Growth5 Blog

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swipely Founder & CEO: Angus Davis

VentureFizz recently posted this Q&A with Swipely Founder & CEO, Angus Davis.

Davis turned down college in 1996 and became Netscape's youngest employee at the age of 18. In 1999, he left Netscape to co-found Tellme which made "speech recognition part of everyday life." Tellme was acquired by Microsoft in 2007 for ≈$800mm. In 2009, Davis left Microsoft to start his new venture, Swipely.

Swipely allows you to, "Discover new restaurants, movies, apps and more with friends. Review anything you buy, discover new places, save money and have fun shopping."

Here are the highlights of the Q& A with Davis:

1. Top 3 lessons for startups:
a) hire a strong team;
b) target a large market that's winnable; and
c) work hard.
2. What's the difference in terms of building a business today compared to ten - fifteen years ago? Here are 3 reasons why it's cheaper today:
a) you can rent the network from Amazon EC2 vs. buying it, eliminating millions of dollars in capital expenses for computer hardware;
b) you can leverage existing free open source software for a lot of what you need to get started, dramatically lowering costs of software development; and
c) new means of distributing software like Google Adwords, the Apple App Store and Facebook Platform have slashed the costs of acquiring customers.

"The combination of all three - cheaper hardware, cheaper software, cheaper customer acquisition - is why companies today can start for a fraction of the capital required to start businesses 10 years ago."
3. Advice for first time entrepreneurs raising funding.
a) match the needs and likely outcomes of the company with the right investor. "Building a small business doesn't always mean building a "venture-scale" business, and as such, traditional venture capitalists are not always the most appropriate sources of funding."
b) pursue funding from individual angels to start
c) younger entrepreneurs should consider startup accelerator programs like Y Combinator, Techstars or Betaspring.
d) stay away from business plan competitions and Angel groups who like to meet a lot but don't invest very often.
4. Underserved markets or emerging technologies that Davis likes:
a) "One trend that fascinates me is renting. Companies like Rent the Runway rent dresses; Bag Borrow and Steal rent handbags; Exclusive Resorts rents luxury homes. This market seems ripe for opportunity - who will rent jewelry? Sunglasses? Men's suits? Ties?"
b) "Another trend that's interesting is the creation of niche service peer-to-peer marketplaces that disrupt an inefficient existing market. For example, Ubercab has created a consumer-to-driver marketplace for luxury taxi service that cuts out the traditional dispatcher as the middleman while improving quality of service. Similarly, AirBnB has enabled anyone with a spare bedroom to operate a hotel."

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free Advice for Google TV and Apple TV

Mark Cuban recently wrote about what Google TV and Apple TV should do to make their television ventures successful. Cuban believes that "the future of TV is TV," making the point that the medium will still be very popular and as a result, Google and Apple should focus on "the future of entertainment on your TV." Here are the highlights from Cuban's post:
1. TV is the best cure for boredom. It is "the path of least resistance to doing nothing." As a result, we watch a lot of it.

2. What do we do when we are bored and tv isn't available? Cuban believes "social games are the non TV cure for boredom... So what do Apple TV IOS and Google TV Android platform offer ? That’s right. Social Games on your TV. There in lies their Holy Grail to competing with TV."
Cuban argues that by creating these compelling games, Google and Apple can pull people away from watching tv programs to playing games on their television via these platforms.

Obviously, we've had games on our television for decades... starting way back when with Atari, Nintendo and Intellivision... the difference being that there wasn't a social component to those games, other than the other participants in the room.

Cuban predicts: "the law of numbers says someone will come along and invent a game, played best on your TV through one of these boxes, that catches the imagination of tens of millions and is played on TV nationally or maybe even globally. It’s not inconceivable that this game will release new features, some Power Ups or unique incentives if you tune in at 8pm EST on thursday night."

I agree with Cuban that Google and Apple shouldn't compete in the same "tv space" by creating the same content as traditional tv and competing on that level. They need to enhance the experience of sitting in front of a television in a compelling way. However, I don't completely agree with the original premise that using your PC/Smartphone/Device is the alternative to curing boredom when a tv isn't available.

The median age for tv viewers has been increasing for years and hit 51 this year. The coveted eyeballs of the 18-49 age group is watching less tv to cure their boredom. Advertising dollars are being moved to the web.

Google and Apple will not only need to get people to stop watching tv programming to switch to what they're offering on tv, they will need to entice a larger group of people off their computers, mobile phones and gaming systems, which seems like a much more difficult challenge.

While visiting my nephew at college this past weekend he was asked why he doesn't have a tv in his dorm room. He responded, "what for? whatever I want to watch on tv is on my computer." The under 51 crowd may be gone forever.

As to the over 51s... perhaps Google or Apple can lure those tv viewers away from watching tv with the interactive social game: "Murder, She Tweeted."

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