It is every designer’s dream to design a chair. I have yet to meet an industrial designer that doesn’t want to design a chair or a car. It is a designer’s dream for those who study transportation design to design a car and I get it. Chairs and tables?Tags: Idris Mooteedesigndesign thinkingexperiencepurpose
The Interplay Between Communicating & Relating
The relating that occurs between human beings is a function of the communicating that is occurring between these human beings; the communicating that is occurring between human beings is function of the relating that is occurring. Which is to say that the communicating and relating are essentially in a dynamic dance with one another.Tags: customer experienceMaz Iqbalcommunicationmarketing communicationhumanizing brandsauthenticity
There are some “truths” in the venture capital business that I have been hearing since I got into this game in the mid 80s. One of them is that getting “third party validation” by going outside of the current investor syndicate to find a new lead is good for the investors. I have come to believe this “wisdom” is nothing more than lack of conviction on the investor’s part.
What “super powers” do VCs have that allow them produce above average returns year after year after year? Well you could argue that some of us have the ability to see things before others see them. That might be true but it is hard to sustain that for a long time. You might argue that some of us have brands that allow us to get into the conversations with the best entrepreneurs when others can’t. That is most certainly true. You could argue that some of us have a tight focus on an investment strategy and work it tirelessly and don’t veer from it. That is most certainly true.
But short of those three things, I am not aware of a sustainable model that produces above average returns on investing in “new names”. However, there are two “super powers” that VCs have at their disposal that can produce above average returns year after year if they use them correctly. Those are the right to a board seat and the right to invest in round after round after round. I talked a bit about the latter one last week.
Taken together, these two rights put VCs in a position to intelligently invest in their existing portfolio companies. I believe that you can turn an average portfolio producing average returns into an average portfolio producing above average returns by intelligently investing in your existing portfolio companies.
It is one thing to take your pro-rata, and I talked a lot about that last week. But it is another thing to lead the next round and increase your ownership. It’s this latter move that I think many of us in the VC business instinctively avoid for fear that we are “falling in love with our companies.” Anyone who has been in the VC business for a long time has made the mistake of believing too much in a portfolio company and supporting it beyond when you rationally should. I have made that mistake so many times I can’t count them on two hands. It is my signature failure and I have not been able to stop doing it.
But, I would argue, the worse mistake is to know you’ve got a winner in your portfolio long before anyone else knows it and you allow a new investor to come in and lead the next round when you easily could and should. The upside on your best investments is the thing that allows an early stage VC to take so much risk and lose money on so many investments. Increasing the upside on the best investments is a rational move in light of the distribution of outcomes in a VC fund.
I would caveat all of this with a few things:
1) You have to let the entrepreneur do what they think is best for them and their company. If they want an outside lead, then by all means you should support that and work as hard as you can to make it happen.
2) You have to think about the amount of “dry powder” the current syndicate has and make sure that you aren’t using all of it up by leading a round when you should really be bringing in a new investor.
3) If an insider is leading a round, you should put a very fair deal on the table for the entrepreneur and the company. An inside lead is not about getting a “sweetheart” deal. It is about putting in place a fair deal for everyone.
4) If the valuation expectations of the founder and the company are unrealistic, then you should suggest that they go test the market. If there is a better offer out there at a better price than you would pay, that is always a good outcome for everyone.
There is a lot of signaling risk in all of this. If you are known to be aggressive in offering to lead inside rounds, and you don’t make that offer, then that puts the entrepreneur in a tricky spot. Of course the entrepreneur can say that they don’t want an inside lead and they want to expand the investor base. But even so, smart investors may know. Truth be told, there is signaling risk in everything that the existing investors do and anyone who thinks otherwise is just not seeing straight.
Two of my favorite examples of this strategy are YouTube and our portfolio company Etsy. At YouTube, Sequoia led the Series A and as far as I can tell (I’m not 100% sure), they led every round after that until the company sold to Google. That allowed Sequoia to allocate more and more capital to what was an incredibly great company and investment and get a massive return on a sale that sure felt like a monster at the time. At Etsy, USV participated in the seed round with some angel investors. We led the Series A and the Series B and increased our ownership substantially by doing that. On the Series C, Rob Kalin decided to get an outside lead and we were totally supportive of that decision. In both cases, I expect (or know) that the VCs had a better idea of how things were going (well!!!!) than anyone outside of the company.
There was a meme in the comment thread on my post last week (104 comments) about “insider trading”. I’d like to say something about that without getting legal or technical. In my view, insider trading is taking advantage of someone buying a stock from you or someone selling stock to you when you know something that they do not. It is illegal and should be. Purchasing stock from a portfolio company is unlikely to be insider trading because how can anyone suggest that you know more about a company than the company knows about itself? I guess that’s possible, but it’s a hard argument to make with a straight face. So while this insider lead thing may smell to some as insider trading, I am very confident it is nothing of the sort.
