What a CEO Learned Coaching His Daughter’s Basketball Team

Several years ago I took on the challenge of coaching my daughter’s middle school basketball team. I wanted to spend more time with her, and the team was without a coach. The problem was I had never even touched a basketball.

I did, and do, know how to run a business, however. I was pleasantly surprised, as were the girls, to find what helped me succeed in business worked to the basketball court, and vice versa.

David vs. Goliath. This was not your conventional winning team. The girls didn’t come from athletic families. They weren’t tall or well coordinated. They couldn’t shoot. They were underdogs but we turned that to our advantage.

Underdogs have to think outside the box. They can’t rely on size and strength. We had to think more strategically and find unorthodox approaches to the game. We analyzed our opponents’ weaknesses and found most teams, immediately after scoring, retreat to defend their basket, giving their opponent the opportunity to inbound the ball to their teammate without pressure and execute a well-practiced play with precision.

Lacking much skill, but we had to disrupt that flow. We had to play in real time. We had to play a full-court press, the entire game. By taking the unconventional approach, we were able to catch our opponents off-guard, which gave us the advantage. And we won, a lot.

Enterprises should be doing the same. There’s a growing competition in every industry. The companies that win are finding new, innovative ways of providing for their customers and turning them into fans. Conventions are made to be challenged. The companies that take the unorthodox approach can break through and succeed. Notice if there are any unique trends in how your competitors are operating. Why they are working?

Speed Wins. To execute a real, full-court press, my girls had to be fitter, faster and more aggressive than the competition. Through conditioning, we were a low-latency team. We played the game at a much higher and inexhaustible speed than anyone else, giving us a huge advantage over our bigger, stronger and more skilled competition.

Just as there’s no reason our team should wait until the other team gets to our end of the court to start defending, there’s no value in receiving data that could increase a company’s sales a month after the event. Enterprises should be taking an offensive stance and act on events in real time.

As a coach, I looked at the data on the court - the shot clock, the number of inbound passes, spatial geometry, shots made, the speed of our team vs. the others, etc. - and realized speed was our advantage. This is the case in business, as well. It’s not enough for companies to justcollect data. To actually see positive outcomes, businesses need to continuously process and analyze fast data in real time and take instant action. Be a low-latency business. When it comes to winning, speed is everything.

Work like a jazz band. Even on a ragtag team, everyone has a role to play and every one is vital to its success. We had two experienced players, but the rest of the team, like me, had never played the game. The challenge was how to leverage all the players in a way that would lead to victory.

These were girls who spent their time solving math problems and dreaming of becoming marine biologists, not playing sports. Rather than tell them how I thought the game should be played, I had to appeal to reason. Basketball was a math problem, and that was something the girls could understand. We developed a math equation that would ensure we would win every time. They learned the roles they each needed to play in this equation.

It all came together as a symphony but it wasn’t the structured music of a marching band like the other teams. Rather than read off sheet music and march to the same beat, our team created its own sound, its own game. The typical rhythm of a basketball game goes like this: after a player scores, the other team has five seconds to inbound the ball. Typically, this goes uncontested. That I saw to be a missed opportunity. My girls contested the inbounder, disrupting the rhythm of the game. We played more like an improvisational jazz band, agile, quick and adaptable to changes, resulting in a beautifully orchestrated force.

In the 20th-century business world, corporations were structured and predictable like a Sousa marching band. Over the last century, however, enterprises have evolved a more jazz band-like environment, embracing ambiguity, risk and adventure. Jazz musicians are often more courageous than other musicians. They have faith in their ability to choose, create and dream. That makes them great. That also makes a great company.

Hire smart people, give them the freedom to improvise and innovate, take advantage of their unique strengths. The result is beautiful music.

