Getaround is a car sharing service like Zipcar, except that it uses people's private vehicles instead of a fleet. It's a bit like AirBnB for cars. Getaround is part of the "collaborative consumption" movement, which believes that if we could share things we don't use most of the time it would be better for us in a lot of ways. Sharing cars means less cars on the road, which means less pollution, and generally less "stuff."
I'd never used Getaround and a few weeks ago I was trying to figure out why. I pinged Jessica, one of the founders, and told her that what I'd realized was that I didn't want to have to go to someone's house and "borrow" their car. The thought of actually interacting with the owner of a car was awkward enough that it had kept me from trying the service.
Jessica told me about a new type of rental they now have called "Instant," where I can use the Getaround mobile app to rent a car instantly and unlock it with my phone, meaning I wouldn't have to meet the owner or wait for approval. (This dovetails really well into my recent blogs about the power of mobile and apps to transform businesses, and how Fortune 1000 CEOs are going to get fired for missing it.) Getaround Instant was exactly what I was looking for, so my brother-in-law Dal and I decided to give it a try.
I had a few hiccups that Getaround is still working through (for example, Getaround verifies a driver's driving history with the DMV in real-time, and since my last name has a hyphen in it, but the DMV doesn't account for hyphens, my rental request initially broke Getaround's booking system. But both Jessica and Matt were very proactive at resolving these speed bumps). Overall the process was incredibly smooth:
Achieving strong product/market fit as a startup is arguably the most important thing a startup needs to get right, as early on as possible. One big barrier to doing that successfully is often finding customers that care enough about what the startup is doing to spend time helping the startup optimize its products for the customer's needs.
This gets especially hard with the Fortune 1000. Startups and behemoth companies couldn't be more different -- like oil and water. A startup lives in dog years, a large corporation in glacial years. Not only that, but corporations have to protect their existing revenue streams, which usually happens with a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. But therein lies a dilemma: A profitable business today may become irrelevant tomorrow. History is littered with mega companies that failed to adapt: Kodak, Blackberry and Nokia, to name a few. Even the obscenely profitable Microsoft just axed its CEO for missing innovation in mobile.
So how does a big company spur innovation while not jeopardizing its existing business? Time Warner came up with an innovative program called Media Camp. Big props to Balaji Gopinath, the VP of Emerging Technology for Turner, for originally championing this concept at Turner Broadcasting.
My startup, Socialize, went through Media Camp at Turner last year, and we also participated in a Warner Bros TV program called the Brand Innovation (a big thank-you to our investor Chris Redlitz for turning us on to that one). These experiences allowed us to get an investment from Time Warner as well as sign a commercial agreement with them. That was invaluable to us as a startup, but it's also given Time Warner the ability to become very forward-thinking around social & mobile. It's truly been a symbiotic relationship.
CEOs are busy. It's easy to be distracted with competing priorities coming from all directions. But there's one darkhorse mega-trend that I believe will catch many CEOs by surprise, and even cause some of them be fired by their boards for missing it: The Mobile Crush.
Two years ago, I did an in-depth screencast describing why I believed mobile would be way bigger than most people realize. And now the crush is starting in earnest.
There's a great quote by Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga in an article today by the New York Times:
I get so many entrepreneurs telling me that their product isn't ready to be launched. While you definitely have to have something to launch, you almost surely don't need something as good as you think.
As a reminder, here's what the Amazon.com site looked like when it launched:
You might say, "but that was a long time ago. the world has changed." Oh yeah? Here's what Twitter's site looked like in 2006 when it launched:
I just read this post about how the startup Level Up has raised $41MM but may now be running out of cash, and according to the article is down to half its previous employee count. It got me thinking about a big mistake I see startups make, which is over-extending before finding true product/market fit.
I was well aware of this danger at Socialize, and we still made that mistake. At one point in early 2012, we were up to 16 employees. When we sold to ShareThis, we were down to six. It's not that six employees was too few -- it was exactly the right number and type of employees for the stage of our company -- it's that sixteen was way too many. We didn't absolutely need that many people to build and sell our product, even though we felt at the time that we did. The six employees that ended up forming the core of our company in the year before we sold it were all very key employees and are incredibly productive, and that's what we needed to find product/market fit.
So if a CEO is acutely aware of the issue and still falls into the trap, I can't imagine what the siren call of rapid expansion does to CEOs who aren't watching out for it. But it is possible to get around it: On the opposite side of the spectrum you see companies like instagram that sold for $1 billion with just a dozen employees.
So I've come up with a mental framework to optimize the outcome of a new startup dealing with this issue.
