Tag Archives: long

European success that could only come from here?

Caution: excessive stereotyping in this post!

People quote Skype ad Nauseam when talking about category changing models from Europe. It’s time for the new generation to come up with businesses that actually take advantage of the unique makeup of Europe and show that we’ve got it.

I’ve been looking at the various European grant and support programs in what is called Horizon 2020, FP7, and various other names. These are EU and EC designed programs that are supposed to come up with a new mega success in Europe, or at least support regions and markets to compete on an international scale. All those programs quote the great minds, research, education, and design from Europe. And all of those programs remind us of “world beating companies such as Skype” that play to the unique abilities of Europe.

Where are the new players in that category, and why are they unique and why can they only be built here? Skype couldn’t have built in the US alone, for the simple fact that long distance phone calls were already cheap enough or free by the time it came around. Europe with its borders and the built in issues was a perfect place for Skype to emerge. MySQL and Linux were probably rooted in the strong socialist (for lack of a better, or worse, word) nature of the north, and the resulting strength of OSS there (also influenced by the strong academic and scientific education and resulting community). Betfair and it’s siblings are of course the result of strong betting/gambling cultures, especially in the UK, that are regulated out of existence in the US. H&M and Zara aren’t tech startups, but still immensely successful companies based on the design heritage in their respective cultures, much like Ikea is the result of no-nonsense design combined with wonderfully Swedish egalitarian principles of affordability (the egalitarianism is still there, not so much the affordability I might add).

What are companies that are playing to similar principles, and build their raison d’ĂȘtre simply on cultural, regulatory, or market realities?

Transferwise is one I’m very familiar with (Seedcamp was an early investor and I’ve spent a lot of time with Kristo and Taavet). In most markets, nobody besides marginalised minorities is even thinking about cross border financial transactions. That’s why I’m so excited about it. Oh, and Taavet was early at Skype. Go figure.

I’m sure there are more, and I’m already thinking about markets that might be unique to Europe. The nucleus for this post was Fabrice’s piece on Craigslist. They have about 90% of the classifieds market in the US (a guess), and are prohibiting a single player to take over their market. Of course, as per Fabrice’s post, the mighty will probably stumble and fall, but this is the reality today. Might this lack of a clear leader in Europe make for an opportunity to build something? Of course, Zoopla in the UK, the Scout Group in Germany, and many others have taken some of those markets, but there are many more white spots than in the US.

If you’re in Europe, and thinking of something big to build, find one of those markets where you don’t just have speed, ideas, and great execution on your side. An inherently different and hard to understand market might be the biggest moat you can build to prevent a well capitalised competitor from the US to enter your space.

If you have an idea of some of those markets, leave it in the comments, I’m excited to hear about this stuff. Or, even better, build a kick ass company and take that market for yourself and replace the same name to pop up in those policy briefings.

via Tumblr http://pmoe.de/post/82892590701

Why Apple doesn’t get community

I was reading [this great post by Tom Tunguz](http://tomtunguz.com/social-disambiguation) on the tube and realized one thing: apple doesn’t get the ‘community’ aspect nailed in their software because they don’t have the culture and values across their customers like our other great social products do.

Reddit, tumblr, soundcloud, Instagram – all amazing social products have their own community and put an amazing amount of effort into keeping them alive and true (HT David at SC and Topher at tumblr who’ve worn the community hat proud and high).

Apple simply uses ‘social glue’ type products like twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to augment the experience of their users. They allow you to take your output back to where your friends are by some level of mostly superficial integration.

While Startups often fear Apple as a category killer (filters in the phone app? Simple video editing?), they oversee that community and a sense of belonging is a much stronger barrier to entry and mechanism of defense. Especially early on, a lot of companies fail to build a brand and sense of style that allows customers to closely identify with the product. This is a variant of lack of focus and decision taking that is prevalent in many product focused companies: my suggestion is to build a much stronger voice, _intentionally_ excluding customer groups so that your core users feel as much at home as possible, allowing you to build the social fabric that will make your community.

It also helps to not build a feature, but a business (best use of VC parlance in this post yet). Actually, building a movement or a tribe (+1 Seth Godin point) is the corollary to that in the social universe.

So, why does Apple not get this? Actually, I totally think they do. They are many times smarter than I am, and therefore have figured it out a while ago: their users are too broad, too generic, and from too many different cultures. If you build essentially 4 products (iPad, iPhone, Mac, Laptops, and add ons), you can’t start targeting your packaged software at certain groups. You need to go wide and let others take care of the community bit.

Once that is done, you can _use_ these communities by integrating (twitter, fb, YouTube) or _leapfrog_ because you have penetration of devices (see the new sharing through airdrop in iOS 7). People then use these functions as tools and infrastructure in their products and habits – making Apple much more engrained in the experience.

Being infrastructure sounds commoditized, but in the end, is the better way for Apple to deal with its multiple million users, who all care about their own communities. A classic case of ‘design is what you leave out’.

via Tumblr http://pmoe.de/post/54086215672