So in summary, when you have conviction that one of your investments is doing really well, you should have the courage to offer to lead an inside round (assuming you have sufficient capital including future reserves to do that). You should make the case to the entrepreneur and the board why that is a good idea. And if they decide to go outside and find a new lead, you should support that decision and do everything you can to make that strategy a success. I don’t think enough VCs do this and I think they should.
I’m intrigued by the reaction that has unfolded around the Facebook “emotion contagion” study. (If you aren’t familiar with this, read this primer.) As others have pointed out, the practice of A/B testing content is quite common. And Facebook has a long history of experimenting on how it can influence people’s attitudes and practices, even in the realm of research. An earlier study showed that Facebook decisions could shape voters’ practices. But why is it that *this* study has sparked a firestorm?Tags: danah boydFacebooksocial mediadigital livingattentionemotionmanipulation
We’ve been investing in the education sector for a few years now. We started our exploration of online education in early 2009 with an event called Hacking Education. The takeaways from that event have informed a lot of what we’ve invested in since then.
One of the key takeaways was that learning could and should become free. Our friend Bing Gordon said this at Hacking Education:
From an economic point of view, I would say the goal… is to figure out how to get education down to a marginal cost of zero.
We have invested with Bing in online education. Bing and his partners at KP led the most recent round in our portfolio company DuoLingo. DuoLingo is the most popular language learning mobile app in the world. And one of the reasons for that is that DuoLingo is free.
So you might ask “how can you make money giving away a learning app?” This past week DuoLingo answered that question with the commercial release of the DuoLingo Test Center.
The DuoLingo Test Center is currently free but it won’t be for long. Give it a try if you’d like to see how it works. Once the DuoLingo Test is accepted at schools and employers, the company plans to charge $20 to take its test.
There’s an established incumbent (monopoly) in this market called TOEFL. If you’ve come to the US to study, you’ve probably taken this test. It’s a lot more expensive than $20 per test and DuoLingo is out to prove it can do this testing less expensively and better.
But what this example shows is something more than how one company plans to monetize its free app. It’s a model for freemium in online eduction. Provide the education for free but charge for the certification (testing). This is a very elegant implementation of freemium as its an easy on ramp and the customers who get the most value are the ones who pay.
I am pretty sure this will become the dominant monetization model in online education. We are already seeing it emerge in other sectors. A number of the attendees at Hacking Education predicted this over five years ago. It made sense to me then and it makes even more sense to me now.
Here’s a talk that my partner Andy did with our friend Jason Hirschorn last year about the changing landscape of filmmaking. It’s about 45mins long
Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.
-Rising consumer demand in sub-Saharan Africa is “driving hopes that Africa will emerge as a success story … comparable to the rise of the East Asian Tigers in the second half of the 20th century,” reports The New York Times.
-A new study forecasts that, post-recession, technology will continue to polarize the work world, with automation displacing more mid-wage, routine-oriented workers, reports The New York Times.
-In the second quarter, Global Consumer Confidence reached its highest level since 2007, reports Nielsen.
-eMarketer expects mobile ad spending to jump by 83 percent this year, leading both newspaper and radio spending, reports The Wall Street Journal.
-Quartz spotlights charts showing current TV habits based on data from the networks as the Television Critics Association press tour kicked off.
-Many Millennials are still saying no to marriage and are now projected to be the generation with the least number of married people by age 40, via Money.
-Mobile-focused Millennials, dubbed “silent travelers” by travel researcher Skift, are pushing hotel and airline brands to find new ways to reach them, notes MediaPost.
-The “mystery of missing out,” or MOMO, is supplanting FOMO as the latest social media anxiety, The Observer points out.
-A new McKinsey report finds global luxury sales growth will concentrate in cities, notably those in emerging markets.
-Some high-end consumers, along with some celebrities and designers, are dissing luxury products, scaling back their purchases and crying ripoff, reports Time.
-A Forbes contributor questions whether sporting events and concerts have become “elitist,” too expensive for average consumers.
-Cereal companies and fast food restaurants are rolling out new marketing initiatives and products as consumers’ breakfast habits change, reports The Wall Street Journal.
-The New York Times examines the state of food safety in China as more brands stumble.
-Kale has become so popular that there’s now a worldwide shortage, reports the Mail Online.
-Visits to restaurants have reached a plateau, with no rebound on the horizon, according to The NPD Group, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.
-Quartz looks at the future of Internet music, highlighting the competition between Pandora and Spotify.
-In China, more people now access the Internet from a mobile device than a PC, reports The Next Web.
-Another drop in iPad sales and sluggish overall global tablet sales have The Wall Street Journal questioning whether the viability of tablets. Meanwhile, carriers are stepping up efforts to sign more tablet customers as smartphone adoption slows, per The Wall Street Journal.
-Smart TVs are poised to take over the market, says Business Insider.
-Reducing stress is the latest wellness-at-work trend as managers look to create better work environments, reports Fortune.
