracking, invoicing, case management, client contact, etc.

Over the past two years, I’ve been sitting on Clio’s board for ActonCapital (who led Clio’s Series B). Over that time, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the ambition of the two founders, Jack Newton and Rian Gauvreau, as well as their amazing customer and product focus. While the legal industry has been slower to keep pace with technological advancements, it’s definitely ripe for disruption – and smaller firms are quicker to adopt new tools than larger ones. Clio now joins fellow vertical SaaS companies in the V1 portfolio, including Front Desk (scheduling/client management) and Jobber (field service).

Leading this round is Bessemer Venture Partners, with Trevor Oeschlig and Brian Feinstein joining Clio’s board. I’ll be remaining on Clio’s board for Acton and am looking forward to helping Jack and Rian build an even more impressive company and product.

Please join me in officially welcoming Jack, Rian, and their entire team to the version one community.

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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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Jelly app: the challenge of immediate primetime

When Jelly launched a week ago, it was amazing to see how quickly the app got traction – over 100K questions were asked during the first week.

Certainly, Jelly’s high profile team (co-founder Biz Stone, and individual investors like Jack Dorsey, Bono, and Al Gore) helped spark widespread speculation and buzz leading up to the launch. In addition, Jelly leverages users’ existing social graphs on Twitter and Facebook, so it immediately overcame the cold-start problem most platforms and marketplaces face when trying to build a user base at the beginning.

However, digging deeper into the quality of engagement during Jelly’s first week reveals some potential problems with this rapid ramp-up. Only 25% of questions posed ever received an answer. The daily active user count has been trending downward as the media buzz surrounding the initial launch tapers off. And, the number of people asking questions has outpaced the number of people answering them – pointing to a potentially unbalanced marketplace. You can find more data about Jelly’s first week from RJMetrics.

When an app’s user base ramps up so quickly, there’s no time for a community to form or for the product to mature. Immediate primetime is often a real risk for both. Jelly’s users are still trying to figure out how to make use of the service beyond identifying spiders or asking “What does the fox say.” And the very public nature of this launch may turn off casual users before its power users have a chance to hash out the most meaningful use cases.

At a time when growth hacking is top of mind for everybody, the Jelly experience reminds me of the value of growing slowly during the early stages of a product. A closed beta and/or delaying the push into existing social graphs might be two strategies to go back to.

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New investment: Figure 1, a healthcare photo sharing app

Over the years, we’ve seen web and mobile technology disrupt business, education, legal and many other fields as professionals adopt products that help them work more effectively and efficiently.  While the healthcare industry has always been more conservative, it is now primed for change.

At Version One, we have been looking intensely for investment opportunities in healthcare, believing that the leaders of this disruption will be companies that are able to connect people (doctor-doctor, patient-patient, doctor-patient) in a large, secure, and regulatory-compliant network in order to democratize medical knowledge and increase access to care.

Today, we are thrilled to announce our first investment in this space:  Figure 1, a safe photo sharing app for medical professionals.  The product is a mobile, crowdsourced platform where healthcare professionals can upload, tag and discuss images (for example, images of surgical procedures or rare medical conditions).

Doctors may already share images with one another while in the same office or medical facility, but Figure 1 now offers the medical community a way to collaborate and communicate around images, no matter where they’re located. It breaks down traditional information silos which is key to improving patient care and medical education.  The app already has users across Canada, the US, and the UK.

Figure 1 was founded in early 2013 by a super talented team:  Joshua Landy, a critical care physician; Richard Penner, a mobile developer; and Gregory Levey, a JD/MBA. We are co-leading this investment with Rho Canada Ventures and are joined by several angel investors.  We are really excited to be a part of Figure 1’s journey going forward!

To learn more, visit figure1.com or follow @figure1app on Twitter.

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Announcing Version One Ventures

I am excited to announce today the launch of Version One Ventures, a new $15 million micro-VC fund. Version One will back outstanding web and mobile entrepreneurs across North-America with $250,000 to $500,000 investments in Seed and Series A rounds.

The fund builds on my successes with over 35 angel investments which include six exits – among them acquisitions by Google, Twitter, Salesforce, and Groupon. My simple investment thesis: back passionate entrepreneurs who are trying to solve a big problem with a strong product vision.

Version One came to life in the same way that most start-ups evolve. I bootstrapped my first angel investing projects with my own funds, found product-market fit and in the past 2 years have gotten significant traction with exits and follow-on rounds for portfolio companies (most recently for social publisher Wattpad, crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and educational network Edmodo).

With the Internet rapidly moving into everybody’s hands, today’s entrepreneurs will be in the position to build the companies we all dreamt of in 1999 when I started my own start-up JustBooks.The timing was therefore right to take my “angel investing project” to the next level and create a larger fund with a big vision: to become one of the most respected early-stage funds in North-America by being a trusted and helpful partner for entrepreneurs.

As a former entrepreneur myself, I feel the most rewarding aspect of being an investor is to help other entrepreneurs start, build and scale companies and to pass on some of the lessons I learned the hard way over 8 start-up years. Helping others to achieve greatness is what venture capital is all about and how I see my role.

I am fortunate to have found outstanding investors who share this vision. Led by Jeff Mallett (the former President and COO of Yahoo), Version One Ventures is backed by over a dozen successful American and Canadian Internet entrepreneurs as well as a number of high-net worth individuals.

Version One’s typical investment will be $250K to $500K in Seed and Series A financing rounds in consumer Internet, e-commerce, SaaS and mobile companies. To date Version One has already made 5 investments: Top Hat Monocle (interactive learning platform), Julep (multi-channel beauty brand), Jobber (business management software for contractors), Instacanv.as (Instagram artist marketplace) and Sunnytrail (social intelligence platform).

I am very grateful to a number of people who have helped me grow as an investor, especially Albert Wenger and Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures, Jeff Clavier from SoftechChris Fralic from First Round Capital and Christoph Braun from Acton Capital. Thank you for your support and mentorship.

Version One is open for business – stay tuned (@versiononevc)!

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