BLOG STARTUPS, VENTURE AND THE TECH BUSINESS

May 9 2009
by Todd Hixon

Mobile panel: TLH Notes for NVCA Annual Meeting

Panelists:
Mike Baker, Nokia/enpocket 
Rich Miner, Google Ventures
Bernie Gershon, Disney
Chip Hazard (moderator)

Baker:  no one yet knows what mobile media is good for

  • we understand other kinds of new media much better


Gershon:  does content deals for Disney on the web

  • iPhone is the breakthrough platform:  experience and network is now there
  • Revenue oppties:  subscriptions and ad model too (starting to evolve now)
  • Mobile search will grow dramatically:  adsense [sic] for mobile
  • Very bullish about future revenue
  • Potential for exits too:  Urban Spoon just sold to IAC


Baker:  age 12-17 use cell phone as “own screen” — do what I want, parents don’t know, no control SW for phones

Miner:  past impediments:

  • technology was not the real problem
  • prob was open platforms and simple/reasonable pricing, missing enablers
  • iPhone offers programming environment and distribution channel for developers (plus “yummy” user experience)


Can you build $100m cos w/ iPhone apps?

  • Miner:  about as many as there were PC SW cos
  • Good living for garage guys and angels
  • Music space and gaming could be high-potential (BG)


Do you see a lot of multi-platform apps?

  • Some, eg, EverNode (MB) — everywhere perspective
  • Syncing is better — key for this:  Google and Nokia working on this (Apple too)
  • 2012:  more mobile browsers than desktops
  • Google Earth is cooler on the iPhone — it knows where you are


RM: if every carrier thinks they need to have an app store, they have missed the point, it needs to be open

  • iPhone is “open” for app developers in this sense:  it is easy for developers to publish and reach a large market at reasonable cost
  • Google is very focused on phones:  large numbers
    • big oppty for content discovery
    • apps will morph to other platforms, eg, netbooks


BG:  finding content on the mobile web is not easy, hard to browse

How does mobile search work?

  • voice search?
  • BG:  love Google voice search! (Miner gives him a $20 bill for the plug)
  • RM:  device is constrained, need to cleverly engineer apps, eg voice in one direction, text back
  • RM:  phone has a lot of context about user:  location, contacts, calendar, call log, facebook feed, twits
  • MB:  GOOG controls search so well that a search business is not fundable


When does mobile advertising come together?

  • MB:  foundation is being laid quietly today —
  • Limitation:  has been hard for users to purchase stuff on a mobile device, but apps are creating some mobile commerce
  • Context data is richer and potentially valuable, as on the web, but the regulatory structure for using caller data is FCC driven:  tougher, oppties are there but complex
  • Mobile privacy will erupt as an issue in DC
  • BG:  mobile ads are early days, WAP ads are horrible, opportunities are unproven
  • Mobile video:  small market but growing, can’t do a 30 sec pre-roll, compelling ad formats not proven, like web video in 2002 when advertisers tried to repurpose std 30 sec spots


Significance of rest of the world?

  • MB:  Nokia view is 3 kinds of countries (not described), enPocket went to market in India first because mobile is the only scale electronic media there, can be less competition for bigger opportunities abroad
  • RM:  US and W. Europe are “2 screen” markets; ROW is 1 screen => v. diff behavior
  • RM:  won’t be long  before web sites see more traffic from smart phones than PCs
  • Best mobile cos:
    • BG:  iFart
    • RM:  Scavenger
    • MB:  enMotion (mobile remittance for immigrants), Fluent Mobile (mobile search play); netSage (infrastructure for app stores to open up mobile advertising)


MB:  we are in the trough of disillusionment for mobile advertising

RM:  mobile devices are much better platforms, but still constrained, so need a unique way to insert ads that works.  This is the reason GOOG has no ads in its mobile products [GOOG has not yet found a way to do this that meets its standards for user experience].

CH:  one of my cos is seeing provable results and getting mainstream ad budget from major brands

McKinsey says online add market will be $25B in 2013 [Well, that settles it …]

RM:  Latitude by itself is not that useful, needs apps on top to be useful, like “spontaneous meet-ups”

RM:  Best model is one app store per platform

MB:  Longer term the “webkit” browser will make the browser the app platform, like on the web [but Ed Braginsky walked up and pointed out to me that this does not work for performance sensitive apps like games; they still need to be written with the hardware and host OS in mind].

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