#on

Albumatic, At Last

Everyone now has a camera in their pocket at all times. That camera is connected to the internet at all times. That camera is capable of being utilized by hundreds of thousands of apps. Those apps all have social graphs that allow you to connect with other internet-connected camera-carrying friends. It’s almost inexplicable that there isn’t a killer social photo album service yet.

And yet, despite many (many, many, many, many) failed attempts, there isn’t. So perhaps I’ll sound foolish thinking that Albumatic is going to be the one. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t feel like it is.

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On The Vine

One of the reasons I got into the investing side of things was Instagram. Over the years as a writer, I had “zeroed in” on many companies that would go on to become hot properties from an investment perspective (Twitter, Foursquare, Square, Quora, etc). But Instagram was something I had watched from its inception (when it was still Burbn), and for various reasons knew it had that potential to be the next big thing.

A little over a year into investing, there are several companies I have such hopes for (CrunchFund probably wouldn’t invest if we didn’t!), but one that stuck out in particular in the past year was Vine.

Vine, as you know, was recently launched by Twitter as their new stand-alone video application for iOS. What a lot of people don’t know (or have forgotten) is that it was a startup before it was a part of Twitter. That’s easy to forgive since the entrepreneurs decided to sell before they actually shipped a product (which, as you might imagine, is bittersweet).

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Compromise

I’ve finally read through most of the Surface Pro reviewsnot surprisingly, Microsoft did not send me one (though I did briefly play with a couple last week). What’s hilarious — and already pointed out by John Gruber — is that nearly every single review goes on and on about how the Surface Pro is a product full of frustrating compromises. This is in stark contrast to Microsoft’s statements while building Windows 8 that it would be all about “no compromises”.

I mean, just read Joanna Stern’s ABC News title for chrissakes: Microsoft Surface Pro Review: A Tablet/Laptop Hybrid With Compromises.

It’s almost as if Microsoft time traveled a few months ago to read today’s reviews for the Surface Pro, then went back to try to brainwash everyone with the opposite rhetoric — only to have it backfire miserably. I mean, it’s really amazing how nearly every reviewer came to exact opposite conclusion of Steven Sinofsky’s “no compromises”.

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Civil Fucking Conversations, Finally

It’s hard to say what I hate worse: the disjointed nature of trying to have a conversation on Twitter, or blog comments. Actually, no it’s not. It’s clearly blog comments. They are quite possibly the worst and most useless thing on the internet. But both of the aforementioned things are the reasons I love Branch.

I first wrote about Branch almost a year ago, when they were just getting started. CrunchFund subsequently got involved in an advisory role to the company because they were trying to do the impossible: create a civil, smart place on the internet for discourse. Today, they’re officially launching out of private beta and into the public.

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Under The Influence Of Klout

As an outsider, my view of Klout has mainly been a bit of fascination about why it pisses some people off so much. I’ve been in conversations where it gets brought up and someone will visibly cringe. As best I can tell, at a fundamental level, it boils down to this:

People don’t like to be ranked — unless they have a high ranking. But if the ranking is too high, it’s better to pretend like you don’t like that ranking so as not to piss off the people below you who have helped give you such a high ranking. In other words, people are pissed off at the bottom *and* at the top of the scale. A rock and a hard place.

This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that this is the internet. The great unifier. Here, everyone can truly be equal. Except that’s not really true.

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Stamped: Is It Worthy?

When I first met the Stamped team in mid-2011, I got excited. They were finally throwing away the notion of the 5-star rating system in favor of something much more natural: if you like something, say so. If not, do nothing. It was an app built solely so you could give your “stamp of approval” to things in the real world. Simple. Brilliant.

I wrote up a preview in September of that year, and a few weeks later, the app launched. And while the app got a lot of kudos at launch (most praised its looks and simplicity), it had a big problem: it simply wasn’t sticky enough. Users would stamp things, but have no true reason to go back to the app. So the team went back to the drawing board.

The result, is Stamped 2.0, which launched a couple days ago. It’s a complete re-write of the app, while keeping the same fundamental idea intact: if you like something, stamp it. But the scope has been expanded quite a bit. And they’ve made the app useful on a continual basis, while loading it up with some impressive new UX/UI elements.

