Tag Archives: DCTech

DC Mobile Monday “Frictionless Design” event notes

#DCMoMo event hosted by @PappasGroup

This event was more about catching up with some friends for me but the panelist offered some interesting tidbits.

Demian Perry, NPR (@perrydc)
- Your app needs to demonstrate its core focus (and excellence) within seconds of the user encountering it. “You have a few seconds to show a user what to do. If they have to think, you lose them.”
- The shift toward the lean startup method means more failure (since it’s hypothesis-based and tested on the fly) but a greater focus on (and accountability toward) doing what’s right for the audience.
- NPR just hired an “innovation accountant” to check effectiveness of digital promotion (among other things).

Robert Spier, Travel Channel (@reaubaire)
- in large companies, especially where digital is done by a standalone team, it’s helpful to craft a one-sentence mission statement for an app to preserve consensus throughout the design & development process.
- don’t underestimate the importance of constant promotion — launch week is just the beginning.
- Scripps is seeing early promise from a strategy that places their ‘TV Everywhere’ apps (as distinct from bespoke apps for major broadcast channels) on a common framework and enables bundled sales packages.

Chris Koth, PBS
- Trying to focus on removing points of user friction at the outset, to enable a better experience inside the app.
- PBS is starting to think about how to evolve the app experience so it changes (i.e., becomes even more relevant) for power users.

Lil Tidings, Rosetta Stone (@liltydings)
- Don’t assume your experience (and those in your network) is a fair proxy for most of your users (or right model for the app you’re building).
- Lil shared a great perspective on how Rosetta Stone is evolving into a learning company that uses Design Thinking and is attempting to pioneer innovation from with (disrupting itself in the process); there is an interesting dynamic forming between the primacy of intuitive design choices and being thoughtful on how best to understand data correlation.
- the most enjoyable experiences will win — at RS, “MVP” stands for Minimum Valueable Product.

DC Lean Startup: “Back to Basics” – event notes

DC Lean Startups:  “Back to Basics” Meetup

“In God we trust; all others bring data.” —  W. Edwards Demming

The event was a fine overview of the basic principles of Lean by Teague Hopkins (@teaguehopkins), followed by presentations from three entrepreneurs who have employed Lean in their own growing businesses.

Lean is a methodology worth learning.  At it’s core it’s about getting to market faster, and failing/learning/refining your product faster so you can determine whether anybody is actually interested in paying for your solution.  Teague drew a nice contrast to Agile development methodology, which is about minimizing Tech risk

This seems especially relevant given the way fundraising has changed recently — especially in the consumer digital space, as VC attention shifted toward B2B —  to require companies to demonstrate traction in the market.  (I haven’t studied this enough to understand if there is a chicken/egg dynamic at work.)

In an excellent, high-energy talk Cont3nt.com’s CEO Anton Gelman (@antonreport) offered a useful checklist of sites that make creating a fully-functioning, visually compelling, testable and social-and-analytics-enabled web prototypes.  Full scoops are in his presentation, but the TL;DR version:

    1. GoDaddy — domain registration
    2. WordPress — content platform whose themes and plugins “will do 90% of the job for most web development projects”
    3. Pagely.com — “awesome WordPress hosting”
    4. Themeforest.com — “spectacularly rich themes” that typically run around $40 for individuals
    5. Buddypress.org — OOTB social networking capabilities for your site
    6. Google Analytics — ‘nuff said
    7. Optimizely — great platform to enable A/B testing on your site
    8. Facebook — still the best way to attract users (i.e., testers) to your site, and faster than canvassing outside
    9. Jotform.com — excellent tool for making all manner of forms, including those that connect to your user tracking, social, payment platforms, etc. “The greatest!”

Venture Capital Outlook 2014 event notes

Venture Capital Outlook 2014, hosted by PotomacTechWire at Gannett.

