Is Google Doomed?

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As much as market share loving analysts might want to make Google look like the star of the future, Google’s actual position for mobile is very poor. Market Share lovers would point to the prevalence of Android and the vast number of apps available on the platform and the number of manufacturers supporting Android.

The only reason manufacturers support Android is because it is free, and available to all. This also means that Google in all reality does not make any money through the prevalence of the platform alone. Yes they make money from the play store, cloud services and so on but as demonstrated by Amazon, its not the only way to go with Android. Unlike iOS, Android can be forked away from Google.

If market share is an important metric, that metric reflect very poorly on Google. The mobile revenue for Google is pegged between 15% and 20% (different sources give different figures) of their revenue. Given the massive market share, this only shows that Google has done a horrible job of monetising mobile.

So what is keeping so many manufacturers tied to Android apart from the fact that it is free? In my opinion there is only one killer app that is trapping the likes of Samsung, who would love to move the Android platform as far away from Google as possible; Google Maps. None of the manufacturers have a competing mapping solution that can be at par. In reality, none of the companies competing with Google have a mapping platform which is at par with Google Maps. Apple Maps is beginning to make its move up after a disastrous launch. ‘Nokia Here’ is there and it is quite good but lost in echo of the Microsoft-Nokia deal, nobody knows when they would get their heads together and start pushing the app in earnest. There are a bunch of other solutions, but none that I see being able to compete with Google in terms of depth of coverage, availability of platform and availability of financial resources.

Every time Samsung has tried to move the Android platform away from Google in terms of design and so on, Google has thrown the Maps License on the table and strong armed them back to falling in line with Google. This has caused Samsung to pursue Tizen, which is rearing its head now. Samsung recently launched Galaxy Gear 2 with Tizen. There should be a great deal of soul searching happening at Mountain View, Samsung is the ONLY mobile manufacturer that is making profits apart from Apple, if they move to Tizen, what does that mean for Android?

In reality if you think of it, in a mobile world, all of the search of the future would be channeled through apps. In such a scenario, if I was Google, I would want to own all of the top apps used for searching restaurants, travel, locations, books, movies etc. But in reality Maps is the only mobile app that they have which is a gold standard. In all other regards the company has failed to produce a top app.

People do not really care who provides them the information on mobile as long as they get it consistently and the delivery is done in the best possible manner (Optimised for the requirement, good design, etc.).

I care two hoots if the search that I run through Siri is giving information through Wolfram Alpha or Bing or Whoever. As long as I get the relevant result, I am happy.

With apps specialising in the search, be it Zomato, Yelp, Cleartrip, Wikipedia, Fandango, Bookmyshow, etc.; these are the sources that people trust to get their information. Fewer and fewer people turn to a one size fits all kind of a solution which is what search engines are.

In this paradigm Google is not in a position of strength, far from it, they are at a place where they are not even going to be able to derive great search traffic from even Android.

The analysts in the meantime are overly optimistic about market share. If the market does not see the real picture and put Google on a correction course, would Google end up the Yahoo way?

Asking for a favour

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Today morning, Salma told me about a conversation which she had last week. I just had to put it out in public domain because; well, I just had to.

Diplomatic Woman: Hi Salma, my daughter did not get into ABC School, can you help me out.

Salma: Right now is probably not the right time. My brother just died!

Diplomatic Woman: Ummm. I am sorry for your loss. Can you help me out with my daughter?

Salma: #DaFuck !!

If you are trying to extract a favour from someone there are few things that you must keep in mind.

Rarely does a favour require ‘NO’ effort on the part of the person doing it. But often it depends on the extent to which they are willing to push themselves (the person doing the favour).

If someone is going to put themselves on the line for you, it is important that they LIKE you. Likability and being convinced about somebody being genuine are the factors that determine if someone would be willing to do the favour or not.

What is likeable and what one perceives as genuine are questionable and need to be determined on a case to case basis. The above Diplomatic Woman is neither likeable nor genuine in my opinion!

WhatsApp Is Worth It!

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Facebook spent a whopper to buy WhatsApp. Well whopper is an understatement. They spent $19 Billion, off which only $3 Billion is subject to shares vesting. So let us first put that number in perspective

Facebook bought a small company with a team of 32 engineers for $19 Billion. Let us compare this with the market value of some well known companies.