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Thoughts On The Latest Chromebook And The State Of Chrome OS

I’ve watched Chrome with much interest over the years. While lately I’ve been generally harsh on a number of Google products, there’s still no doubt in my mind that when it comes to the browser — at least on the desktop — Google is winning. That’s a big part of why Chrome OS fascinates me.

Chrome OS is Google taking their best product and broadening its reach. The aim isn’t just to erase the stain that is Internet Explorer (which sure seems to be working), it’s to go after one of Microsoft’s legs: Windows. So far, it doesn’t appear to be working.

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Sales Versus Surveys

When comScore released their latest U.S. smartphone market share numbers earlier today, I was a bit confused. According to comScore, Google (Android) usage surpassed 51% last quarter. Apple (iPhone) meanwhile, was at 30.7%. Those numbers alone aren’t necessarily surprising, comScore measures overall market usage, not just new sales and Android devices (as a whole) had been outselling iPhones for much of the last couple years.

But something happened last quarter. On the nation’s two largest carriers, Verizon and AT&T, the iPhone actually outsold all Android devices — combined. The nation’s third-largest carrier, Sprint, did not give a number for total smartphones sold last quarter. But they did disclose that they sold 1.5 million iPhones, which was higher than expected. Given the numbers, it sure seems like the iPhone is the majority of their smartphone sales as well — maybe by a lot — but it’s hard to know for sure. Yet, according to comScore’s numbers, Android market share rose 3.7% versus 1.1% for the iPhone.

This leaves two distinct possibilities.

First, that T-Mobile and regional carriers (which don’t offer the iPhone) more than made of the difference between Android and iPhone sales at the big guys. Eric Slivka of MacRumors notes there are around 70 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. without access to the iPhone, so it may be possible. That assumes that basically all of those people chose Android devices, but that’s also possible given the shrinking market share of Microsoft and RIM.

Second, that comScore’s method of measuring smartphone market share is flawed.

It certainly could be the case that the first scenario is correct, but it just doesn’t feel right. I’ll concede that the people without access to the iPhone could have offset the iPhone dominating Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, but enough for Android to see nearly 4x the growth rate of the iPhone? That seems suspect.

Then consider the numbers from NPD. As a rival to comScore, NPD has their own methods for gathering smartphone market share. In their most recent report, they had Android controlling 48% of the U.S. smartphone market versus 43% for iPhone in Q4 of last year. In the same span, comScore had Android at 47.3% and the iPhone at 29.6%. 

Forget the actual numbers, focus on the differences in the numbers. It’s pretty clear that the methods these firms are using to measure smartphone usage aren’t an exact science.

Digging deeper, you’ll find that the way comScore gets its numbers is through a service they call MobiLens. How is MobiLens calculated?

MobiLens data is derived from an intelligent online survey of a nationally representative sample of mobile subscribers age 13 and older. Data on mobile phone usage refers to a respondent’s primary mobile phone and does not include data related to a respondent’s secondary device.

A survey. 

So on one hand, we have actual, verified and legally reported public data from the three largest U.S. carriers. On the other hand, we have a survey. 

I’m not denying that Android still has the larger overall market share in the U.S. I’m just disputing comScore’s stats that it’s still growing faster then the iPhone. 

Regardless, one thing is very clear: when the iPhone is available on a carrier, it dominates. This is backed up by cold hard sales numbers, not surveys. If Android is still “winning” in some segments of the market in the U.S., it’s only because Apple is allowing it to. 

Update: comScore has written to clarify things a bit. It turns out their numbers do show iPhone subscriber growth outpacing Android on the “Big 3” carriers (13% vs. 11% from December to March). But the overall growth Android saw came mainly from other carriers (T-Mobile and regionals) where Android is dominating.

Fair enough. This reinforces the last point: that Android is dominating the areas where the iPhone isn’t competing. Yet.

"Silicon Valley’s math is getting fuzzy again."

In my last post, I linked to something that First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman wrote in 2007. His post was prompted by — wait for it — a New York Times piece declaring that “Silicon Valley’s math is getting fuzzy again.” We were in a BUBBLE! Ahhhhh!!!!

Reading over that post now, it’s pretty awesome.

As Brad Stone and Matt Richtel reported in October of 2007:

Internet companies with funny names, little revenue and few customers are commanding high prices. And investors, having seemingly forgotten the pain of the first dot-com bust, are displaying symptoms of the disorder known as irrational exuberance.