Attitude is everything. But a coach can’t just force players to buy into such a system. I had to take a number of morale-improving steps to show them that I believed in them and our strategy. For starters, I never raised my voice at the girls. These were 12-year-old girls with enough emotional growing pain in their lives. I wanted to create a fun environment where the girls were motivated to work harder and smarter by the prospect of success, not by the threat of negativity. I let them name our plays. “Muskrat” and “Bubbles” were two of our favorites. We had a cheer that was all about the attitude, with a little humor – “1,2,3, attitude, ha!”

This is true at my company, as well. Exhibit an unshakable belief in people and they don’t want to let you down. They actually perform better. Good employees will do good work for you, regardless. Motivated and appreciated employees will do truly great work.

Turn customers into fans. Our team parents were our biggest fans who supported us at every game. They didn’t need convincing to become fans. Businesses, however, don’t have fans from the start and can no longer get away with purely a transactional relationship, not these days with so much competition from all directions.

Companies can turn customers into fans by finding better and more personal ways to engage with them. With Big Data, the amount ofinformation companies can glean from their customers is huge. Take advantage of that data to figure out what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and act on that in real time. It is no longer a struggle, if you have the right tools. Companies that do this well, andfast, have a leg-up on their competitors. They will connect with customers much more intimately. It’s these companies that are more likely to turn customers into longtime, loyal fans that drive future revenue.

Overtime. Whether you’re a CEO or a coach, there are a number of principles that apply to winning. Speed, working together, the right attitude and thinking outside the box all can yield positive results no matter what business you’re in. You don’t have to look to business gurus or books for the Holy Grail. Sometimes, the inspiration to improve your business can be found no further away than your local basketball gym.

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

 

Who is the Right Investor for You? That Depends on Where You Are Now.

Who is the Right Investor for You? That Depends on Where You Are Now.

The key is understanding how potential investors see you, and especially how they view the maturity stage of your startup. For example, if you have a proven product, real revenue, a big potential market, and are ready to scale up the business, every investor will be interested. On the other hand, if you are a new entrepreneur, still in the idea stage, professional investors will only tell you to come back later when you have traction (customers and revenue).

Thus your startup maturity and growth stage is the primary key to success with potential funding sources. Different types of investors tend to specialize in capitalizing on businesses at different stages.  Venture capital firms look for the most mature companies they can find, Angel investors typically deal a tier lower, while friends and family are most likely to help you get started.

It never hurts to start networking personally with all levels of investors, but sending out teasers and business plans to every name you can find on the Internet is a waste of your time and theirs. It will be much more productive to categorize your startup in one of the following five stages, and limit your investor focus accordingly:

1. “I have a great idea and I need money to turn it into a business.” For investors, this is the idea stage, where you may have a great idea, but no plan, product or customers, and probably no success record in this business domain. No professional investor will be interested at this point, so count only on yourself, friends, family and fools for money.

2. “My invention and prototype works, but I need funding to continue.” Investors call this the seed stage, where money is required to build a market and a real product. Government grants and industry partners are your best bet here, but Angel investors might give you $250,000 to $1 million, if you have the right business case and credentials.

3. “The final product works great, and all the early users love it.” You are now entering the rollout stage, with money required for marketing, hiring a full-time team and a production process. At this point, most Angel investors and a few early-stage VCs will be happy to talk, assuming you have the business model validated and a large opportunity.

4. “It’s time to scale up and I need money to keep up with demand.” Congratulations! Every investor wants to be part of yourgrowth stage, after your first $1 million in revenue. They call first investments at this stage the “A-round,” and often follow with a B-round through G-round. Growth-stage investments from VCs are usually $5 million and up.

5. “The ride has been fun, but I need money to start the next big thing.” This is the exit stage for the entrepreneur, and for all earlier investors. The new investors you need at this stage are investment bankers, private equity or competitors, to buy you out via merger or acquisition (M&A), or to go public with an initial public offering (IPO).

Obviously, maturity and growth are a continuum, so the rules are never absolute. Your startup will attract a different class of investors as it passes through each stage, just as it has to supplement and tune the team, process and product to keep up with the needs of a growing company and customer base. Tune your investor pitch and funding expectations accordingly.

