9/11: The Most Powerful Image For Me

This photo has special meaning to me. It hammered home the pain and suffering that innocent civilians experienced on 9/11. It showed me the compassion of our fellow man. It illustrated the courage of those who were sworn to protect us.

I carried a small, laminated copy of this photo with me while I was deployed. It reminded me why I was there. It made me realize that, American or not, no group of people should be subjected to brutality and extremism. Hopefully it does the same for you.

man-in-chair-911

Can iWatch Redefine The Mobile Payments Space?

Photo credit: techloon.com

Photo credit: techloon.com

Apple has never been the trailblazer that everyone makes them out to be. Historically, the playbook has been to bring a superior product to market after watching other organizations fail. This “second mover” advantage allows Apple to gauge the interest in a market, learn from other’s mistakes, and benchmark their amazing product against shitty ones. 

Napster disrupted the music industry before iTunes. The iPod was the 6th or 7th MP3 player available to consumers. The Simon Personal Communicator hit the market 15 years before any iPhone. Apple prevailed each time because of a superior product that came with one of the strongest brands in the world. 

If the rumors are true, the Cupertino-based goliath has their sights set on dominating a new industry – smart watches. Everyone from startups (Pebble) to established players (Google) have taken a crack at the mainstream market with minimal success. Early adopters will always flock to the latest shiny thing, but the real winner will capture majority of the non-tech savvy market. 

I’m bearish on the wearable market overall, especially smart watches. There has yet to be a product that has substantial additional functionality that can’t be realized through my phone. Due to this, I haven’t been too excited about the iWatch – but that changed yesterday. Rumors claim Apple will unveil two-factor authentication between your iWatch and iPhone in an attempt to remove the friction in secure mobile payments.  This has the potential to completely redefine the smart watch vertical.

With two-factor authentication, Apple would leverage their ecosystem of hardware and software to create a defensible market position. Very few companies in the world (Google is only other) have full control over the smartphone in your pocket, your daily operating system, and now the watch on your wrist. Multiple devices is one of the only ways that two-factor authentication can be introduced to the general population with very little friction. 

To serve the masses, everyone is unbundling services. Apple appears to be headed in the opposite direction – doubling down on their closed system to create additional value. They are probably the only company that could pull this off but it won’t come easy. Android adoption is exploding on a global scale. Battery life is a constant concern. Most importantly, mobile payments require the highest levels of security.

Apple not only has to successfully protect an individual’s payment information, they must also gain the user’s trust. Credit cards are commonplace in North America but rare in countries like Indonesia. These emerging markets struggle with adoption because of the fear of fraud or the general distrust in banks or governments. With iWatch, it will take majority of people a long time to comfortably walk around with their financial details strapped to their wrist.

The deck is stacked against Apple. This won’t be new territory for them. I’m excited for the announcements. I’m just not holding my breath while they try to find success….

The Coolest Emoji In The Room

Communication and location are two staple elements of recent successful technology products. Steven, the new mobile app from Abdur Chowdhury, Twitter’s former Chief Scientist, automatically converts your life to emoji. The product shares your current location through an emoji-based status update with your network of friends. I’ve only been using it for two days but I’ve enjoyed how simple and fun the experience is. 

Many apps struggle to retain users over a long period of time due to decreased engagement. These apps typically require numerous actions before the user receives value. High-friction moments (navigate to the app, wait for the cold-start, multiple clicks to get value, etc) eventually wear the user out and churn becomes inevitable. 

Steven is interesting because it provides multiple levels of functionality. Users can let Steven do all the work – update your status with an emoji based on your current location (ex: A coffee shop is represented by a coffee cup). If they want to be more involved, these same people can share photos from each location or spend time scrolling through their friend’s past location updates. 

Most emoji-based social networks have appeared to be dumb and/or gimmicky. Something about Steven has caught my attention but I can’t seem to pinpoint it. It could be the playful nature, the passive functionality, or ease of use. Either way, I wouldn’t sleep on the emoji vertical. There is a large appetite from consumers, which means that one team will eventually capture the market with a solid product and excellent execution. At least Steven’s got a chance.

If you know of any other emoji apps that are interesting, leave a comment or tweet me.