No, that wasn’t written yesterday — but it sure reads like it was.

"Bubble" proof point #1 from 2007:

Consider Facebook, the popular but financially unproven social network, which is reportedly being valued by investors at up to $15 billion. That is nearly half the value of Yahoo, a company with 38 times the number of employees and, based on estimates of Facebook’s income, 32 times the revenue.

Oh that silly little Facebook with its insane $15 billion valuation. 

The company is now weeks away from going public with a market value of around $100 billion. Yahoo, meanwhile, it now worth just under $19 billion. And they’re currently suing Facebook like chickenshits who realize their time is at an end

Facebook’s revenue is now past a billion a quarter. Yahoo’s revenue last quarter was about $1.2 billion. Profit for the two companies is about the same. What a difference a few years makes…

"Bubble" proof point #2 from 2007:

Google, which recently surged past $600 a share, is now worth more than I.B.M., a company with eight times the revenue.

Google still happens to be right around $600 a share. It’s now worth just under $200 billion. IBM? $239 billion. Guess what? The market corrected itself. 

But — Google has closed the gap with regard to revenue. Google’s revenue is now just about half of IBM’s on a quarterly basis. And IBM’s revenue is flat while Google’s is still growing.

Crazy, I know. Such a bubble.

"Bubble" proof point #3 from 2007:

More broadly, Internet start-ups are drawing investment based on their ability to build an audience, not bring in revenue — the very alchemy that many say led to the inflation and bursting of the dot-com bubble.

Again, that sounds like it was written yesterday. Either no startup has brought in any revenues in the past 5 years, or it’s extremely silly to imply that young companies will never bring in revenue because they’re not today. You decide.

"Bubble" proof point #4 from 2007 — a quote:

“There’s definitely a lot of betting going on, and it’s not rational,” said Tim O’Reilly, a technology conference promoter and book publisher.

I’d — wait for it — bet that a lot of investors from back then would disagree. And that’s even when you include the broader economic collapse which had absolutely nothing to do with the tech scene.

"Bubble" proof point #5 from 2007:

Putting a value on start-ups has always been a mix of science and speculation. But as in the first dot-com boom and the recent surge in housing, seasoned financial professionals are seeming to indulge in some strange instinct to turn away from the science and lean instead on the speculation.

Major bonus points for calling the housing crisis what it was, but point deduction for equating the 2007 boom times with the dot-com bust and the housing collapse. Not. At. All. The. Same.

"Bubble" proof point #6 from 2007:

“The environmental factors are much different than they were eight years ago,” said Roelof Botha, a partner at Sequoia Capital and an early backer of YouTube. “The cost of doing business has declined dramatically, and traditional media companies have also woken up to the opportunities of the Web.

“That does open up the aperture for a different outcome this time,” he said.

Wait a minute, not actually a “bubble” proof point at all! A voice of reason! There may just be a reason why Botha is one of the best in the business. Perhaps he should write the next “bubble” post for The New York Times.

"Bubble" proof point #7 from 2007:

Some trace the start of the new bubble to eBay’s $3.1 billion acquisition of the Internet telephone start-up Skype in 2005. EBay’s chief executive, Meg Whitman, reportedly outbid Google for the company. This month, eBay conceded it had grossly overpaid for Skype by about $1.43 billion, and announced that Niklas Zennstrom, a Skype co-founder, had left the company.

Not a sign of a bubble, just simply a shitty deal. Big difference.

And wait, didn’t Microsoft just buy that same company last year for $8.5 billion? Yup. Some will use that as a sign that we’re actually in a “mega bubble” now, I’m sure.

"Bubble" proof point #8 from 2007:

Google’s acquisition of YouTube last year for $1.65 billion, under similarly competitive bidding, might have accelerated the transition to loftier values. Google executives and many analysts argued that YouTube was well worth the price tag if it became the next entertainment juggernaut.

It has. And it’s now a good business for Google. That didn’t stop one analyst cited in the piece from saying “We are almost going back to year 2000 types of errors.”

Right.

"Bubble" proof point #9 from 2007:

Twitter, a company in San Francisco that lets users alert friends to what they are doing at any given moment over their mobile phones, recently raised an undisclosed amount of financing. Its co-founder and creative director, Biz Stone, says that the company was not currently focused on making money and that no one in the company was even working on how to do so.