Another good indicator of your real stage is the valuation you can set for your company at any given moment, to determine what portion of your equity an investor will expect of their money. Prior to the growth stage, your company valuation is limited to goodwill based on intellectual property and team experience, since you have no revenue. Future opportunity size doesn’t count in the early stages.

Contrary to popular opinion, all investor money is not the same. Friends and family believe in you, and only want to see you achieve success. Angel investors probably will know your business, and want to be mentors along the way. VCs normally come with the highest expectations of board seats, controlling votes and milestones to meet.

Don’t sign up for one expecting the other. If you want to avoid all these stage and investment considerations, you can always bootstrap the business (fund it yourself and grow organically). Otherwise, be sensitive to potential first impressions you leave on every investor, and the efficiency of your time spent on funding. You will enjoy the lifestyle a lot more when you find the right investor.

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

Backed By Science Inc., FreeGameCredits.com Offers Exactly What Its Name Suggests

Startup FreeGameCredits.com doesn’t have the problem of an ambiguous name — just as you’d guess, it allows mobile game developers to run promotions offering in-game credits.

The company is announcing that it has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Los Angeles-based “startup studio” Science Inc. It’s also launching its first promotion later today — Vivid Games is making its Real Boxing iOS app free for the day, and users of FreeGameCredits.com will also receive $4 of in-game currency.

Science co-founder and partner Peter Pham told me that he likes to back things that are “kind of obvious” and look like they’re going to succeed as long as the team doesn’t screw it up. (He didn’t exactly say “screw it up,” but I’m trying to be polite here.)

In this case, he said it seemed obvious that mobile game developers would want to offer targeted promotions, similar to an app like Uber offering discounts to first-time users. However, it turned out that there’s no easy way for developers to do this — they can offer the same amount of free in-game credits to all first-time users, but the developer can’t give specific groups a bigger discount, even if “you know I’m a whale and I’m in the perfect target demographic.”

With FreeGameCredits, however, founder and CEO Joe Bayen said users can follow a special app store link (it works for both iOS and Android) from the company’s mobile site and they’ll receive a unique discount. The offers will be curated and run for a limited period of time, and he said they can be additionally targeted based on things like device type, geography, and gender.

To make this work, he said developers only need to add “a few lines of code in their app.”

Pham and Bayen both argued that this approach makes much more sense than rewarding users for watching an ad or downloading an app (something that Apple has recently become more sensitive about). After all, if Game A offers you Game A credits if you download Game B, you’re probably not that interested in Game B and are less likely to be a valuable player.

Oh, and speaking of really on-the-nose website names, Bayen has actually had some success with a related business, having founded FreeAppADay.com, a site that he said generated more than $60 million in revenue for developers. Following FreeAppADay’s shutdown, Bayen said he’d actually planned to take some time off, but he was working “literally a block away” from the Science offices in Santa Monica, and the Science partners convinced him to work on something new.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Autopilot Launches CoPilot Sales Automation Tool

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Any startup worth its salt these days built a mailing list from before it even launched, but what do you do after that? How do you identify the best leads from all of those random people who signed up for your service? Fresh off its $10 million Series B funding round,marketing automation service Autopilot today announced the launch of its CoPilot email sales automation tool, which aims to make it easy for companies to find and engage their prospects with the help of automated email flows

While it uses much of the same technology as Autopilot, CoPilot is geared towards salespeople and not marketers, says CEO and co-founder Michael Sharkey, who founded the company together with his brothers Peter and Chris. He argues that the worlds of marketing and sales technologies are starting to converge. Right now, “in one corner marketing has marketing automation, in another corner sales has CRM,” he said. “But there is this third corner where sales development representatives live and that’s who CoPilot focuses on.”

The service aims to remove all of the manual tasks that sales development teams often spend much of their days on and automatically engages prospective clients through automated outbound campaigns. Ideally, thanks to automating most of the prospecting steps, the first time a sales person actually has a conversation with a potential client, it’ll be about getting a deal done, Sharkey tells me.