-Robot caregivers may offer much-needed help for older adults and people with disabilities, suggests a geriatrics professor in The New York Times.
-Communicate examines the rise of Mipsterz, a new cohort of Muslim consumers who are remixing tradition, spotlighting research from JWT.
-Wired reports on the car of the future, suggesting it will have neither a steering wheel nor brakes.
-”Knitted” shoes from Nike and Adidas are not only fueling a marketing war between the two but could reshape the footwear industry, reports CityLab.
-More professionals are ditching briefcases for backpacks, reports Ad Age.
-The DIY smart home market is expected to grow by 43 percent annually through 2019, according to a new study, reports the study author in Forbes.
-The New York Times’ Nick Bilton discusses how the rise of the touch screen is leading to the obsolesce of the pen.
-Golf hasn’t caught on with Millennials, and The Wall Street Journal takes a look at how the retail and sporting ends of the industry are responding.
We’re living in an age of networks. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have hundreds of millions of users. New services like Instagram and Pinterest become billion dollar companies in months instead of years or decades. This year, marketers will spend over $4 billion on social media.Tags: Greg Satelldigital livingsocial networksnetworkingsocial networkingchange
In your company, is "customer focus" just a poster on the wall? Or is it a way of doing business?Tags: Annette Franz Gleneickicustomer servicecustomer experiencesorganisational behaviour
Now that the world cup is over, global creative agency iris has created an online short film and digital platform called “Uncage the beautiful game.” According to iris, “the biting, boring 0-0 draws and amateur dramatics from the World Cup” influenced them to create this campaign. There aim is to “bring back the beauty and free spirit of street football by unshackling the rigidity of the game.” Yet, this year’s World Cup was pretty exciting and calling it boring is a bit harsh, but moving on.
Tiger Street Football (soccer, that is) will push fans all over Asia to change the rules of football with uncage football to “bring back the beautiful game.” the campaign will be launch online, featuring famous international football star, Deco. In the film, the stadium crumbles to the ground as a symbolic display of what Tiger Street Football is all about.
You can follow all the social interaction with this hashtag #uncagefootball. Tiger Street Football 2014 is a refreshing change to regular football, which at times has been let down by too much defense and rules. On the other hand, street football encourages creativity, spontaneity, and free spirit.
By going to uncagefootball.com fans can interact with Deco and let him know what they love and hate about football. They are also given the opportunity to change the rules of the game. From all the submitted rule changes, Deco will choose a new fan rule to be implemented in every game the tour reaches in order to showcase the best creative football possible.
Eight of the top street football teams in Asia will battle off against each other in a redesigned league format and a brand new competition arena that will take them to Cambodia, Mongolia and Singapore. At the end of the tournament, Asia’s best street soccer players will be selected to form Deco’s “Street Stars.”
Fans will be able to stream the street football games and could be rewarded if they help #uncagefootball together. They could win attractive prizes and also have a chance to hang out with Deco himself in Barcelona.
While smartphones have become an indispensable part of many people’s lives, the monthly tariffs attached to them are often overpriced and limited to a few options that leave customers with excess data or calls each month. In the past, Korea-based mobile operator T’s LTE Data Gift scheme has let those with unused data donate it to family members and friends, and now Singapore operator StarHub has launched the #4Good campaign, which enables customers to give it to projects using technology for positive causes.
Starhub subscribers on the company’s Mobile Postpaid tariff are able to opt into the scheme through their devices. After they agree, any calls, SMS and 4G data they have leftover at the end of each billing cycle is recorded. The equivalent amount is then added to the accounts of charities such as the Asian Women’s Welfare Association and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped for free. The idea is that these organizations can provide those in need with talktime and mobile internet allowance to keep in touch with family and make their day-to-day lives easier.
Watch the video below, which acts as a promo for the campaign:
The initiative helps smartphone users feel their excess allowance isn’t going to waste and is instead helping those less fortunate. Are there other ways to help disconnected societies to enjoy the privileges of social technology?
For many, exercise is more of a chore than something to look forward to, and for others it’s only bearable if there’s a distraction to take their mind off what they’re actually doing. In the past, Blue Goji has successfully tricked people into doing exercise to control games characters. Now The Fit Sessions in the UK is hoping to entice alternative music fans — not typically the most sporty types — to keep fit by bouncing along to the indie genre’s more upbeat tracks.
One thing that may put music connoisseurs off the traditional gym class is the thumping dance music that’s often pumped out to keep members in a good rhythm. Taking cues from New York City’s SoulCycle — which matches exercise bike workouts with high energy hip hop — The Fit Sessions offers guided fitness classes with a playlist of indie tracks with a Manchester bent. Think Happuy Mondays, New Order, Oasis, and potentially the less wistful Smiths songs.
The hour-long classes take place at Wobbleyou every Tuesday and cost GBP 6 (compared to SoulCycle’s USD 20+ sessions). Are there other ways to combine workouts with the mental stimulation that high-minded art provides?