Daniel's Framework For Optimizing Product/Market Fit:
Back in February, I tweeted this out:
About a month later, Google notified me that I'd been accepted into their Glass Explorers program. Late last week, I picked Glass up. In this post I'll tell you what my first 48 hours with Glass have been like, what's been great about it, and why I don't believe Glass is yet ready for general public use.
Here's a video of me showing up at Google HQ to get Glass:
A few weeks ago, Heidi Roizen, a well known venture capitalist with DFJ and longtime entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, called me a cockroach.
Usually, it would be offensive to be branded as a cockroach. But in this case, it was awesome. Heidi's exact quote was this:
So there you have it. Great entrepreneurs are like cockroaches, doing whatever they have to do to survive.
Those of you who know me well know I call myself a "lifehacker" which basically means I hack & use technology to be as efficient as possible. For example, I strongly recommend that those who are in front of computers all day learn to play them like instruments.
I've had people ask me how I use technology to be efficient when I'm in sales mode (which, really, any entrepreneur is most of the time). Here's a screenshot of what my email client looks like, with the tools I rely on below that:
Rapportive: This Gmail Plugin is an absolute necessity for anyone even remotely in a sales type of role. It lets you learn about the person you're emailing with, and connect with them via LinkedIn right from the email client. It also lets you manage their Highrise CRM profile without having to go to Highrise, which is a godsend. I can't recommend Rapportive highly enough.
Boomerang: Lets you schedule email to be sent later, but more importantly, will "boomerang" an email back to your inbox a specified amount of time after you've sent it. It's a great way to have a soft reminder to follow up with someone. You can also have it only boomerang the email back to you if the person you're emailing doesn't respond.
Those of you who know me well know I call myself a "lifehacker" which basically means I hack & use technology to be as efficient as possible. For example, I strongly recommend that those who are in front of computers all day learn to play them like instruments. I've had people ask me how I use technology to be efficient when I'm in sales mode (which, really, any entrepreneur is most of the time). Here's a screenshot of what my email client looks like, with the tools I rely on below that: Rapportive: This Gmail Plugin is an absolute necessity for anyone even remotely in a sales type of role. It lets you learn about the person you're emailing with, and connect with them via LinkedIn right from the email client. It also lets you manage their Highrise CRM profile without having to go to Highrise, which is a godsend. I can't recommend Rapportive highly enough. Boomerang: Lets you schedule email to be sent later, but more importantly, will "boomerang" an email back to your inbox a specified amount of time after you've sent it. It's a great way to have a soft reminder to follow up with someone. You can also have it only boomerang the email back to you if the person you're emailing doesn't respond. I can go into more detail on how I use these services (and especially how I use Rapportive to create tags in Highrise right from the email, which I then export to Mailchimp for monthly marketing newsletter blasts) if you'd like. Just make a comment below asking for whatever detail you'd like me to delve into. If I get enough interest, I'll spend the time to do a more in-depth demo.
Back in January of 2010, my co-founders Sean, Isaac and I created one of the first mobile app creation platforms, AppMakr.
At the time, we had a thriving mobile app consulting business called PointAbout, and we were building high-end (and expensive) apps for large brands. Our team made the iPhone app for The Washington Post and Cars.com. We built the Newsweek iPad app and an iPad app for Disney, along with apps for clients like General Motors, US Army, the Entertainment Software Rating Board and others.
Making custom apps was really expensive -- especially in those early days. We had a dream of democratizing app creation so it was accessible to anyone. From that idea, AppMakr was born.
The day before we launched AppMakr, our team took bets on how many apps would be made in AppMakr's first month. Some people guessed 10, others 100. We had no idea what were about to unleash: In AppMakr's first 3 months, users made many thousands of apps. We had to scramble to support the growth. We even got angry calls from Apple's app review team who were overwhelmed by the number of apps being submitted; that's how our App Quality Index came to be, as a way to turn their frown upside down.
I've moderated and participated on a bunch of panels where the topic was something like "HTML5 vs. Native apps, which will win?" And I've always said that native apps aren't going away, and my co-founder Sean has often pointed out that HTML5 won't be replacing complied apps so long as mobile hardware is changing drastically every 6 months (HTML is a trailing standard that can't keep up with innovation on the hardware side).
But here's the real smoking gun:
The Facebook engineering team, in a blog post, writes, "we realized that when it comes to platforms like iOS, people expect a fast, reliable experience and our iOS app [that was heaving leveraging HTML5] was falling short."
This is really significant. Facebook has a lot of incredibly good reasons not to rebuild its app natively. Facebook doesn't want to be beholden to Apple for its distribution channel and access to its users. Facebook doesn't want to have to create and maintain completely different and incompatible codebases for various distribution channels. Facebook arguably has the very best web engineers on the planet. And yet they've moved away from a heavily dependent HTML5 strategy in mobile.