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Those campaigns can be tweaked based on a client’s behavior, and CoPilot automates follow-ups based on the recipient’s actions. The service also provides sales teams with a real-time feed of a prospect’s actions from within the email.

Unsurprisingly, CoPilot is integrated with Autopilot’s Prospect Ace, which allows companies to verify their email lists using social profiles. The service also allows companies to import their existing lists using CSV files. The team tells me the service is also integrated with Salesforce Sync, and the plan is to add more solutions and data providers directly over time, so users won’t need to rely on CSV files.

CoPilot is now available for sign-up, with prices starting at $39 per month and seat, which allows a company to send up to 5,000 monthly emails.

Amazon’s Master Of Commerce Move Into The Phone Game

Mobile is so 2010. So why would Amazon throw its hat into the game of phones?

That’s the thing — it didn’t. The company is headed into battle in two other markets full of potential: real-world commerce and digital advertising.

Amazon has focused its business almost solely on e-commerce since its launch in 1994. Twenty years later, the vast majority of commerce still takes place in the physical world; a 2014 Q1 US Census report shows that digital sales account for just 6 percent of total sales.

So, if 94 percent of sales still happens in the real world, how does Amazon conquer this territory? It introduces a phone.

The Fire Phone can recognize a physical object, scan a bar code, and quickly provide you with Amazon’s prices, taking showrooming to a whole new level. And then, the company is able to unlock that other 94 percent of commerce spend that it previously couldn’t touch.

Should retailers be shaking in their proverbial boots? Probably.

With an active user base of 244 million, Amazon has become a trusted provider of goods. Now, those who trust the company already can buy an Amazon phone that makes it even easier to find what they want and order it with a couple of clicks. Even if just 10 percent of active users buy a Fire, that’s still 24 million people who will have access to Amazon’s low prices, vast inventory, and shipping.

But real-world commerce isn’t the only new frontier for Amazon; the Fire Phone unlocks mobile advertising opportunities for the company, making it the third viable player in the thriving space, along with Google and Facebook.

In 2014, mobile advertising in the U.S. will total $17.73 billion and reach over $35 billion by 2017, eclipsing online advertising spend, according to analysis from eMarketer. Google and Facebook combined took home over two-thirds of mobile ad spending last year. Now, Amazon could give these two companies stiff competition due to its customer relationships and new features on its phone that aren’t available on Apple or Android devices. Amazon becomes the third major player with a mobile device tied to an immense database of browsing and past purchase data.

With this phone, Amazon is able to do exactly the same thing as Google and Facebook: utilize customer identities and interest to bring targeted mobile ads to them on their phones. But Amazon has a distinct advantage: Its users have already bought something from them! As a result, the company is even better-equipped than other companies to use past purchase data to send highly tailored mobile ads to consumers. Amazon will be able to guarantee brands a pre-qualified, “in-market” audience. Who else can do that?

In his demo of the Fire, Bezos made the real-world connections for the phone absolutely apparent, talking about how easy it is to walk down the street and use Firefly to recognize signs, goods, etc. This feature opens up so many doors: the ability to recognize places in the real world, to search for things you want based on what Amazon knows you are interested in, and the ability for Amazon to harness that data for more relevant recommendations.

In effect, the Fire could provide an understanding of the physical world and merchant locations and, when combined with everything else Amazon knows about a user, actually deliver on the promise of “Marketing that consumers find really valuable, not intrusive.” Now imagine that they start pushing you the occasional recommendation when you’re near a physical store. Imagine you can get a reminder for something you have scanned when you’re near a place to buy it, with Amazon taking its cut for driving that real-world transaction. That massively changes the game of mobile marketing.

Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with the Altimeter Group, discussed the real impact of the Fire Phone with the New York Times: “Scan a product or listen to music, and you’re delivered straight to the page on Amazon on which you can purchase it. Impulse shopping just went to a new level.”