Harry Weller, General Partner, NEA
Tige Savage, Managing Partner, Revolution Ventures
Don Rainey, General Partner, Grotech Ventures
Arun Gupta, Partner, Columbia Capital
Thanasis Delistathis, Founder and Managing Partner, New Atlantic Ventures
Moderator: Paul Sherman (@PaulRSherman)
This breakfast has become one of the more interesting events I attend.  Five of the area’s top VCs talking about the year that was and predicting the year ahead….and some of them are even funny!
TL;DR:  VCs will remain focused on the enterprise space in 2014, with particular emphasis on new platforms & tools for the healthcare, education and cyber-security industries.
Notes for a portion of the moderated Q&A follow:
Biggest surprises in 2013?
- strong IPO market, particularly biotech which had its first window for exits in a decade.
- death of privacy?  will NSA revelations make privacy paranoia mainstream?
- the disconnect/dissonance between robust capital markets and total disfunction on Capital Hill…could mean a false sense of security.
- 2012 was all about Mobile but 2013 was SaaS.
- VC stopped being a four-letter word.
- Though average exit statistics held, there was greater stratification as the scale needed to exit grew (e.g., company that used to be $50M run-rate now needs to be a $100M run-rate…but if you make it there the payoffs are far greater).
- IPO market strong because US equities still perceived as among most reasonable risk for liquidity worldwide; bloom has come off the BRICs since 2011.
Discuss VC shift to focus on enterprise vs consumer?
- Stronger focus on how to monetize in consumer space —
- Some products becoming enterprise plays in consumer clothing (e.g. OpenTable…looks consumer-focused but really enterprise software for restaurants, who can spend the money and get companies to recurring revenues).  Smaller businesses now getting access to same quality set of tools (and high-quality UX) previously only available to large companies.
- Standard ad-supported media business is and will remain difficult.  Industries being disrupted by next wave of enterprise plays comprise 1/3 of US GSP:  health, education, retail, software.
- VCs are drawn toward enterprise companies because they are attacking fairly predictable markets with large incumbents; consumer space is far harder to predict.  Enterprise has a ‘fat middle’ where you can become $2-5B, whereas nearly all consumer plays struggle to exceed hundreds of millions, except the exceptions worth $20B.  Thus, “batting average is better in enterprise but slugging percentage is better in consumer.”
Focus for 2014?
- Revolution taking same approach: looking for new business models (usually tech-enabled) that can flourish under established industries, a la Zipcar in rental car space.
- Columbia Capital keeping focus on infrastructure (big bet on fiber) and enterprise space.  Looking at enterprise PaaS plays and cyber-security.
- Grotech: “business intelligence for the masses” (tools for small businesses).  Digital identity/wallet to enable mCommerce.  Reemergence of e-mail products that addresses longstanding shortcomings, e.g., chronological presentation.
- New Atlantic Ventures: cyber security; enterprise plays in healthcare and online education (especially big in DC area) because costs are skyrocketing.
- NEA: cluster computing revolution
2013’s most overused term, common business model and best pitch?
- Thanasis: “curated marketplace,” “ad-supported media” and Pokitdok (healthcare pricing transparency)
- Don: “big data,” “we’ll figure it out later” and RoyaltyExchange (democratize liquidity for royalties, starting with music and moving to energy)
- Arun: “SaaS,” “we’ll sell the data” and pitch was an unnamed company working on int’l money transfer they passed on
- Tige: “growth-hacking” is just silly, “transaction-based model” losing traction to subscription and pitch was for an unnamed company in the “small lending” space with a great one-sentence description
- Harry: “growth-hacking” agreement, “eCommerce” model and pitch was for company transforming Computer Aided Design software.
One start-up to watch in 2014?
- Thanasis: Quad Learning (making higher ed more affordable by enabling students to do first half at community colleges) http://quadlearninginc.com
- Don:  Optoro (revolutionizing retail asset/inventory mgmt)  http://optoro.com
- Arun: Endgame Systems (cyber-secruity) http://www.endgame.com
- Tige: Booker (scheduling platform for SMBs) http://www.booker.com
- Harry: luminal (applying bio-regeneration principles from natural world to AWS security) http://luminal.io

Notes from recent DC mobile/tech events – Dec 2013

I attended a few excellent mobile/tech events over the past week and thought I’d recap some of my key takeaways here — mainly for myself, because let’s not kid ourselves it’s going to be an echo chamber around these parts for a while.  :-)

To make the length of the post bearable, I’m going to break this into a single post for each event:

1.  Venture Capital Outlook 2014, hosted by PotomacTechWire at Gannett.

2.  DC Lean Startup:  ”Back to Basics” hosted at Capital One Labs.

3.  DC MoMo “Frictionless Design” panel, hosted by Pappas Group.

A final hat tip to Pete Erickson (@peteerickson) and the entire MoDev crew (@GoMoDev) for hosting MoDev East, which has grown into a massive event with over 100 speakers in two days.

I had the good fortune to work the event as a volunteer at the registration table and, in addition to having more fun that I had any right to expect, it exponentially improved my experience as an attendee.  Like so many things in life, I got way more out of it than I put in.