Looking at the Market Caps (as of 19 Feb 2014):

Nokia – $27 Billion

Blackberry – $4.74 Billion

Twitter – $30 Billion

T-Mobile – $9.49 Billion

Tesla – $23.74 Billion

Google recently sold Motorola for $2.91 Billion. Also, they bought another hardware company called Nest for $3.2 Billion. These were all big deals and big companies.

So well, is Whatsapp worth its price?

 

I have read countless reports of how the user base that WhatsApp has is important. Reports say Facebook is spending this much money to make sure that they acquire these users, this point is irrelevant. Facebook has the largest and the most global user base in the world. They do not need to buy another company to acquire users. In most probability 90% of Whatsapp users would already be Facebook users!

So why?

We are in the mobile age and the day is not far when the only things that the mobile networks will be selling would be data! Even today we rely more on messaging apps and Internet telephony apps to send messages and make calls. It also helps us overcome the high costs of telephone calls and messages. This wave began with Blackberry, which had the BBM built into its phones, which has since become a cross-platform app. Apple has been for long, baking iMessage and FaceTime into its phones. Viber, Skype, Line, WeChat and WhatsApp are all attempts at doing the same thing.

Making voice and text communication possible through the use of data.

When mobile networks becomes fast enough across the world to make calls over the internet. Everyone will switch to only data connections. People would no longer use voice calls or text offered by network providers.  At that point, the company with the strongest and most connected text and voice communication app will have the greatest sway on the mobile industry.

People are going to need to send text and talk on phone. The only thing that is going to change is the orifices through which these communications pass. WhatsApp is present on the most number of platform (they even have an app for the Nokia Symbian phones). As a result of this they have the greatest market share when it comes to this space.

Its about controlling all communications in the years to come.

WhatsApp probably has the strongest positioning for controlling this communication going forward. There will be more aggregation within this space going forward. I do not think Apple will try to control this space beyond its own eco-system. They will focus on making their hardware and software the most secure and use that as a marketing tool to sell more hardware. Blackberry has thrown the hat in the ring and in my opinion BBM is the only card they have got left. Skype has lost its sheen after its acquisition by Microsoft. I think Viber is the only other contender in this game apart from WhatsApp. The others will get acquired or will die a slow death.

Now when you look at it like this, you get a real understanding of the value and the potential of WhatsApp. Its not that Mark is using ‘Zucker-opoly’ money to buy companies (he has to answer to a board!); its just that his vision is clear.

Every moment, every thought, every communication that you ever share, Facebook would be a part of it. That is the idea!

NewsDeck120 – Changing News

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I am very happy to let you all know about NewsDeck.

NewsDeck

 

During the Demo Day 2013 organised by Startups Club on 16th November, off the 5 presentations that were given to the judges, only 1 was a pure idea (Was not a fully formed business). Harsha, who was pursuing this idea was still working at the time. I had been in constant touch since, to make sure that he did progress with his idea, since I thought that he had great potential.

My pursuit of Harsha has been well-rewarded with the launch of his site http://www.newsdeck120.com

I would like to request all of you to please take some time to go over the site and provide him with your valuable feedback.

The Goa Project

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When I heard that there was an Unconference going to take place in Goa, I was curious to know what an unconference was? I had never taken part in an unconference and I genuinely had no idea what it was; but just the sound of the word was great!

UNconference – It is conference, which it is not!

So with a great deal of curiosity and no idea what to expect, I landed up in Goa. From the beginning it was very clear that this event was different. When you normally go to a conference or a meet, you tend to expect to find a particular species of people there. You go to an Entrepreneur Summit, you expect to find entrepreneurs; even if you find someone who is not an entrepreneur he/she would have something to do with entrepreneurship. It was impossible to gauge what the next person you meet would be into, when it came to The Goa Project (TGP). I met mountaineers, film makers, photographers, musicians, nutritionists, bloggers, design ninjas, and many many more.

The great thing about meeting such a wide assortment of individuals, who come from such varied fields, is that you get to learn from their experiences. Experiences, that you may never be able to have yourself (Like climbing Mount Everest!). You get to see the world from such a wider perspective, without the blinders which normally restrict you.

You also get an opportunity to see people through different lenses.

Did you know Vishal Gondal of the Indiagames fame is also into walking, particularly doing 100 Km hikes. He taught us how you go from being a 100 Kg couch potato to being one, who can do 100 Km in 48 hours. This is the kind of learning that I would have never had at any other forum.