This will be used as another proof point that we’re now in some sort of “hyper bubble”. But Twitter is likely to see something in the neighborhood of $400 million in revenue in 2012. Not Facebook revenue. Not massive. But not nothing. And growing.

Need I go on? Other examples from the article include Geni (which is still around, and paved the way for Yammer, a CrunchFund portfolio company which appears to be doing quite well). And Ning, which ended up selling for around $200 million — right around its perceived (and implied crazy) valuation at the time of the NYT story. Not bad for a “bubble” company.

But here was the most interesting passage from the 2007 story:

Mr. O’Kelley, formerly of Right Media, said other entrepreneurs had begun to think that the financing game is best played by avoiding actual revenues — since that only limits the imagination of investors. “It’s a screwed-up incentive structure, just like you had in the first bubble,” he said.

Compare that with:

“It serves the interest of the investors who can come up with whatever valuation they want when there are no revenues,” explained Paul Kedrosky, a venture investor and entrepreneur. “Once there is no revenue, there is no science, and it all just becomes finger in the wind valuations.”

We’re not just recycling the “bubble” talk, we’re recycling the key arguments behind all of the talk. The dangerous thing here is the implications that the same behavior that led to the 1999 actual bubble is happening all over again. It’s not.

It wasn’t in 2004. It wasn’t in 2005. It wasn’t in 2006. It wasn’t in 2007. It wasn’t in 2008. It wasn’t in 2009. It wasn’t in 2010. It wasn’t in 2011. And it’s not now.

Sometimes it takes — gasp — time to nail a business model. Some startups (and an increasing number, I’d say) focus on this from day one, some don’t. Some take the Google route. Or the Facebook route. And those routes appear to be working out just fine despite what a certain fear-mongering post from 2007 would have had you believe.

Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight doesn’t have to be as blind as a bat. Again. And Again. And Again.

Do The Right Thing

Twitter’s decision to implement the Innovator’s Patent Agreement could not have been an easy one. While it’s refreshingly straightforward and an obvious crowd-pleaser, it potentially puts the company in a bit of a vulnerable position. What if no one else adopts the policy? They’ll stand alone with their pants partially down.

While I haven’t yet talked to anyone at the company about the decision, my sense is that they made the call using a simple principle: do the right thing.

While obvious, it seems that companies are rarely guided by simply doing the right thing. Legal departments get in the way. Or investors get in the way. Someone gets in the way. What’s right isn’t often what’s “smart”. And that’s a problem on multiple fronts.

When I tweeted about the upsides of this decision earlier, many people were quick to point out some of the practical problems. What struck me is how all the problems mentioned were derivatives of fear. Fear of others. Fear of change. Fear of dying.

The number one reason not to implement the IPA seems to be the fear that one day things could turn south and then your patent portfolio becomes your main asset — either as a commodity for sale (see: Aol) or as a weapon (see: Yahoo). 

That is such a losing mentality. I’d bet any company not willing to implement something like the IPA due to those thoughts is more likely to fail. Failure is quite literally on their minds!

With the IPA, Twitter is taking the opposite stance. They’re betting that rather than having the fallback option to sell their patents at the highest possible price or suing others with them, they’re going to continue to win. And they’re going to continue to innovate.

And if things go wrong, they’ll go down with grace, not with the cowardice that Yahoo is currently showing. But again, things are less likely to go wrong because they’re not busy dwelling on things going wrong.

I think Twitter will find that doing the right thing will pay dividends. It’s hard to imagine a better tool for recruitment in this day and age. True innovators can do what they do best at Twitter without fear that their work will be misappropriated in the future. And in an age of growing concern about the power and intentions of Google, Facebook, and Apple, the broader startup space will look more favorably upon Twitter.

This, of course, isn’t the end of software patents. But it is a practical solution to a problem that was quickly spiraling out of control. 

After the initial high-fiving is done today, the cynics will come out and say this was purely a marketing maneuver. Or that it actually won’t change anything. But that talk is a disservice to what Twitter has actually done here. They’ve gone out on a ledge that others haven’t been willing to go out on — and that some never will.

They’re doing the right thing, which isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds.

Google’s Non-Split Stock Split

The key aspect of Google’s earnings yesterday was the don’t-call-it-a-stock-split stock split. I say “don’t-call-it-a-stock-split” because it technically wasn’t one, but it was effectively one. There will now be double the number of Google shares outstanding. It’s just that the shares won’t all be equal. Half of them will be of a different type of class, which is important when it comes to company governance. Those shares will carry no voting power.

