Apple Watch and the age of glanceability

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Apple execs seemed pretty excited about the new Apple Watch, but there are still plenty of people that think that consumer electronics companies obsession with watches is akin to 3D TVs — chasing innovation for innovations sake. They are likely wrong.

Back at Ambient Devices in 2001 as we were thinking about the future of our products & glanceable computing we used to have a chart that had “real-time need” on one axis and “glanceablility” on the other axis. I thought of that graph today as Apple announced their watch.

A platform is nothing without its core uses, and despite showcasing a plethora of apps it seems they spent a majority of their energy on three uses:

1. Payment, with the announcement of Apple Pay.

2. Health, with applications for both casual users and fitness buffs. Plus light sensors to read heartrate and blood flow.

3. Communication, with a series of innovations to try and push the watch out of “read only” mode. This included added emoji-texting, a new tap/swipe/heartbeat language, and analyzing text in an sms for one click responses.

It’s hard to say which of these, if any, will be killer apps without actually using them, but they all have one thing in common… combining a real-time need that can be solved at a glance.

When skeptics talk about not really needing or wanting a smart watch “because they have their phone” this reminds me of folks who didn’t think they needed a smart phone because they have a laptop. You absolutely could have used Instagram, Uber, Google Maps, and Postmates in a pre-mobile world — in fact their analogs existed in many cases — but the immediacy of the phone and its sensors made mobile phones the perfect instantiation of these ideas. Taking them from merely interesting to truly magical.

Similarly, for applications where seconds matter, context is important, and the problem can be solved at a glance there is a disruptive new platform — your wrist.

As for Apple’s core three applications, I’m probably most excited about the innovation in communication. Payment has the largest potential of course, as grabbing my phone to pay isn’t much better than grabbing my wallet, but Apple Pay relies on NFC and I’m skeptical they will be the one’s to finally crack that particular nut. The health and wellness products are wonderfully designed, but they didn’t really focus on realtime feedback and coaching as much as they probably should to warrant being on your wrist. Meanwhile the communication innovations seem like subtle but potentially important ways to make you feel more connected throughout the day.

Of course, chances are that there are use cases still around the corner that will ultimately be what we love the Apple Watch for. For me Foursquare is one perfect example, where getting a quick tip as I walk into a restaurant is much more compelling than digging into my pocket (it was my favorite Pebble feature when I was using that product). Remembering people’s names is another, and I imagine a Refresh-like app will flourish on the Apple Watch. And there are going to be many more.

Which is all to say that I’m excited that Motorola, Google, Samsung, and now finally Apple are attacking this. All the potential use cases will not be immediately intuitive, but that is what is going to give a whole new generation of startups a fighting chance on a brand new platform.

(thanks to Bijan for being my sounding board on this one. this was originally a rant during our podcast this week, but the audio was lost to a badly timed crash while saving)

Pitching your current investors

It catches many founders by surprise, but one of the hardest pitches to a venture capital firm is actually the pitch to your current investors. My friend Rob Go wrote about this not long ago, but it comes up regularly so I wanted to tackle some successful strategies I’ve seen.

The most common reason founders end up presenting to their current VCs is when raising a new round of capital and looking for pro-rata support. Or perhaps everyone is contemplating an inside round. Other times it is just an update because it has been a while and the business has materially changed.

There are two dynamics at play that cause these conversations to be awkward. 

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Todays show, bijan and I talk about our favorite new iOS apps (timeshel, swell, fobo), the undiscovered potential in the Kinect for Windows announcement, the implications of the Uber round, & a quick recap on WWDC.

As always, please send us your feedback and suggestions for next week’s (ish) show :)

(via bijan)

When you hit your Big Fucking Goal

I was chatting with Jonathan Wegener, CEO of Timehop, last week. Timehop is a product that has always enjoyed almost unbelievably high retention and engagement, but previously struggled to hit hyper growth. After a ton of iteration over the last year suddenly they have started to grow quite quickly - breaking the top 50 in the US iOS Appstore, and the top 10 free overall in the UK. 

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Jonathan and his team have steered the product very well, so you can imagine there were a few congratulations in order. But, partly as a testament to the way Jonathan thinks, we spent a lot less time talking about how good growth is and a lot more about the right way to push going forward.

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Equity as a competitive advantage

Sam Altman wrote a great piece a few days ago on founder equity. He has some excellent points around exercising options and tax treatment structure that deserve more discussion, but I want to talk about the percentage of a company that goes to non-founders. 

Specifically, non-founders should be getting more equity. As Fred said, perhaps the market will slowly adjust to this. But if I were starting a company today, I would use my option pool as a competitive weapon. 

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The unique lessons of Oculus

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The news broke today that Oculus is joining Facebook for $2 billion, and we couldn’t be happier for Palmer, Brendan, Nate, Laird and the amazing crew over at Oculus. These guys are the kind of people, and a mission, that startups are all about. As Santo wrote about, we fell for this company hard from the first moment we saw them.

There will be lots of stories about what this means for Facebook, Oculus, and the world of virtual reality but I think mostly about how this team has executed so incredibly well while carving a very unique path every step of the way. 

These guys are the epitome of a missionary company trying to bring a truly amazing product to the world. That missionary nature has allowed them to ignore much of the standard startup ethos and follow their hearts in several ways that defy convention. 

1. Don’t be afraid to be small - Oculus started as an ambitious hobby project, and they have fought hard to not lose those roots. A lot of startups try to look bigger than they are, but Oculus has taken a different track by just being transparent about their position.

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Hallway Chat #18 with Nabeel Hyatt (@nabeel) and Bijan Sabet (@bijan)

Today’s show: “What does Sony’s entry to VR mean for Oculus? Plus Calendars, Secret, and Reed Hastings latest moves.”

We recorded this show Friday afternoon but finally had a chance to post it today. Please send us your feedback and suggestions on topics  you would like us to cover on our next episode!

(via bijan)

I started out as an actor, where you seek to understand yourself using the words of great writers and collaborating with other creative people. Then I slid into show business, where you seek only an audience’s approval, whether you deserve it or not. I think I want to go back to being an actor now.

Alec Baldwin on ending his public life as an actor, although it could be said about many a startup life. It’s easy to get distracted from what matters when the light is so bright.