Entrepreneur, Explorer, Angel.

Sometimes all at Once.

06TH December 2011

Angel investing - Creative problem Solving - Good Story - Mobile - Timely - Uncategorized

A sneak peak at how luck comes about, and shapes the world (of me).

Mobile Global: Click 2 see cool pic

I work hard to get lucky.

 I think most successful entrepreneurs do. But when luck comes, you rarely get to see what ELSE happened to make you lucky. It’s usually just some little thing clear on the other side of the world that started some sequence of events that ended with you on a good day. My friends who won the lottery last week would probably agree. You do a shrug of the shoulders and a high five before you move on, because there is just no explaining. For me,  I have long known- and given total credit– to the fact the iPhone changed my angel career. But I never knew the back story of why it was launched in the first place. Walter Isaacson’s Jobs book had a fascinating chapter on just how it came about. 
Jobs was dominating the music business with iPods, and watching what the mobile phone was doing to cameras, namely rendering them superfluous. He was dead afraid of being eaten alive with the product that carried Apple through 2005. Though his team had been working on a no-stylus tablet that would become the iPad, everything was then and there thrown into the iPhone first. It changed everyone’s world, and it changed mine. 
By 2005 iPod sales were skyrocketing. An astonishing twenty million were sold that year, quadruple the number of the year before. The product was becoming more important to the company’s bottom line, accounting for 45% of the revenue that year, and it was also burnishing the hipness of the company’s image in a way that drove sales of Macs. That is why Jobs was worried. “He was always obsessing about what could mess us up,” board member Art Levinson recalled. The conclusion he had come to: “The device that can eat our lunch is the cell phone.” As he explained to the board, the digital camera market was being decimated now that phones were equipped with cameras. The same could happen to the iPod, if phone manufacturers started to build music players into them. “Everyone carries a phone, so that could render the iPod unnecessary.” Isaacson, Walter (2011-10-24). Steve Jobs (p. 465). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
That triggered a chain of events that is still being played out today.
    1. The Carriers used to think they were content curators. Seriously, there was no other way to get distribution than to program in bizarre carrier languages (BREW, etc) and pay them through the nose to be “on deck”. Hey, they got the idea from the old AOL days. But these people did not realize the comic effect of managing content on a 2″x2″ screen. Plenty of money was wasted getting on those decks, and getting the content optimized. At one point, I counted an easy $500MM of venture money was poured down that rabbit hole.
    2. Eyeballs began to shift. First it was getting email and text on phones. Then a few games and stock quotes. But the iPhone and its 250,000 apps out the gate brought all manner of information and entertainment to the mobile screen. The PC reached a plateau.
    3. People were no more willing to pay for apps than they were to pay for the “old fashioned” internet. It should be free, man continued as the digital credo. And except for very few exceptions (iTunes being one), the entire mobile revolution has been driven to date with ads.
    4. Tablets followed shortly, and guess what: they’re mobile too. Meaning all the ad serving technology, all the geo-location and device data was much more like a mobile phone than a PC.

With a little knowledge as an angel/board member with digital yield optimizer operative (now Operative One) and some domain expertise from Cellufun, I went on to start mobile ad network/ad server Mojiva with co-founders Krish and Dan.  And I have since been founding angel in mobile powered projects like MyBailiwick (crowdsourcing too early!), TrustCloud (trust in the sharing economy getting hotter now) and WellAware (mobile health and wellness platform). I think my bets in mobile media have been pretty lucky, and i will continue to make them for all the basic reasons above (and many more that are regularly laid out by tech guru Mary Meeker).

I just never knew where the tipping point was.

I do now. High five.


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