Amazon is not in the mobile business, the phone business or the Internet of things business. And while analysts appear divided on the short- and long-term impact of the Fire for Amazon’s overall business model, they should agree on one point: Bezos and Co. are the masters of the commerce business, and the Fire Phone is just one tool that can be used to help it gain its slice of the immense cash flow happening not online, but on Main Street.

I would even go so far as to say that the Fire Phone will be key to the Amazon growth strategy for the next 50 years. Congratulations, Mr. Bezos. Well played. The only thing I am wondering is, Why isn’t the phone free?

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

How Uber Became the Most Valuable Startup Ever

The sharing economy got a huge vote of confidence Friday.

Car-sharing company Uber has confirmed it closed a $1.2 billion round of funding that makes it, at nearly $18.2 billion, the most valuable startup ever, following a direct investment round.

Yes, that’s right: $18.2 billion (Although Uber reports a preinvestment value of $17 billion.) To put that figure in perspective, car rental company Avis is only worth a paltry $6.3 billion. And, as my colleague Ilan Mochari reported Wednesday, Uber’s valuation is now ahead of startups Dropbox and apartment share concern Airbnb, whose value is a measley $10 billion.

Word had been percolating all week that Fidelity Investments would lead the round. That’s confirmed, along with the participation of other investors such as Wellington Management, Summit Partners, BlackRock, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Google Ventures and Menlo Ventures, according to Bloomberg.

Chief executive Travis Kalanick had this to say on his blog today:

The total raise will be about $1.4B with a second close of strategic investors soon. We are thrilled to have top-tier institutional investors, mutual funds, private equity and venture capital partners joining us.

Congrats, Travis. It’s got to be thrilling, if not a little worriesome. Not just becuase that huge chunk of change is difficult to wrap your head around, but because investor appetite for tech stocks has caved in recent weeks. Plus, the car share industy overall has been hit with a steady flow of problems.

Just two days ago, news broke that an Uber driver may have kidnapped a very inebriated fare and sexually assaulted her in a hotel room. Texas has filed suit against Uber and other car share companies claiming drivers may discriminate against handicapped passengers, whom their vehicles can’t accommodate. 

And Yesterday Colorado became the first state to pass laws regulating operations of carshare companies. In case you forgot, Uber got to its crazy, massive vlauation by bypassing regulations such as how much insurance they need to hold to cover passengers in case of accidents. Or by acting confused about whose responsibility it is in the first place when people get hurt. An app is just an app, after all.

Though, when $18 billion are getting bandied about, you probably have lot more on your mind than these little peccadillos. And the venture capital world knows a good thing when they see it: An industry that can grow quickly because it has few regulations and little oversight.

Even Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper puts Uber first. “Consumer protection is a worthy goal that we endorse, but rules designed to protect consumers should not burden businesses with unnecessary red tape to stifle competition by creating barriers to entry,”  as he said in a statement on Thursday.

Will he live to rue these words? Uber and its investors dont’ seem to think so.

-Courtesy: Inc.com

Mobile-Enabled Commerce Will Yield The Next $100B Startup

No one can predict with perfect accuracy what technology trend will birth the next set of billion-dollar, venture-backed companies or “unicorns.” Even more difficult is determining where the next $100B+ “super unicorn” will come from, as history tells us this rare breed of company only emerges once or twice in a decade. Yet given that the last three U.S. super unicorns have all been consumer technology companies (Facebook, Google, and Amazon), and given that venture investment in consumer technology companies is increasingly dominated by mobile-first startups, it is reasonable to expect that smartphones will be the technology that unlocks the next $100B+ outcome.

Here are two bolder predictions: By 2020, smartphones and tablets will account for more than 75 percent of global online commercial transactions and more than 50 percent of spend. And the world’s first mobile super unicorn won’t be an audience company like Facebook or Google, but a commerce company like Amazon. When tech historians look back on the 2010s, they will remember it as the m-commerce decade.