The nature of discussions are also very open. One gets to participate, question, object, share insights and discuss about the subject at the centre of each session. Not to mention that the sessions themselves are picked extremely democratically. Anyone who has something to talk about can put up their idea for people to vote on, much before the event; based on the interest of the participants, the sessions are decided.

This is a degree of freedom which I have rarely seen at any event that I have attended in the past.

I am sure that behind the scene, there is a great deal of pain and effort that is taken by the organisers to make sure that they bring in a highly curated set of individuals to the event. Having worn the organisers hat myself for our events, I know what a difficult role this must be. On the one hand you wish to sell as many tickets as possible and on the other, you just cannot let everyone in. You need to make sure that the attendees would add value.

TGP is an example of how to bring the best of both worlds. I have no idea how they pull it off! There were a 170 participants and each of them were extremely interesting people to meet. Of course I could not meet all of them, but the ones I did meet, I am happy I did.

I enjoyed the session on bread baking by Nandita Iyer the most. I love to cook and I do not get to attend such sessions often, given the kind of work that I am involved in.

All in all, TGP was a great experience and I am sure to be there next year to meet many more amazing people. Three cheers to Vijay Anand and his team!!

#StartupsClub #DemoDay2014

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Last year around July: Startups Club was about 4 months into its journey and had reached two cities.

We thought that we needed to do a big event. Well what would be the purpose of such an event? Most startups fumble around to get proper validation, whether from prospective clients, from people with sufficient industry experience or investors. We thought we would address that through this event. Most other events look at companies that are already getting some traction we wished to be open to companies that we at early stages or even idea stages.

The event unfolded and at the end of the event; one of the well-known Angel whom we had invited to be a part of the guest panel said – “This event is like a breath of fresh air in the Startup Eco-system.”

One incubators or the other present at the event invited most of the companies that made a presentation at the Demo Day. In order to make this happen, we spent several hours mentoring each of the company that was going to be presenting at the Demo Day. We connected them to potential clients. We rehearsed presentations with them. And to date, we are in touch with all of the companies to track their progress and to help them in any way possible. From the perspective of the participant companies, it was like a mini-acceleration camp.

This year we wanted it to be still different. So, we will continue to do the things that have made us stand out; the things that encourage startups to want to be a part of our event. We have also decided to do something that will help them get some seed capital. As a part of this, we started a campaign called ‘Fund A Startup’ We are looking to raise money from our members, acquaintances, as well as people from the startup eco-system; the funds raised will be given to the one Startup the guest panel thinks really deserves the funds.

As has been the case from the beginning, Startups Club itself was a huge experiment and this is another in a long list of experiments that we are performing in order to see how we can contribute better to the startup eco-system.

The successes of the past are now a memory and with renewed vigour we set out to conquer new peaks and reach new milestones in our journey as Startups Club.

An Important lesson on managing Teams

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I was wondering why it is, that we tend to have better meetings at Startups Club when the group tends to be smaller than when we have larger groups. I found the answer in a book called ‘The art of thinking clearly’.

In 1913 Maximilian Ringelmann, a French engineer, conducted an experiment on horses! After his experiment he concluded that the power of two animals pulling a coach did not equal twice the power of a single horse.

Obviously, he was mind-blown and he decided to test if the same applied in the case of humans. He had several men pull a rope and measured the force applied by each individual. He found that on average, if two men pulled together, each invested just 93% of their individual strength, when three pulled together, it was 85%, and with eight men, it was down to 49%.

This is explained using a phenomenon called Social loafing. When the effort of an individual is not as clearly evident, individuals do not tend to give a 100%.

Social loafing occurs in mental activities also! For example, in meetings, the larger the team the weaker their individual participation. Have you seen meetings where the speaker is goading people on, to be interactive, but barring a few, all the rest of them seem to be dead!

Once a certain number of participants are involved, their performance plateaus. Whether the group consists of 20 or 100 people is not important – maximum inertia has been achieved.

From the perspective of a startup this is a fact that just cannot be ignored, because it is imperative to achieve peak performance from all of the individuals who are a part of the team. This phenomenon makes it abundantly clear what an entrepreneur should be doing with his team; make them individually accountable!

Now do you understand why extremely large companies find it really hard to come up with path-breaking innovation?