I’m not going to pretend to understand all of the intricacies here. But I think Felix Salmon has the most interesting take on the news. He flat-out calls the maneuver evil.

He notes that for much of the 20th century, dual-class voting shares were illegal. And even when they came back in 1986, the idea was to have protections in place. The majority of independent shareholders (so, non-management and non-directors) were supposed to approve such a move.

But Google didn’t see to that. Instead, they appointed a small committee of independent directors (so, just those that don’t actually work at Google) to make the call on the proposal. And because that committee approved it, it will now go before all the shareholders for a vote in June. And, notably, that vote will include Google’s management.

As Google itself notes:

Given that Larry, Sergey, and Eric control the majority of voting power and support this proposal, we expect it to pass.

No shit.

And it’s worth noting that it still took Google’s own self-appointed committee of their own board members 15 months to make that call on this proposal.

Why did it take so long? Probably because they knew the decision would be controversial. And why is it controversial? Because it perverts the intent of the concept to the point that it’s still not clear that Google should be doing it.

So why bother with all of this and risk looking bad as a result? Because Google’s management wants to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be able to bring in new recruits and retain top employees with the glittering lure of stock options. But they want to issue them without diluting their own shares, and as such, their control of the company.

But as Salmon notes:

It’s worth putting this theoretical fear in perspective. Common shareholders currently have just 32.6% of the voting stock at Google, with Larry and Sergei Sergey between them controlling 57.7%. If Google doubled the number of common shares outstanding, the Troika still wouldn’t lose control. And in any case, as Steve Jobs has shown, you don’t need control of the stock to have complete control of the company.

The majority of Steve Jobs’ wealth did not come from Apple stock. It came from Disney stock, which he got after the sale of Pixar. Jobs actually owned a relatively small percentage of Apple when compared to other company founders. (Which is because he sold all but one share when he was booted from the company in the 80s and was only granted new options over time when he came back.) Despite this relatively “weak” position, Jobs was clearly in full control of Apple. 

But the Google guys must be looking at Facebook about to go public and seeing how much control Mark Zuckerberg will retain even after the IPO. He planned better. With seemingly every move Google makes now increasingly criticized from the outside, the thought of losing control of the company must scare the crap out of everyone there.

I think that fear is fair. And I think Google will be in a better position to avoid the pitfalls that larger companies often fall into if the founders can retain voting control. Not everyone is Steve Jobs.

The problem is the way Google is ensuring that the founders maintain this control. It sure seems shady, if not exactly “evil”.

But perhaps that’s appropriate given many of Google’s maneuvers over the past few years. The refrain is often the same. Shady, if not exactly “evil”. 

Rethinking Smaller, Smarter Social — Then Rethinking It Again

Back in October of last year, I wrote about one of our early CrunchFund portfolio companies, Everyme. At the time, they were rethinking social networking through the lens of the original digital social network: your mobile phone address book.

They put an app out there and a lot of people were testing it, sending feedback. That’s when the team had a realization: they were onto something, but they weren’t quite there. So they went back to the drawing board and rethought their rethinking of social. The result is the Everyme app launching today.

Address book information is still key, but it’s no longer about recreating your address book to make it social. It’s now about using the connections in there to create small, private networks — called yes, Circles. By syncing your address book information with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, Everyme can automatically cluster people together and populate some key Circles for you. Your hometown, your college, your current city, your work, etc.

This is similar in concept to what Google does with Google+ Circles, but the key is that most users won’t have to set up their own. And managing them is much simpler. The concept of Google+ Circles is right, but no one is going to manage them. No one does. It’s flawed.

With Everyme, the idea is to keep the Circles very small. And again, private. There are no options to share things to Twitter and Facebook — this is on purpose.

Everyme Circles are actually closer to Facebook’s Smart Lists, which the social network also populates for you based on relationships. But for many people, Facebook has become too large. It’s a network about sharing as broadly as possible for many now. Everyme is about the people you really know and care about — again, those in your address book.

In using the app and seeing how people are using it today, they definitely have some onboarding issues they need to work out. One great thing about the service is that you don’t need to use the app to use it — you can use email or SMS to interact with Everyme. But the flipside is that people are getting pinged to sign up and have no idea what is going on. They’re undoubtedly working on this.

The fact that so many people are working on smaller, more personal networks is a good sign for Everyme. They’re clearly onto something. With investments in Path, Just.me, and Pair, we’re obviously following this whole space closely as well. 

In the age of the Facebook IPO, the smaller network resonates. And that’s especially true on mobile, which is the most personal form of computing. My hunch is that Everyme isn’t an app that will easily win over the early adopter tech crowd, but it’s something a more mainstream audience should love. 

More coverage on Everyme today from The Next Web, TechCrunch, AllThingsD, and GigaOm.

One Burbn, One Scotch, One Beer

A few years ago, I got a frantic email one evening. It was from a young entrepreneur named Kevin Systrom. “Hey MG, I saw you signed up for Burbn…” is how it started. He was freaked out. Someone had told me about the service and the sign up wasn’t locked down. But Kevin did not want me to write about his fledgling idea just yet. We hopped on the phone. Of course I agreed to hold the story. I’d write when he was ready.

We broke a lot of news at TechCrunch over the years. But I was always happy about the way we treated entrepreneurs with their delicate plans. Big companies are different — they can take hits. Outing young companies before they’re ready: not cool. When in doubt, defer to the entrepreneur. Michael taught us well. 

Anyway, while I sat on the story of a hot new HTML5-based location app, I got to know Kevin and eventually his co-founder Mike Krieger. Really great guys. Idealists. Just insane enough to potentially change things. So when I saw the news this morning that Facebook was buying them for a billion dollars, I was beyond happy.

We weren’t investors — sadly, we came into existence too late — but screw that. This is just a great story about a great product, great founders, a great team, and great execution. And I feel sincerely happy for these guys because I was there pretty much the entire time watching from a distance.

Burbn, of course, eventually evolved into Instagram. Kevin and Mike watched how people wanted to use Burbn to share and saw an opening. Pictures. They decided to take it. I was one of the first users of Instagram. Number 28, if this is to be believed. I immediately knew it was the right way to go. 

A few weeks later, I believe Om broke the news of Instagram to the world. I was annoyed — I HAD BASICALLY HELD THE STORY FOR A YEAR — but I loved the app so much that I wrote a thousand word preview anyway. 

The commenters mainly took a shit on the app and the concept. Another photo-sharing app?!!! That’s why they’re commenters and not out there building things. 

A few weeks after that, the app launched. Adoption was natural. It was a thing of beauty. 

A few days later, the “another photo app” people looked like huge jackasses. Instagram wasn’t just a photo app. It was an application that was able to change the way people view the world around them. It was expression through image. It was a new form of communication.

I wasn’t a picture-taker. I became a picture-taker.

Instagram thrived because Flickr dropped the ball on mobile. Badly. Pictures on the desktop were interesting. Pictures from your mobile device are a thousands times more interesting. Instagram had perfect timing. The iPhone camera got very good. Instagram exploded.

A million users. 5 million users. Bieber10 million users. 20. 30. Android is going to push it to 50 million users in no time. 

People are looking at Facebook’s buy today and thinking “what the fuck?” I’m looking at it and thinking that Facebook is ingenious. They’re one of the few large companies that understands how to and when to acquire. You don’t buy at the peak. You buy on the ramp up to the peak. Instagram as it stands right now is awesome. It’s the tip of the iceberg for what they want to do. 

We’ll see if they can execute within Facebook or not. Mark Zuckerberg is saying all the right things. And again, they’ve done great with their acquisitions. I have faith. 

In some ways, this is bittersweet. Instagram is a not insignificant part of why I got into the venture capital side of things. I knew that I had a talent for picking companies that would do well, but Instagram was the first that I knew I had nailed from the get-go. By the time they had done their seed and A rounds, Kevin and I were talking about the potential of me doing this: finding the next Instagram. His thoughts helped steer me to where I am now.

I’ve talked before about the one company I wish I could have invested in (realistically) early on: Square. Instagram would be a close second. And today’s outcome proves the thought.

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so easy to get cynical in today’s tech world. Uncapped note here, billion dollar acquisition there, IPO over there… At the end of the day, you have to bet on great entrepreneurs to do great things. You have to bet on 5 years from now, not today. You have to bet on the world evolving enough to be ready for what’s coming. 