The M-Commerce Opportunity

For entrepreneurs eager to capitalize on the m-commerce opportunity, the first step is to understand the lay of the land. The m-commerce ecosystem falls into six primary categories: Mobile Payments, Retail Enablement, Mobile Retail, Marketplaces, On-Demand Services, and App-Based Services.

Mobile Payments and Retail Enablement are mobile empowering, equipping smartphones and tablets with tools to support a new era of mobile-based retail businesses. Mobile Retail and Marketplaces are mobile enhanced, comprised primarily of e-commerce companies that previously existed on the web but benefit greatly from the transition to mobile. On-Demand Services and App-Based Services are mobile enabled, consisting almost entirely of companies that are not just improved by smartphones and tablets, but could not exist without them. (We excluded media, games, messaging services, and social networks, which tend to be more audience-driven than commerce-driven and monetize primarily through ads or digital goods rather than physical goods and services.)

The rise of m-commerce represents the most important wave of retail innovation since consumer brands first began selling goods and services online 20 years ago.

Opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to build the next billion-dollar m-commerce company exist across all these categories, but are particularly concentrated in the relatively greenfieldmobile enabled categories of On-Demand Services and App-Based Services. Companies in the Mobile Payments and Retail Enablement categories like Square andRetailMeNot capitalized early on the transition to mobile by building new businesses or reinventing old businesses to take advantage of growing merchant and consumer demand to conduct commerce on smartphones.

Meanwhile, e-commerce companies like Zulily and Gilt that built their platforms as the mobile trend was gaining momentum exploited the opportunity to tailor new business models like daily deals around smartphones to gain a competitive advantage.

In Q4 of 2013, Zulily generated 45 percent of its North American orders through mobile devices versus just 31 percent during Q4 the prior year. Only in the last 18 months have Uber and Lyft emerged as the first two unicorns in On-Demand Services, while the more nascent App-Based Services category has yet to generate a single unicorn outside of audience-driven mobile media apps, which we have excluded for the purposes of this discussion.

Our bet is that the On-Demand and App-Based Services categories will spawn many unicorns, and other early stage venture investors appear to agree. Following Uber and Lyft’s success, venture capitalists have poured over $100M into a dozen meal and grocery delivery startups, including EAT Club, Munchery, Sprig, Caviar, SpoonRocket, Fluc, DoorDash,Postmates, Instacart, Blue Apron, Plated, and Good Eggs.

Ridesharing and food services have been natural initial targets for substantial investment because they boast high-frequency use cases and are time-sensitive, meaning they benefit from mobile features like GPS tracking and real-time push notifications. Other on-demand subcategories are heating up, including house cleaning, laundry, and self storage. And App-Based Services are also seeing activity, with recent investments in fitness apps (FitStar,MyFitnessPal) and healthcare apps (HealthTap, Doctor on Demand).

Below is a brief overview of each m-commerce category and thoughts on what it takes to win in each:

Mobile Payments. We define Mobile Payments companies as those that provide mobile payment infrastructure, mobile point of sale systems, and direct mobile payment solutions. This is a challenging space, characterized by razor-thin margins, large capital requirements to achieve scale, and fierce competition from credit card companies and PayPal. Successful entrepreneurs in this category must be good at accurately assessing credit risk. Given how difficult it is for payment companies to reach the scale required for an IPO, it’s also critical for entrepreneurs to keep M&A opportunities open to their companies as an exit option. One example of an exit in this category is the recent sale of Check (PageOnce) to Intuit for $360M.

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Retail Enablement. We define Retail Enablement companies as those that facilitate mobile-based retail transactions either by helping potential customers discover items they want to buy online (contextual commerce) or by helping them find offers offline (in-store marketing, mobile couponing, and location-based offers). Most of the companies in this category depend on location tracking and/or push notifications to present the right customer with the right offer in the right place at the right time. Winning is all about engaging with users intelligently to establish habit-forming behaviors without being intrusive or annoying.

