Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Coffee with luxury print purchases

I visited an Assouline bookstore in Seoul, S. Korea. After you make a purchase, you get the opportunity to have a drink at their attached cafe.

Recently we were in London, and Sara & I got to visit the Maison Assouline, nearby Picadilly Circus. It is a very beautiful store, with cafe to boot. Go upstairs, and you’ll end up seeing a professional bookbinder — he does everything by hand. Takes at least a week, average cost starts at £500. Same deal as above — purchase, have a drink.

When my family left London, I walked to the Monocle shop at George St, wanting to buy their new travel guides. I was told to go to their offices as they were going to have an event there. Fair enough, it was just a few blocks away. After making a purchase? They again said, visit their cafe, a few blocks away, to have a coffee or beer. I noticed this was happening at the shop at George St too (they don’t have an attached cafe). This again, is very smart cross-promotion of your retail adventures.

Is print luxury? Do you then expand the experience by ensuring people get to slow down, and consume more with a coffee?

Here, and defending your trademarks

I read: Nokia threatens London start-up over ‘HERE”.

It’s all about Lowdownapp (I’ve not heard about it before this), made by David J Senior & crew. I think the crux of the problem is that they have also released an app called HERE and Nokia is obviously pissed because of HERE Maps.

Apparently Nokia has spent USD$12m on creating the HERE brand and are now defending it.

I’m not surprised this startup hadn’t heard of it. I’m also not surprised that unless you’ve used a Windows phone, you’ve probably not heard about HERE Maps either. There was a release of HERE Maps on iOS, but I’m sure it never got the attention that Apple Maps or Google Maps got (I’m including Apple here because laugh as much as you want, being a default, really helps).

A few months back, I spoke to an entrepreneur doing indoor mapping, and mentioned to him that Google Maps is starting to encroach on that space as possible competition (he knew that). I then said that the best indoor maps I’d seen so far had come from HERE Maps. He had never heard about it, and he’s deep into mobile and mapping. 

It’s a sad fact of life that $12m is money not well spent, because no one at the moment really cares about the Windows phone platform; so if that is your app showcase, you’ve screwed the pooch. To make matters worse, you can’t even find HERE Maps on the Apple App Store today (it was pulled down in 2013, but apparently will make a comeback in early 2015). It is still available as a beta in the Android Play Store. I liked this thread between Benedict Evans and David Senior, because while its clear that Nokia does have a trademark, and its clear to Benedict Evans since he watches this market, its definitely unclear to the masses that Nokia has anything to do with Here.

Should all startups perform a trademark search before naming their companies? I’m not sure — its already hard to get a good name with domain/social media presence these days. Plus its time consuming (not to mention costly) to do a trademark search in multiple jurisdictions that you care about (or maybe you can use a service like this?). Not something the average startup wants to spend costs on.

Heck, even established companies like Microsoft end up doing a rename of SkyDrive to OneDrive to please BSkyB. So it’s not a startup rookie mistake either.

What happens next is likely that the folks at Lowdownapp will rename their Here app; the functionality I’m guessing will remain the same, it will just be called something different. Do I like it? Absolutely not. However as a bonus, it looks like the app only launched in Dec 2014 so maybe it will be easier giving in to this battle.

Acting on ideas

I think it’s really important to write ideas everyday. In fact, it’s a new year — if you don’t already have a notebook and pen, get one. I personally rely on Evernote, a notebook (lately, I’m starting to think I might like the Evernote Moleskine notebooks – I’ve started with the Moleskine Evernote Business Notebook for meetings) and a pen. 

When you are set, don’t forget to read James Altucher: FAQ on how to become an Idea Machine. I particularly like the following:

I have an Idea. How do I get money for it?
You don’t. You have to implement it. You have to have other people who like it. You have to get money from customers who like it. You have to build up so that it can support yourself.

For my first business, I started it, got customers, got employees, had an office, and then, 18 months into it, I quit my fulltime job, and went to my startup fulltime.

That’s how business works in the real world.
We live in an entitled world now where people think ideas are enough now to get funding and make billions.

Go old school. Deliver proven value to others, charge money for it, get testimonials about how good your product is, and then you’ve widened the horizon of your decisions. That’s the path to success.

What eventually happens with apps

There has been a lot of talk about apps generally not doing well. There may be truth in the matter.

Let’s take my mother, a classic example of someone who plays Candy Crush (made by King, whom are now public listed in London). She plays this mainly on her iPad, but also on her iPhone.

Life began quite simply by just playing the game. She got up to nearly level 500, and she only made 3 in-app purchases. Countless hours of entertainment, for what amounts to 3×0.99 cents. You don’t get much for $3 these days.

Then suddenly with the help of automatic app updates (and the fact that the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) needs to increase for earnings), she was required to login with Facebook finally.

She did, and started from scratch!!! Nearly 500 up there, and starting from scratch. You can’t imagine she’s pleased but she enjoys playing the game.

Fast forward to today, and the Facebook app logged her out. Candy Crush became aware & asked for a re-login. Lo and behold, the 70-odd levels she completed were gone and she had to start from scratch.

Her total investment in time? 8 months. Her total unrecoverable investment in in-app purchases? Less than $3. Her frustration levels? Like she wanted to throw the iPad at the wall!

What can we learn from this? Apps provide countless hours of entertainment for very little revenue to the app creator. App updates that break the database, eventually annoy the user. Is the user likely to continue with other games or apps? Possibly. But after a while there is app fatigue.

So it’s not about discovery. Sure the lists help. But being social (ie in-person) aids discovery too.

Being consistent, is key. Who downloads an offline travel guide, that gets updated and needs a resync, when you happen to be offline? I know a few offenders.

Splitting up apps that should be one – Facebook/Messenger, Foursquare/Swarm, etc. Then not providing a consistent interface, removing features or worse crashing when you’ve got to switch to the next app.

App fatigue is caused by putting the company or investor first, and the user last.

And as more contribute to the subpar user experience, the more smartphones will be whittled down to providing their basic functions provided for by Android & iOS with a sparse few extras. Overall, that makes the barrier to success much higher than before.

A bubble or are things different?

Strongbow bubblyI just read this in Bloomberg Businessweek: Silicon Valley Hears Echoes of 1999. Key takeaway:

IPOs were priced at a median of 30 times sales in 2000, compared with 5.2 times last year, the data show. MarketWatch traded at 46 times 1999 sales on its first day, while Rocket Fuel’s valuation was 7.6 times 2013 revenue.

The average age of companies also went up for IPOs – from 6 years to 12 years. That said, the valuation’s have become saner.

For further reading, how do you value a business by Fred Wilson: 

I learned in business school that the multiple of earnings one should pay for a business is roughly the inverse of interest rates. The reason for that is if you buy a business that makes $10mm a year and pay $100mm for it, then you are effectively getting a yield on your investment of 10% (annual earnings/purchase price). This math is terribly simplistic but fine for the purposes of this post. If interest rates are 5% instead of 10%, then you would pay $200mm for the business ($10mm/$200mm = 5%). So the math here is interest rates = annual earnings/purchase price. Again this is very simplistic because it does not deal with the important questions of what interest rate you use, how you deal with earnings that are growing or declining, and a host of other issues. But at the end of the day, this math [annual earnings/purchase price = yield] is fundamental and everything about asset values, capital markets, and valuations stems from it.

I think things are different now. That said, downturns are cyclical. 

Time spent on PR

How WhatsApp’s Arora Sealed Facebook Deal – Digits – WSJ: Time spent on PR is time not spent ‘making your users happy,’ Arora said. ‘The users you get from press and hype are not the best users.’


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