Wearable Technology Is Not The Future

Photo by Sen Cheng

Photo by Sen Cheng

 

Wearable technology has been a hot topic among tech circles for the last five to ten years. It seems like every year a new device is introduced that will change the way humans do something. Predicted changes have included the way we measure our actions (quantified-self movement) to the way we interact with screens and computers (Google Glass). 

There has yet to be a device that captures the mainstream population. My hypothesis is that the wearables industry will ultimately under-deliver on the hype. It is extremely hard for a company to do both hardware and software at scale. Many of the devices I’ve personally tested have failed in one of four areas: 1) Extremely limited functionality 2) Poor hardware design 3) Doesn’t solve a real problem 4) Requires too much input from the user.

With that in mind, I am bullish on the embeddable tech industry. It will be commonplace within the next twenty years to have a piece of hardware embedded in your body for a multitude of reasons. These seemingly intrusive pieces of tech have the advantage of learning from the wearable’s market failures, while solving big problems for real people. This can be seen in a number of recent innovations like Google X’s glucose-monitoring contact lens, the pregnancy prevention product NuvaRing, or DARPA’s tiny implants that treat diseases and depression.

The overall potential impact and adoption of embeddable tech seems to be much higher than wearables. Wayne Gretzky said it best when he said “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Personally, I can’t wait for the trends to shift – many people will have a much higher quality of life as a result. 

The Value of Leadership

healthcare-fail

I recently read an article about the resurgence and recovery of Heathcare.gov. It is long but I highly suggest you make the time to look it over.

Steven Brill’s piece highlighted how shocked the President and his administration were when the website broke, while also providing in-depth coverage of the actions that were taken to save it.

The number one thing that stood out was the lack of leadership leading up to the launch of the initial failed product. Nobody was completely in charge. Nobody was there to fill in the gaps or rally the troops when necessary. Some may say this is a product of government contracting but it is more likely the product of bad leadership.

The President and his administration brought in some of the best tech minds to identify and fix the problems. This team was led by Todd Park (White House CTO) and full of leaders at Google, Twitter, and other tech giants. After reading the story, it becomes apparent that Park and others exhibited a no-nonsense style of leadership that drove the team to accomplish great work in a ridiculously short amount of time.

Leadership is an acquired trait. The effect it can have on teams, projects, and results is mind-blowing. Take time to learn from the best. Study what works and what doesn’t work. Develop your own style. Most importantly, never fall victim to the fear of failure that comes when you step up to lead a group of people.

Technology is great but humans are the most important asset you have. Lead them to accomplish the impossible.

The Rise of Mobile Gaming

The figures never lie, and according to some recent research, mobile games are on the up! With tons of high growth and large exits in the space, more and more attention is being brought to the world of whales.

The modern smartphone can be attributed for much of this evolution. Every year the phones are getting faster and faster, which increases usage dramatically. All of this has led to the “boom” in online gaming at sites like Gaming Club ( http://www.gamingclub.com/au/online-roulette).

Take a look at this infographic and let me know what you think!

jackpot

Google, Nest, and the Connected Home

google-nest

The tech industry is buzzing with interest and excitement over the recent announcement that Google will acquire Nest for $3.2 billion. At first glance many people are unsure of the fit between the two companies. There are also plenty of people who are worried about Google’s newfound access to even more personal data.

This deal is an overall positive in my opinion. The most interesting trend is that hardware is making a resurgence. So many people have claimed that “Software is eating the world” but there is still plenty of disruption left in hardware. If Google is out buying this product companies, I expect to see more and more of them popping up.

The second trend is that Google is entering the smart home space. Most people have identified home automation and energy conservation as a large area for innovation. The running joke is that every entrepreneur who has a huge exit eventually tries to build a home automation system! It goes without saying that having large, impactful players like Google involved only improves the likelihood of progress.

The last trend is really just a huge win for Google. Tony Fadell was the man behind numerous iterations of the iPod and iPhone (with Jonathan Ive). The Nest team is packed full of former Apple engineers and product managers. Adding these magicians to the Google family will prove to be extremely beneficial in the future as more hardware innovation is sought.

Overall this deal is exciting and may prove to be the deal of 2014 (a bit early to tell obviously). The real impact won’t be known for a decade or so but I’m never one to bet against Google, Nest, or the Connected Home.

 

Photo: technobuffalo.com