Mobile Retail. We define Mobile Retail companies as those that extend web-based retail platforms to mobile or build mobile apps to sell goods to customers through smartphones and tablets. In “E-Commerce is a Bear,” Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn argues that e-commerce startups have four survival strategies to compete against Amazon: proprietary selection, proprietary pricing, proprietary experience, and proprietary merchandise. All four strategies can be improved by leveraging advantages unique to mobile platforms. That being said, the current set of breakout companies are focused most on differentiated experiences. These companies are shifting the customer experience by embedding natural smartphone services such as picture taking and messaging.

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Marketplaces. We define Marketplace companies as those that facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers of goods or services either on mobile as an extension of web-based marketplaces or through a mobile app. The key to any marketplace is achieving liquidity, which companies can do more quickly by extending their marketplaces to mobile. Some marketplaces like HotelTonight and FOBO that involve local, time-sensitive or untethered transactions have gone mobile-only, recognizing their platform is fundamentally better on smartphones. Winning in this category is all about acquiring buyers and sellers cost-effectively and matching supply and demand efficiently to make transactions as frictionless as possible.

On-Demand Services. We define On-Demand Service companies as those that provide services to buyers in a short timeframe either through vertical integration or aggregated supply. While many of these companies function as marketplaces, we place them in this category if they provide fulfillment on-demand (usually within minutes or hours) and/or provide real-time status updates to buyers. Smartphone features like location tracking and push notifications have only made these services possible in the last few years, which is why this category holds so much opportunity. Many On-Demand Services function as utilities. This means that winning in this category is all about price and convenience, both of which are driven by who has the most scale and the best algorithms governing vehicle dispatch, delivery routes, and fulfillment.

App-Based Services. We define App-Based Service companies as those that provide services to customers entirely within a native mobile app. Given that users experience these services immersively on their smartphones, designing an intuitive user interface and seamless user experience can be the difference between success and failure. Entrepreneurs building apps in this category should emphasize accessibility, engagement, and retention. They should also take advantage of the digital nature of their products to conduct low-cost experiments, continuously refining their products to optimize their conversion funnel. Cumulatively, these optimizations translate into customer delight and more attractive economics.

The rise of m-commerce represents the most important wave of retail innovation since consumer brands first began selling goods and services online 20 years ago. Given the size of the m-commerce opportunity, entrepreneurs who successfully execute on new mobile business models before the rest of the market stand to reap outsized returns. Especially exciting are new categories of consumer-facing businesses such as On-Demand and App-Based Services that could not exist prior to the smartphone – and are sure to spawn a stampede of new unicorns.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

New iOS 8 Feature Can Help You Find a Lost iPhone, Is Also Kind of Creepy

Lost your iPhone? Bummer. With a new feature to iCloud, Apple’s iOS 8 gives people one more opportunity to track down their lost or stolen devices.

The new feature is called “Send Last Location.” Basically, it sends a person’s iPhone or iPad geolocation data to Apple moments before the device’s battery runs out of juice. In other words, Apple knows exactly where you and/or your device is if its battery dies. 

Sounds pretty handy. Also kind of creepy.

While Apple has already had features in place to help people lock, track and wipe lost or stolen devices via iCloud’s “Find My Phone,” those tools only work if the phone is on and has a data connection. “Send Last Location” allows people to check with Apple to find out the device’s last known location before the battery drains to nothing and otherwise becomes untrackable.

Apple could store this location data for about 24 hours, though that time frame could change once iOS 8 launches officially this fall, according to a report from Apple Insider. 

Of course, Android owners have already had these types of security features – including the option to send location data from a device to Google — available via Google’s Android Device Manager.

-Courtesy: Entrepreneur.com

Kickstarter Simplifies Its Rules And Lowers The Barrier For Project Acceptance

Crowdfunding site Kickstarter, which has almost become the ‘Kleenex’ of the crowd-sourced funding world in terms of brand recognition, today unveiled two changes to its business model (via The Verge) that will have a huge impact on non-equity crowdfunding in general and on its main rival Indiegogo. Basically, Kickstarter is simplifying its rules and relaxing the barriers for entry, even introducing a “Launch Now” feature that allows project creators to bypass the network’s approval process entirely.

