Thursday, July 25, 2013

For cities competing for tourists: Invest in free WiFi

Taiwan is giving out free access to public WiFi to tourists (here). With international mobile data roaming costs expected to remain high, free WiFi access will soon emerge as a key component of a city's infrastructure, and thus its ability to attract tourists. 

On my recent travel, everyday I looked forward to get connected to free hotel WiFi in the evening. Not only it helps to catch up on work and social networks, it helps to plan for travel everyday. We could explore new places, new restaurants, and new events in a city. Overall the travel experience was much richer.

Cities looking to attract tourists - invest in WiFi (directly or by giving incentives to hotels, restaurants and other public places)!

Monday, April 01, 2013

The missing link in movie streaming business

Movie/ TV video streaming sites are missing a big opportunity by not fueling long tail demand - which should be more profitable than premium super hits.

When I go to a VOD site, I either know the exact video to watch; or I don't and I am looking to explore. As streaming sites are investing heavily to solve the first case (mainly focused around buying rights for premium media properties, and must have for acquisitions), they are miserable on helping users explore or stumble upon new/unknown content. And ironically, solving the second case will help improve economics of an existing user due to lower content cost.

How to help users stumble upon movie content?

1. To find new movies, number 1 source is friends' recommendations. So you need to integrate social networking closely into it.

2. Second source is experts, and thus closer integration with or other movie database/recommendation site.

3. 'I am feeling lucky.' feature to show interesting content.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The 'break even' death spiral

Isn't achieving break-even the best thing to happen to a startup? You are generating enough cash to fund your operations and even generate cash profit. As a founder, you should be proud.

Or is it?

As a founder, achieving cash break-even should be a milestone towards the destination, not the final destination itself. She should constantly challenge herself and the team:
- How sustainable is the current cash flow?
- Where should I invest the cash? Is the path to growth clear? Is cash flow distracting you from the overall vision of the company?

Early success and cash might take you into a slumber. It might be the right time to rock the boat, and take company to the next level.

Swipe vs. click

In the new world of touch, swipe should replace click as the primary user input method.

One of the biggest issues I have with Gmail iOS app is the typical '2- click process' to delete/archive mails. With the new Mailbox app, I can handle mails much faster due to swipe based input.

A lot of apps translate PC UI, optimized for qwerty keyboard, to smartphones / tablets - which results in poor interface.

All app developers should optimize their user input on swipe and shake.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Kill personal email, overhaul professional email

The advent of email revolutionized peer-to-peer communication over the last ~20 years (you can read email's evolution here or here or here). But it has been a problem child for a while. People are spending more and more time handling their inbox, but not being able to use it effectively. Many experts, such as Paul Graham here and MG Siegler at Techcrunch here), have already called for replacing / quitting email. Companies like Fluent are trying to tweak the UI and features to change the email experience.

I think we should fundamentally re-think the use cases for email. For personal communication, we should just kill email. For professional communication, we need a very simplified, but intelligent email service.

Personal email: Had it not been for the extremely limited functionality of Facebook messages (I am sure by design), I would have stopped using Gmail for personal communication a long time ago. With all information about our social network residing in Facebook, there is no reason why we should be using another service for P2P messaging. You can send messages (P2P or group), organize events, share pics, or initiate chat. Feeds can help you remember old lost friends and set the right context to talk to them. A missing feature is file sharing, for which a cloud storage based approach will be required.
With increasing mobile usage, users have limited screen estate; and they should just use a single social network app for all messaging.

Professional email (company email or otherwise): People still need email for professional reasons. But it needs to be changed dramatically to make it simple with limited features; and intelligent to help users manage clutter. Possible blueprint could be:
  1. Email as a communication thread
  2. No attachments: File sharing through a centralized storage / cloud
  3. Task list management: Features such as 'Send to task list', 'delegate'
  4. No 'mass announcement' mails: All 'mass emails' go to a central announcement board
  5. Minimum and maximum limits on email length: No 3 word - 'how are you?' messages and no 10 page long emails.
  6. 'Priority email' vs. 'rest' auto-classification
  7. Easy identification of an email's 'age': To make sure people can visually see emails they haven't responded to
  8. Contact management: Intelligent predictive in-built contact management system to help people manage their networks (e.g. Contactually)
  9. Daily / weekly email statistics with time spent on email: Make users aware of impact of their email behavior on their and others' productivity.
How about drastic changes in corporate email policies?
  • No email: Completely bypass email in favor of more social and integrated tools
  • All emails to all: Complete transparency
  • No push email: Not sure if blackberry is anymore a productivity enhancing tool.
There could be a future in which free email will cease to exist; instead people will pay for intelligent email services for professional purpose.

It is time to segment our digital communication channels now - social network for personal and email for professional. It will help us get some time back in our pocket to use the real communication channel: in-person!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Skill, speed and scale

Keeping aside political affiliation, Narendra Modi made some intelligent remarks in his speech at SRCC (unusual for an Indian politician!). The most striking to me was: 'Country needs 3 S's to succeed -- Skill, speed and scale'.

The statement holds true for start-ups. Founders should focus on getting the right skills, executing fast and growing fast to scale up.

Investors should also look at these factors:

1. Do the founders have the skills to succeed?
2. Do they have the speed to execute?
3. Can the business scale up?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mark Cuban

Recently, I started watching 'Shark Tank' regularly and was very impressed with Mark Cuban as an investor / judge. He almost always, listens well and talks the last. His comments and rationale for 'yes / no' decision are very insightful. Mark focuses on all the right things to make an investment decision: quality and commitment of founders, product-market match, proof of concept and then interestingly, some heart, emotions and theme.

I explored more about him - his blog is equally gripping. Of the ones I read, I liked Stock market - where he lays out 'supply demand' dynamic of stock markets and how inefficient they are, and Fox News Should Watch Dancing with the Stars, where he points to an interesting human psychological trait - to save your hero, but ONLY when required. Still trying to understand his views on politics..

Why celebrities love to be hated?

To trigger a suppressed human emotion - hatred.

My recent FB feeds are full of 'I hate SRK' messages. We love to hate celebrities - Himesh Reshamiya,  Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, SRK, Salman,  Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, etc. - every country / culture has a list of celebrities people just hate. You talk about them all the time, you search them forever, you join 'I hate X' groups, you are obsessed with them.

Isn't it what celebrities want? No wonder - many celebrities attempt to create a personal image around 'being disliked'.

As civilization has progressed, humans have learnt to control natural emotions, particularly the negative ones such as hatred, anger, irritation. If you don't like a guy in your company, you can't say it openly. If you hate your neighbor, you can't say it in his face. If you hate a friend of a friend, you can't say it in his face. Have you seen a FB message 'I hate you'? People just talk about it in low tones.

A person can let out many of his negative emotions with his closed ones - but not hatred! Celebrities are a perfect vent. You can openly hate celebrities. And celebrities love it - they have created a strong image in your mind.