I’m joining the team at Snaps

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Snaps is a creative platform for brands.  The Houston Rockets are using Snaps for fan engagement.

Like many of us in the New York tech and media communities, I’ve tried to invest my time working with world class entrepreneurs, incredible visions and great businesses. To that end, I’m thrilled to share that I’m joining the team at Snaps as its CEO.

When I first met Vivian Rosenthal, she described her view of a world where social communication had shifted from text-based, desktop conversation, to mobile-first visual channels like Instagram, Vine,Tumblr, Pinterest and others. We talked at length about how this shift will continue to create new opportunities and challenges for marketers, and how software can help create better conversations between consumers and brands in this new, visual space.

Our conversation didn’t end at mobile. We also talked a about where that visual world is headed. With the emergence of new platforms like Google Glass, Oculus Rift and Magic Leap, new channels will continue to emerge that will transform the way consumers and brands communicate, and they’re only becoming increasingly visual and immersive.

I believe that Snaps is perfectly positioned to help create, capture and amplify the visual conversation on the web. The current Snaps offering is a fun, engaging, creative solution that has already empowered some of the world’s best consumer brands in social media, including SecretKraft, Kate Spade, Sony Pictures, Nestlé and The Houston Rockets.

Snaps has made incredible progress towards becoming a robust creative platform for brands, but we’re just getting started. I’m thrilled to be joining the team at this phase, and hope to share more about our product soon.

The Rest of the Story: Revisiting 2011 Predictions

Happy New Year, all.  Here’s to another twelve months of limitless possibilities in 2012.

A year ago I wrote a post on predictions for 2011 and listed five meta-trends that I saw transpiring in the world of tech and media.  I thought it would be a good idea to bring them back up and discuss what happened and what didn’t.  It looks like the obvious stuff happened (although I would welcome contrarian viewpoints), but some of the more nuanced predictions fell flat.  Later this week I’ll write some predictions for 2012, but for now here’s some analysis on how this past year panned out:

Prediction 1: Exponential growth in the U.S. smartphone market.

This was the low hanging fruit of predictions and to a large extent it’s safe to say that this happened.  According to eMarketer,  aggregate U.S. smartphone penetration jumped from 26% in 2010 to 38% in 2011.  That’s the biggest jump we’ll see as adoption slows YOY through 2015.  Of particular interest is the increased adoption in the 35-44 and 45-64 cohorts of the population.  A big question we should ask is how this group intends to use smartphones in the coming years, and what types of mobile services can we offer them?

Prediction 2: An increase in mobile gaming, but a decrease in pay-for-app models.

This prediction largely played out as well (don’t worry, I’m wrong about everything else).  I think this graph from Flurry is the best visualization of the sea change that’s happening in gaming:

Freemium Games

This graph came from a great piece written by Flurry’s GM of games, Jeferson Valadares,  who identifies why this strategy is useful to game developers.

Flurry data shows that the number of people who spend money in a free game ranges from 0.5% to 6% depending on the quality of the game and its core mechanics. Although this means that more than 90% of players will not spend a single penny, it also means that players who love your game spend much more than the $0.99 you were considering charging for the app.  And since you gave away the game for free, your “heavy spender” group can be sizable.

This ‘sizable’ group can drive the business value for your game, and the free-to-try model drastically lowers acquisition costs, keeping your funnel lean and activity high.  I expect this trend to continue for non hit-based games (think casual gamers) in 2012.

Prediction 3: Continued adoption of cloud-based productivity apps by businesses

2011 saw a number of companies make this bet in various industries, and I am confident that cloud-based applications will continue their adoption curve into 2012.  Was 2011 the breakout year for this change?  I think the jury is still out on that and I’ve had trouble finding hard data around this either way.  If anyone has real data on this in terms of customers or revenue I’d love to check it out.  The best piece I’ve found was this NYT article on SAP, but it doesn’t really size the market shift.

One observation that I had this year was that consumers are starting to bring their preferred apps into the workplace.  I didn’t see this as an entry point for enterprise businesses, but it looks like companies like Evernote and Dropbox are going to make their way into the workplace not through the traditional, long sales cycle that enterprise apps make to businesses, but through consumers just adding them on to their computers and demanding that they be permitted to use them.

Chris Dixon correctly points out that the user and the buyer in enterprise are different people, and I think that explains the drag in adoption pretty well.  We’ll see what happens in 2012, but this change is definitely on its way.

Prediction 4: Fragmented social networks

Last January I predicted that people would want more choice in how they share content and who they share it with.  This largely hasn’t happened yet on the web.  Facebook continues to grow at shocking rates considering the law of large numbers – I think they’re predicted to grow over 8% in 2012 according to eMarketer.  In defense of my prediction,  Google seemed to have thought the same thing and made a big bet on Google+ and the ability to develop ‘circles’, which are essentially micro-social networks.  We’ll see how this plays out in 2012.

Another note, when it comes to mobile I think we’re going to see an increase in demand for smaller networks.  Path reached over 1M users this year and released a beautiful iOS app.  Two mobile networks in the K2 Portfolio, Sonar and Tracks,  are both focused on unique mobile networks and are seeing incredible traction.

Prediction 5: Flat adoption of mobile coupons

This was flatter than most predicted, or hoped.  I think the best example of this lack of pickup would be Groupon Now: Groupon’s mobile solution. According to Yipit, when Now launched in May of 2011, Groupon predicted that mobile deals would represent 50% of Groupon’s sales within two years, but it has largely failed to deliver on that promise-  Now has been less than 1% of revenues in North america so far:

Groupon Now

I don’t think there’s a question of whether or not mobile coupons will become a driving force for consumer behavior in the future.  However, timing is everything an 2011 was not the year for widespread adoption.

That’s is for 2011. Overall the big trends that we saw forming up a year ago have largely played out as predicted.  I’ll put some predictions around 2012 later this week.

A Summer At Softbank Capital

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I’m pretty thrilled about a change to my normal summer this year. Starting this Monday, I’ll be spending the next eight weeks between New York City and Boston working with Softbank Capital.

I’ll be spending most of my time working with Nikhil Kalghatgi and @Joevc identifying investment opportunities that fit the fund’s thesis. I’ll also have an opportunity to work directly with some of Softbank’s existing portfolio companies on a project basis, learning about new businesses and the entrepreneurs behind them.

As Joe described it, the fund at Softbank is focused on entrepreneurs building socially-driven apps, services and content that are accessible across platforms and devices.  This is space that I spend a lot of time thinking about.  I don’t consider myself an evangelist of social media, per se.  One could make a compelling argument that social media presents marketers with more challenges than opportunities (ask just about anyone in pharma, news, or the record industry).  The fact remains, however, that social is not going anywhere.  Social media is as disruptive as it is inevitable, and the new opportunities exist in embracing it’s growth.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with entrepreneurship and innovation.  I have spent my entire professional career working directly with entrepreneurs in their quest (with varying degrees of success) to create real value. In addition to thinking about social, I’m looking forward to increasing my exposure to the startup landscape in New York and Boston.

Mostly though, I’m excited to have an opportunity to learn from the team of veteran investors at Softbank.

I will be keeping track of my experience on this blog and on Twitter, mostly from the startup perspective.  I’ll be dropping some Boston lifestyle bits on my Tumblr.