That means that what you see on Kickstarter is no longer necessarily vetted for feasibility or content standards – which means fewer guarantees that hardware projects, which typically have a low incidence of success anyway, will ever make it to market. But Kickstarter appears to have decided to stop fighting the tide and go with the flow; now it can unapologetically embrace its role as a community-driven mechanism for investing in ideas, instead of even pretending in any way to be a pre-order store for devices.

Kickstarter has also trimmed its rules for creators document, cutting it by over two-thirds from 1,000 words down to 300, and previously banned campaign types including bath and beauty projects, as well as multiple reward items for hardware projects are now allowed. Non-developers can offer app projects, too, though charities, GMOs and photo-style renderings that might mislead people into believing a graphic is a photo are still off-limits, the Verge reports.

Approvals for projects are now done algorithmically, instead of employing human moderators initially, and if they pass that process (which can take as few as five minutes) they’re free to go live. It’s a very different take on crowdfunding to the one Kickstarter initially espoused, and one that in many respects deemphasizes community and instead puts the focus on growth. It’s not quite Indiegogo’s stance of neutral network operator, but it’s much closer to that vision, and it means we should see a whole host of new projects on the site that we’d never have seen before.

For creators, this is obviously good news. I’ve spoken to many who have been frustrating at the Kickstarter approval process and had their enthusiasm bogged by subtleties in the rules that prevented them from launching. Many of these would decamp to Indiegogo as a result. But it could also be an issue for the network long-term – if overall quality takes a hit, that might ultimately affect any single project’s chances of success. Discovery could also become a problem as the projects ranks swell.

Kickstarter has clearly evaded the risk of the backer community souring based on frustration and failed projects however; it’s been 5 years since it launched, and so far, it continues to attract backers and churn out successful campaigns. It’s a new type of beast, and half a decade has been time enough for its users to become accustomed to its identity as not-quite-store but not-quite-charity.

This also presents an opportunity for other startups looking for ways to embrace the crowdfunding trend – less editorial oversight by Kickstarter itself means users will be looking elsewhere for a filter for the network, for curation and for alternate models. Kickstarter may become the Amazon of crowdfunding, but there’s still room for boutique stores, Pinterests and  Shopifys in the space, too.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Apple’s iMessage Adds Self-Destructing Audio And Video Messages, Location Sharing

Today at WWDC, Apple introduced iOS 8 and a few new features. Among other things, the Messages app will receive a few new features, including the ability to send audio and video messages, share your location and more.

First, Apple VP of iPad, iPhone and iPod Marketing Greg Joswiak started off with new group messaging features. You can now name your conversation, add or remove people, turn off notifications, or even leave the conversation altogether. iMessage ups its game when it comes to group messaging, putting the service on par with competitors, such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Whatsapp or Line.

While Apple provided a “Find my Friends” app in the App Store to share your location with your friends, it looks like the company just added this feature directly into iMessage. You can share your location with your friend for an hour, a day or forever. This way, you know when your friend is on his or her way.

Finally, Joswiak showcased two unexpected features. You can now quickly send photos, video or audio messages by maintaining your finger on the camera icon and releasing it. It’s quick and easy, not unlike Snapchat. Even more surprising, there is a feature to set messages to expire after a few minutes. It will delete your message from your friend’s phone.

Joswiak didn’t show exactly how it works, he just sent a selfie to Craig Federighi and said that it would self destruct after a few minutes. All these features make iMessage a much more compelling messaging platform.

Yet, there is still one major flaw in iMessage: it only works with iPhone users. What if you want to start a group conversation with your Android friends? What if you want to send a self-destructing selfie to someone who doesn’t use iMessage? While iPhone users will benefit from a seamless improved experience with their iPhone friends, multi-platform messaging platforms will still thrive.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch