#startups

David Undercoffler on Tesla’s plans to debut a cheaper model in early 2015:

The newest model debuting in 2015 will be the third step, as its platform will differ significantly from anything else Tesla has built so far.

The plan for a mainstream model follows a strategy that Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk laid out in a 2006 blog post.

“The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium,” Musk wrote in a post titled “The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me).” “Then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.”

That post, written nearly eight years ago, laid out exactly what Tesla aimed to do.

In the world of startups, eight years seems like an eternity. It’s hard enough to think one year out, let alone a decade. Yet in the automotive industry, eight years seems like nothing. Very little used to change in that span. 

It’s amazing not only how far Tesla has come in the past eight years, but just how well they’ve been able to execute on that original plan. 

Joe Garofoli:

On paper, Moretti said the city is well-positioned to take advantage of the economic moment. It has plenty of office space, a strong transportation system and enough available housing that should a boom occur, prices are unlikely to spike as high as they have in San Francisco.

While the average apartment rent in San Francisco is $3,518, it’s $2,019 in Oakland. Commercial office space in SoMa costs $57 a square foot compared with $26 a square foot in Jack London Square, according to the CBRE real estate firm.

It continues to feel like a big migration to Oakland is inevitable. Crime remains as issue, but even that appears to be getting better. With the prices in San Francisco, we’re nearing the tipping point.

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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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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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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Alex Wilhelm:

Yet a startup called Rebump has found a way to make email even worse. How is that possible, you ask.? Well, Rebump is a service that automatically re-pings people — via email, of course — that haven’t answered your original message. It will keep doing so until you get a response.

Note that this implies that your initial email was both worth reading, and worth replying to. In reality most email fails both tests. So, Rebump is essentially a brilliantly passive aggressive way to force people into responding to you, or the flood of notes will not fucking stop.

Finally, someone has created my worst nightmare in startup form.

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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Benedict Evans:

The problem is, this sort of ignorance and misunderstanding is often how we get true disruption - people are so ignorant that they don’t know something can’t be done and won’t work, so they go and do it, and it works. Dropbox and Paypal are particularly good examples of this, while Bessemer’s ‘anti-portfolio' is a fun look at the sensible reasons why some amazing companies would never work. The challenge of venture investing is that the model depends on investing in things that are laughable, because those are the only things that can make billions of dollars from zero in a few years. So you kind of want people to laugh at you and think you don’t understand the sector. You just have to be sure that you understand why they’re laughing.

Said another way: if it was obvious to everyone, everyone would be doing it — or worse: would have already done it. Only truly “crazy” ideas change anything. And only those ignorant enough (or “crazy” enough) chase “crazy” ideas.

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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Sequoia partner Jim Goetz:

From the moment they opened the doors of WhatsApp, Jan and Brian wanted a different kind of company. While others sought attention, Jan and Brian shunned the spotlight, refusing even to hang a sign outside the WhatsApp offices in Mountain View. As competitors promoted games and rushed to build platforms, Jan and Brian remained devoted to a clean, lightning fast communications service that works flawlessly.

It’s hard to do anything but admire this heads-down, focused approach. And it paid off. Very much literally.

Going Against The Grain

When talking to entrepreneurs at the very early stages of their companies, I’ve noticed that there’s a tendency to give a fairly long product roadmap. “And then we’ll add this. And then this. And then this.” That type of thing.

And I think that’s fine; it’s good to be thinking ahead, and it’s even better to have a vision for where you want the product to go. But it’s just as important to be realistic. And the likelihood of things going exactly to plan from day one is basically zero.

But that’s all obvious. What may not be so obvious is what happens when a product actually hits, takes off, and establishes itself. Because it feels like there’s a trend emerging here, at least in the world of apps, that is worth noting.

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This isn’t necessarily about sharing secrets. It’s about sharing secretly. People feel a sense of belonging or validation when we’re all feeling the same things. I hear people’s internal dialogues and they resonate with me.

Secret co-founder David Byttow, talking to Kim-Mai Cutler about the service.

I’m biased here, of course, but this strikes me as exactly what I find so compelling about the service. As I read through the stream, I’ll come across something and think, “huh, sometimes I think/feel this way too.”

As the service gathers buzz and attracts new users, there will be a lot of flaming/trollish behavior. But if it all settles down to this core, that will be valuable to people.

If you read about Facebook’s Airlock testing framework a couple weeks back, this is an option for any app developer.

As I said so eloquently in my quote to TechCrunch, this service sounded great until we saw it in action — then it was clear that it was even better than great. I see no reason why every app developer that cares about A/B testing (and that should be every app developer) wouldn’t want to utilize Apptimize.