It’s threading the needle. But it’s so goddamn exciting. That’s Instagram.

Congrats to Kevin, to Mike, to Instagram. A fantastic exit that we all hope is the beginning. 

Email: Archive It All. Immediately.

A week ago, I came home after a long night of drinking and wanted to vomit. It wasn’t the whiskey. It was the email. 

I had been gone approximately 6 hours at an event and subsequent after-party. I didn’t check my email the entire time. When I came home, I had over 50 new emails in my inbox (this doesn’t include the ones I automatically archive thanks to Gmail filters). 50-some emails all of which I needed to take action on in some form or another.

Fuck.

Undoubtedly aided by the aforementioned drinks, I hit “Select All” and debated hitting “Delete”. Not just for those 50-some emails. But for all 50,000+ that were sitting un-archived in my inbox. Then I thought better of it. Instead, I hit “Archive”.

Best thing I’ve ever done. 

A week into my “Archive All” world, my inbox is pretty fantastic. Obviously, I’m not the first person to do this, but I was highly skeptical that it would work since I figured that after the initial purge, messages would just start piling up again.

But at least for me, it’s more of a mental thing. It’s essentially out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I should have known this would be the case since I’m also obsessed with clearing my RSS reader every night (even though I barely use it anymore) and am a slave to clearing red Push Notification dots on the iPhone/iPad. But I was still terrified to mess with the email flow I had built up over the years.

Previously, I had tried to quit email for an entire month. That was also great. But the problem was that when I got back on the wagon, nothing had actually changed. I had missed a month’s worth of email, and people got ahold of me other ways, but once I was back on email, I was right back into my old habits.

But archiving all my mail forced me to change habits. I was sure there would be something I would miss or forget. But the reality is that there was no way I was ever going to get to all 5,000 things I had starred anyway. I was kidding myself. And I was creating a sense of dread for myself on a daily basis when I looked at my inbox and saw all those goddamn stars. 

By archiving all the old mail, I have essentially turned Gmail into a big, searchable repository for email. I upgraded my account to 80 GB of storage (I was at the 30 GB limit). If there’s something I need to reference or remember, I can pull it up easily with a search. But the flow is now to archive everything at least once a week (and ideally sooner). It’s all about admitting to myself that if I don’t get to it by then, I’m never going to get to it.

Again, I was highly skeptical, but at least for now, this works. Yes, this means I’m not responding to a lot of emails that come my way. But I wasn’t anyway. Information still has a funny way of finding a way to command your attention if you need to take action.

For many, email is now the master communication channel. But it’s actually a pretty poor one in this age of mobile computing. Email needs to beaten down into just another channel of flowing information.

Read most of it. Respond to some of it. Keep all of it. But hide it. Then forget about it. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Camera 1/Camera 2

When I posted my Instagram comparison shots earlier, people bitched that it wasn’t the same scene, so it wasn’t a fair comparison.

Fair enough.

John Gruber took the *exact* same shot with an iPhone 4S and a Galaxy Nexus — using the same filter. The results once again speak for themselves. 

While it looks like the Galaxy Nexus has shit on the lens. The reality is that it’s just a shittier lens. 

Yes, I was being a bit of a dick earlier about Android users “polluting” the Instagram feed, but the reality is that the shots do look worse. No point sugar coating it. That’s not the users’ fault. It’s not Instagram’s fault. It’s the quality of the cameras. It’s the OEMs’ fault, and at least partially also Google’s fault (developers constantly bitch about the camera software/APIs baked into Android).

I’m happy that my friends with Android phones now get to experience the joy that is Instagram. I can think of at least a dozen people that I personally know well who wanted this app above all others. Now they have it. And they should.

The beauty of it being cross platform to me is situations like this. Because Instagram is becoming the ubiquitous camera app, it’s a great point of comparison. (It’s something we would have used Flickr for in the past, but no one seems to use Flickr anymore — at least not in the same way.) As a result, we can see how much better an iPhone camera is than a top Android camera. A lot.

This exposes something that is otherwise hard to expose: it’s either a lack of attention to detail amongst Android OEMs or a lack of caring. “Good enough” will never be the best.

That’s what I love about Apple and the iPhone. It’s a fucking beautiful camera. And it keeps getting better. They work really hard to make it so. The Android OEMs do not. Instagram exposes this. That is all.