Monday, November 19, 2012

Parallels between era and mobile application gold rush

There was an interesting article in New York Times this weekend that made me reflect on mobility gold rush and takeaways from the boom-and-bust we experienced not so long ago. (#NYT: As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living)

The theme of NYT story reads almost identical to several stories chronicling the and eCommerce gold rush during late nineteen nineties. The author, David Streitfeld, picks two distinct examples of entrepreneurs in mobile app development space to highlight success and struggles. If we distill the key takeaways from that “era,” a few patterns emerge

  • era: Legions of developers joined the gold-rush but only a few entrepreneurs created blockbuster tools or websites and successfully cashed out early by selling them for multiples of million dollars (remember Sabeer Bhatia of Hotmail, Pierre Omidyar of eBay?). 
  • Parallels in Mobility era: NYT Article quotes Ethan Nicholas who made more than $1 million on an artillery game mobile app. Nicholas is an early mover in the mobile era if you will. Of course, the real blockbuster in all this is Apple’s iPhone and iPads application eco-system that other technology companies are trying extremely hard to emulate.

  • era: The one burst in Year 2000 leading to a huge wipeout of investments and dreams of a generation of techies.  
  • Parallels in Mobility era: Nokia, Research in Motion continue to flounder – at least the stock market thinks they do - while even tech giants like Microsoft try to find their way around the tectonic shift to mobile computing and applications.

  • era: Despite the bubble and bust, a few really successful businesses with innovative business models – eBay, Amazon, Google, priceline et al – took off and continue to grow and thrive 
  • Parallels in Mobility era: Not sure if the story of Shawn and Stephanie Grimes in NYT article would fall into this category yet. Their efforts to develop breakthrough products have cost $200,000 in lost income and savings. Their apps have earned less than $5,000 this year. This said, the mobile-app ecosystem is huge. Apple alone claims to have paid out over $6.5 Billion in royalties to mobile app developers and entrepreneurs in the past few years.

  • era: technology globalization and offshoring boom. The gold rush was not restricted to the US alone. It continued around the world: India, China, Brazil, Europe all have their favorite boom-and-bust stories. 
  • Parallels in Mobility era: A good percentage $6.5 billion in royalty payment by Apple went to application developers overseas, a micro-offshoring boom if you will.

There are other similarities between and mobile application segments with learning’s for entrepreneurs too. eCommerce has become mainstream with most – if not all - brick-and-mortar companies and retailers embracing additional channels to reach out to service and sell to customers. Hundreds of thousands of smaller entrepreneurs, consultants and programmers continue to survive thrive servicing and e-enabling enterprises large and small. And few innovative models continue to emerge. In the past year alone, Facebook went forward with a multi-billion-dollar IPO, and went on to buy photo sharing service Instagram for $1bn.

Just like in the e-commerce gold rush boom, the gold diggers with a spade - mobile application creators - continue to struggle to make a Living, searching for the next blockbuster …. While the spade sellers like Apple who staked out the landscape early continue to thrive. Other tech majors continue to learn from and emulate Apple’s model. Google (with android ecosystem), Amazon (with its kindle ecosystem and ecommerce engine) and Microsoft (windows 8) have taken a playbook from Apple and are competing to create similar ecosystems for application developers.

Monday, November 5, 2012

May you live in interesting times

I have long tuned off to viral anything-on-the-net but the news of Bronco Bama Girl video going viral last week really struck a chord.

A few weeks ago, during the heat of election mania I casually mentioned to my wife that we would watch the first presidential debate on TV that evening. Our toddler son overheard and was all excited at the prospect of watch "something" on TV. And he was equally excited to mutter the new word, debate, all day. A couple of minutes after the evening broadcast began, he realized that the “debate” was just two men on screen standing and talking. He was so underwhelmed that he started crying. (that scene of course wasn’t as photogenic as that of Abigael Evans’s red faced brawl but it came close). Perhaps the reason why that video went viral: natives and immigrants in America alike have been overwhelmed by the election mania during the past weeks and months.

Just as the election drama was reaching a crescendo, hurricane Sandy stuck north eastern US. Stories of the tragedies and lives lost made me reflect on the power Mother Nature sways, even in the wealthiest nation in the world, with all the possible resources at its disposal. With accounts of Hurricane Sandy overwhelming newswaves, the tragic news of African dogs mauling a boy at Pittsburgh zoo didn’t get as much attention in the media.

As we come to the close of a frenzied presidential election in America, the old Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times” seems apt.