#500

Loom, Dropbox, And Space Travel

Loom CEO Jan Senderek, on the news that Dropbox has acquired his company:

We know this is a big deal. This decision was made with great care. We have worked hard on our product and feel that our vision aligns perfectly with Dropbox’s vision for Carousel. Dropbox has invested the past seven years focusing on building a secure home for your files. And now with Carousel comes a home for your photos and videos as well. We share the common goal of crafting a high quality product, always putting users’ needs first. After spending some serious time investigating if this was the right move for us, we realized that Dropbox has solved many problems around scaling infrastructure and at Dropbox the Loom team will be able to focus entirely on building great features with a fantastic user experience. We are enthusiastic about being able to contribute our ground level perspective to help craft a beautiful experience for our users. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to us.

It always reads like bullshit when an investor says that a deal is a great fit. But I’m gonna say it anyway. From their shared Y Combinator DNA to a shared product vision with the just-launched Carousel, Dropbox and Loom seem perfectly aligned. It’s always a bit bittersweet to see a startup sell before fulfilling the original vision they pitched, but in this case, Dropbox really will help them achieve that vision so much faster. 

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Everything In Its Right Place

My quest to write 500 words a day has really gone off the rails recently. It was always an ambitious goal, but I also sort of set it up for failure by not designating a time each day to write. So I found myself scrambling at the end of each and every day to get 500 words up. As I’m finally figuring out with email, everything happens more smoothly if you designate a time to do it and stick with it.

And a place.

The other problem with the 500 word goal was that this site simply didn’t seem like a great place for it. You see, I run this site on Tumblr. And while Tumblr is amazing for many things, it’s not particularly well-suited for longer-form writing. Yes, even just 500 words. The text box that pops open when you set out to do a text post says all you need to know: keep it short.

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I Think Facebook Got A Mike Trout-Like Deal On Oculus

I’ve been asked a number of times to expand on my quick thoughts the other day about the Facebook/Oculus deal. And because we clearly haven’t gotten enough opinions on the matter, why not?

To me, it’s pretty simple. Facebook is taking out an option on the future. And, in my view, it’s a pretty cheap option to boot. In some ways, it’s not unlike the deal the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim or whatever) just signed with Mike Trout.1

Yes, $2 billion is a lot of money. But it’s also roughly 1/8th of what Facebook just spent on WhatsApp. And it’s roughly 2x what the company spent on Instagram — and that has turned out pretty well so far. One of the better deals this decade, perhaps.2

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52 Days

A few tweets of mine today about Microsoft releasing Office for iPad seem to have people up-in-arms. So allow me to clarify.

First, I do think this is an important moment. Not for me, personally, because I still won’t use Office — haven’t in years — but for millions of other people who do and want to use it on their own terms, on their own devices. More importantly, this is important for Microsoft. It’s a grand gesture to suggest they’re finally taking their head out of the sand it has been in for the better part of a decade.

"But, but, but, Microsoft clearly didn’t make Office in 52 days!," they whine. No shit. I’m not saying that Satya Nadella has been the one man hand-coding Office for iPad with both hands tied behind his back for the past 52 days. I’m saying it takes balls for Microsoft to even release Office for iPad at all. Especially now.

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Turning On The Lights

Earlier today, Rumr, a new pseudo-anonymous messaging app (backed by a group of folks including Google Ventures) unveiled itself to the world (well, technically just the U.S. for now). Given how hot the broader space currently is — actually, both “anonymish” and messaging services — the launch garnered quite a bit of coverage.

The most extensive article was by Natasha Lomas, while Ellis Hamburger was kind enough to quote me on a couple things. Much as I did with the Secret launch, I figured I’d paste my full quote to Ellis in context below:

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SXSW Year 7

2008 was my first year in Austin. The year of the Zuckerberg interview. I knew basically no one in tech. And even fewer people knew me. I had just started working for VentureBeat. My badge, which I had bought before starting the job with VentureBeat, said I worked for ParisLemon.com.

Seven years is not a lot of time in SXSW-years — I know plenty of people who have been going for twice as long as that (and many more who have gone even longer). But it is enough time to have some perspective on the event — at least as it has existed in the “social, local, mobile” (I refuse to use that forced acronym) world. So here are some thoughts having just left SXSW 2014.

The entire thing feels muted. I don’t necessarily mean this in a bad way. It’s not like I’m saying “SXSW sucks!”, I’m just saying it doesn’t feel like it has the same energy that it did even in 2008.

