Creative Destruction

Last week, I spent 3 days in Helsinki at Slush. It’s the second time I’ve been there – last visit was three years ago.

The differences between the two visits were staggering: last time there were circa 500-700 attendees. This year saw a 3000+ sell-out crowd. The floor was so thick you could barely walk. The demo floor was packed with startups – I, foolishly, thought they would be there both days. But they changed them out from Day 1 to Day 2. So, I missed lots of companies I wanted to see…

So how to explain all of this activity- it didn’t come out of nowhere. In my mind, it came out of Nokia. Or Nokia’s downsizing. A classic creative destructive force…

Nokia was the primary employer in Finland for engineers and tech talent, a safe, solid bet. Most Finns in tech were at Nokia 20 years, or that’s the only company they’ve worked with, etc. Working for Nokia was the brass ring. With the company’s decline and the layoffs that ensued, smart techies had to find something else to do. And they did.

Stand-out companies like Supercell have sprung up in the last few years; Rovio is a global brand now – and success is breeding success. The halo effect of these two companies alone means skills and know-how are being shared and transferred to new startups – whether that’s through mentoring, angel investment or collaboration.

It’s a painful time in Finland right now economically, but I think a little bit of short term pain will mean amazing things for the country. Not having Nokia is probably one of the best things that could have happened to the country and the start-up scene in Europe.

A serious tip of the hat to the entrepreneurs I met there building amazing companies.

Android Fragmentation – Your Options

If you’re developing for Android, this picture from Open Signal Maps (portfolio co) is only the start of your problems. Fragmentation permeates every level of Android devices: 400+ devices ¬†with varying screen sizes and resolutions, OS- various versions running (few of them up to date), Silicon – ARM 5, ARM 7, etc. Not so much fun…

Why go through the pain? Well, Android is ramping 6x faster than iPhone. The iPhone is great, but the large mass market is Android. You’re going to have to be there.

There are a few things you can do to make your life easier if you’re resource constrained:

1) Study the OSM map. Pick the top 5-10 handsets to focus on. Develop for them only.

2) Draw a line in the sand. Instagram did this when they launched on Android this spring- they simply didn’t support a range of Android handsets based on an OS line (2.2 and above, thank you). Apple is notorious for doing this as well. Follow their leads.

3) Use testing tools. Testdroid,¬†DeviceAnywhere, Perfecto Mobile, etc. These tools allow you to do more testing than you normally could in house and possibly on handsets you’ll have difficulty getting. Use them (they’re inexpensive, or free).

Good luck coding!

The Three P’s of Venture Capital

I’ve written many times about what VCs are looking for and what I’m looking for in particular.

I sent out a tweet recently about my 3 P’s of investing and thought I’d elaborate briefly.

1) People. I have to like you. I have to think we can work together. That you’re smart. Opinionated. Informed. That you listen, ask questions, ask for help. That you have a vision and you’re passionate about what you’re doing and that you can execute.

2) Product. I have to love it. Not like it, not see how others might like it after a few beers, but love it. I have want to touch the product, marvel at the design, dream about using the product again. It has to be unique. Not “The Airbnb of lunch” or “Spotify for newspapers”….

3) Potential. We’re doing this to impact millions of people. Why settle for less? In some cases though, great margins on high priced products with smaller markets are good too.

Hard to fit all that fine print into 140 characters…

The Premium Economy

I’ve been trying out various new services lately, and have been completely blown away in most cases. It’s registered that we’re now entering the Premium Economy. And it’s going to make our lives richer, but us poorer… I don’t mean Premium accounts where you lose the banner ads; I mean Premium where you get a slick service. Let me cite a few examples:

1) Halio – You need to live in London, Dublin, Toronto, Chicago to test this one. I’ve only tested the London service; you can hail a cab from the comfort of your table at the restaurant, get notified when your cab’s outside and then pay for the fare all on account (credit card). No hassle, no waiting. I’m addicted. It’s like having a personal driver at your beck and call.

2) Uber – San Francisco, London, Paris- Same thing as Hailo, but the cars are private and *plush*. I was lucky enough to try this one in the City of Lights. Seamless experience from start to finish, all while riding in the back of a sweet BMW.

3) Hotel Tonight – Multiple US cities, London. This is not your ordinary last minute deal site. You get to choose from four boutique hotel rooms and get a 20%+ discount and book in a few clicks. Simple and efficient.

These are three examples of premium services that I simply couldn’t afford otherwise. Think of it as NetJet for normal people. They all offer 1-click purchasing (or maybe 2 clicks), no cash, no hassles and deliver a premium experience for users. This is a new class of app and service I’m seeing emerge. And I like what I see.

If you’re thinking about a new business to launch, think about upgrading to premium…