Archive for November, 2012

Mobile Distribution Hack

Posted on November 19, 2012. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

So here’s what I was thinking about yesterday.  It is no secret that distribution in the mobile ecosystem is FUCKED.  I complain about it in tweets at least once a month.  No matter which way you slice it, getting people to download your app, even if your app is dope, is really freaking hard.  As was the case 24 months ago, today there are still very few channels by which you can acquire new customers.  The fact that “get featured in the app store” is the number one method for building a native user base is completely absurd. Even if you can get people to “share” in your app, a deep link into the app store just sucks. The drop off is huge. Signing in and installing something before a user gets any value is completely contrary to the way users have become accustomed to acting on the web.  It’s the equivalent of forcing registration in a web app before delivering any value to the user. Imagine if Yelp made you register before you got to read reviews on their site…just doesn’t work.  There is this big step in the funnel from when a user is exposed to a brand to when they commit to it that is simply missing from the native mobile ecosystem.  It’s so bad, that if I had a mobile app that I was trying to spread, I would drive recipients of any share experience to a web based UX where they could interact with my application in a non-native environment…I’d try to win them there…and then attempt to convert my web users to native mobile users down the line…

Anyway, these problems got me thinking…if everyone gets a small install base out of the gate, and then struggles to grow it organically or socially the way they would a web app, that must mean there are A TON of “walking dead” apps.  You’ve heard of “walking dead VC’s” that still exist and have a brand but don’t do anything and don’t die…”walking dead apps” are apps that have install bases of between 10,000 and 100,000 but no growth and declining engagement.  These apps will never be meaningful companies, will never make any money, and at some point I’d imagine they just disappear.  BUT, one thing walking dead apps have is a footprint…small but valuable real estate on a user’s phone.  Granted the user probably doesn’t engage with their app, but they probably haven’t deleted it either…so how much is that footprint worth?  Well…if apps like Groupon or Zynga are willing to pay $5 an install, that would mean a crappy app with 10K downloads is sitting on $50,000 in IOS real estate.  What if…theoretically, there were a way for GRPN to buy “crappy app” for $2 an installed user, replace crappy app client side code with GRPN client side code in an “update”, send an email or push from crappy app to userbase saying “crappy app is now GRPN, check out the app already on your phone”…and then GRPN converts some % of crappy app’s users to GRPN mobile installed users?  I realize the mechanics of this sound ugly…but if someone were to come along and buy lots of crappy apps, put them together in one network, build a large installed footprint, and then sell the real estate plus “services to facilitate and optimize transition/conversion” from crappy apps to “buyer’s apps” …that might be kind of interesting…or better yet, what if someone built a marketplace where crappy apps could list themselves, there install bases, their recent active user base, and there category…and buyers could come along and intead of buying ads inside mobile apps that drive to deep links, they could buy blocks of installed real estate on mobile devices…then crappy apps would have someplace to monetize their now worthless apps, which would lead to more apps being built, which would be good for the ecosystem and Apple actually, and successful apps would have a channel where they could spend $ to effectively acquire IOS real estate.  I realize there are tons of problems with this (Apple’s hissy fit being the primary)…but I’m interested in the idea of fledgling native apps selling installed real estate instead of adspace within their apps.  Give em’ a performance based kicker on successful transition of installed base to “buyer’s app,” unlock more value for those who have been punished by the distribution wall of death…just a rant born out of frustration with the state of the state

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on an inspired day

Posted on November 2, 2012. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

I sat on a stoop beneath a statue in a circle and read a note from a boy about to become founder.

I looked in his eye at the passion and hunger, I remembered the time I dove in myself.

I envied the pain that would come with his journey and listened as he spoke of what was ahead.

I cautioned and warned to make sure he was ready, and embraced his journey as though it was mine.

We sat in the sun and watched life for an hour, then parted to move into the future.

He boarded the subway, wrought with anticipation.

I boarded a treadmill to burn off my laze.

I thought of the question I always come back to, and let it simmer amidst the sea of perfect asses.

I walked into J crew, to replace soiled clothing. A refugee for a moment from minor inconvenience.

I have moved to all black, for it is more simple, and fashion was never my strength anyway.

I sit in the dark, screen glows in my face. The page was once blank, now covered in words

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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