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Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

I’ve written before about the importance of “the first app you open in the morning”. But the truth is that there are about a half dozen apps that I check each and every morning. The first, currently Twitter, is the most important to me. But the other in that gang of six, all have the potential to displace the first one depending on the day.

I knew Secret was on to something special when it entered this gang of six.

Of course, I am but one person. The more telling sign that Secret was on to something was the fact that basically every person I talk to who has used the app has said or implied the same thing: the app is a must-check, and it’s incredibly sticky. And that includes people who say they hate Secret, by the way. I have this sneaking suspicion that those who “hate” the app, check it even more often than those who claim to love it.

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The Cutting Up Of Content

Regular readers will know my fascination with True Detective. It’s not just that it’s a great television show; it’s great content, period. I think it stacks up against the best films in the genre that I’ve seen.1 And, in fact, in some ways it’s better because it’s essentially a seven hour film, broken up into more easily digestible pieces.

That last part is the key. True Detective as a seven hour film would be just as amazing as the television show is, but it would be very hard to watch. Attention spans aside, it’s hard to sit through anything for seven hours straight. The genius of True Detective is using the traditional television format of “episodes” to break up the content into easier-to-consume pieces. The sum of those parts is equal to — or perhaps even greater than — the whole if it were one continuous entity.

Of course, none of this is particularly new. But the difference in my mind is that the television content is now equalling — or even surpassing — that of film. House of Cards. Game of Thrones. Etc.2 These are like great films, cut up, and extended. The format isn’t new. But the end result is.

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"Back to the Brick"

"The company almost collapsed … having drifted for years, diversifying into too many areas, producing too many products…"

A newly appointed leader comes in an “decreed that the company must go ‘back to the brick’: focusing on its core products, forgetting about brand-stretching…”

He also imposed “stricter management controls, for example reducing the number of different” products…

"But at the same time it must resist the sort of undisciplined innovation that almost ruined it."

"Can the company continue its winning streak? Its growth is slowing: its net profits grew by 9% in 2013 compared with 35% in 2012, and its revenues rose by 10% compared with 23% in 2012"

"When the company is getting bigger and the market isn’t growing, it’s a pure mathematical consequence that growth rates will have to reach a more sustainable level."

"…Relatively late in making its China play—jumping in when some other western firms are jumping out with nothing but regrets to show for it."

If I made you guess which company the quotes above are about, I assume you’d pick Apple. And understandably so. But you’d be wrong.

It’s actually Lego.

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Oscars, The Grouch

I hate almost all awards shows.1 The one exception has always been the Academy Awards.

I’ve watched the Oscars every year for as long as I can remember. To those who know me as a movie buff, this shouldn’t be surprising. Still, I can’t stand the Golden Globes or that various other pageants you can find on random television stations during awards season. But the Academy Awards always seemed special to me. Beyond reproach.

But I fear I’m starting to lose that loving feeling.

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A New Glue For A New Kingdom

To me, the most exciting part of the Facebook/WhatsApp deal has nothing to do with the deal itself. Instead, I’m excited about the ramifications of such a deal. And I’m not talking about Facebook or WhatsApp here either. History will ultimately prove that deal genius or folly. But more importantly, I know that a deal like this has other people talking, thinking, and building.

The last group is key, but let me start with the first group. Once the fervor around the deal itself died down, we got a couple of compelling posts from the likes of Benedict Evans and riffing on it, John Lilly. Incidentally, both are now VCs. But neither started out that way, and both have long histories of solid thinking and writing.

Both understand that the Facebook/WhatsApp deal is simply the strongest signal yet that we’ve fully entered a new age in the world of computing where mobile is now the kingdom. And the $19 billion price tag simply shows that there isn’t yet a king.

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The Focus On And Of WhatsApp

This morning I had a meeting with a couple entrepreneurs whose company was recently acquired. It was just a general catch up session, no real agenda. Still, it seemed quite random when a good third of our conversation was spent talking about WhatsApp and its incredible penetration in India.

Why was this growth happening? The consensus was: focus. On what they’re good at. On what their users want. On what ultimately matters.

A couple hours later, what at the time seemed a random conversation turned almost a little spooky when it was announced that Facebook would be acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion and change.

I’m not going to spend time breaking down this extraordinary deal as I know no more about it than what I’ve read. But what I do find fascinating is what’s becoming clear from those closest to the company: in an age of pomp and circumstance around all things startups, the team behind WhatsApp was all about keeping their heads down, focusing on product, and avoiding bullshit at all costs.

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