Posts from mobile

Signing My Name

I sign my name a lot. When we close deals, I sign the documents. When things change in our companies and they need consents, I sign them. I sign tax returns, filings, permits, and a host of other documents all the time.

As I have written here before, I have a hard time with what they used to call “penmanship” in school. It’s something about my dexterity (or lack thereof) in my hands. My hands get tired quickly and my handwriting gets illegible just as quickly.

Technology has been a godsend for me in this regard. Computers (and word processors before them) saved me from having to write by hand before I got out of high school. Phew.

The same has been true over the past few years when it comes to signing documents. I still do it by hand way more than I’d like but services like Docusign are being adopted by more and more companies and it seems like I Docusign now as much or possibly more than I physically sign.

My colleague Nick needed me to sign something last week. I said “please docusign it.” He did and within a few minutes the documents were signed. I sent him an email saying “that was so great, i wish everyone did it that way.” So this is a plea to everyone out there to skip the paper and go electronic when signatures are needed.

But as good as Docusign is, and it is really good, my all time favorite signing experience is on the Square checkout app. I’m not sure what it is, maybe its the angle (vertical but with a slight slope), or maybe it is the size of the signature box, or maybe it is the iPad’s screen, but whatever it is, I absolutely love signing my name on a Square checkout. If every signing experience was like that, I’d be a very happy man.

Feature Friday: Mayorships

I love the new version of the Swarm app from our portfolio company Foursquare so much that I fired off a tweetstorm about it earlier this week.

Among the many great replies I got was this one:

To which I replied:

I know gamification has been overdone and many are tired of it. But there is something about playing the mayorship game that never gets old for me.

Just today I checked in at my favorite coffee shop in Amagansett and got this notification:


Somehow Brian slipped in and grabbed that mayorship away from me a few weeks ago and I’m trying like hell to get it back. That drives business for Jack and brings a little more fun and playfulness to my life each day.

And its not just Jack’s where I’m on the cusp. Here are all the places I’m close.


That’s a list of places I’m likely to go to as I make my plans each day.

When Foursquare separated the core Foursquare app into two apps, Foursquare for venue search, recommendations, and tips, and Swarm for the social checkin and game play, they left mayorships and the leaderboard out of Swarm. That was a big mistake. It’s back and better than ever and I’m loving it.

Winback Campaigns vs New Customer Acquisition

One thing I’ve been pushing hard in my conversations with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and management teams I work with is the efficacy and capital efficiency of winback campaigns vs new customer acquisition campaigns.

Every company wants to grow their user base and increase retention.

As mobile becomes a more difficult environment to grow in (maturing market, more competition, growing dominance of the leaders), we see companies spending more and more money on new customer acquisition. While that is necessary, it is not likely the most capital efficient way to grow. Winning back churned out users can be a lot more cost effective if done right.

I like to ask these questions:

  • how many downloads have we had on our app in total?
  • how many of those users who downloaded our app are still active every month?
  • how many of those apps are still on a user’s phone?
  • can we notify those users?
  • can we email those users?

Generally speaking, an app that has been in the market for 3-5 years will have an active user base that is 10-30% of the total downloads. There are a few exceptions where that number is a lot higher, but those are exceptions (and great apps).

So that means that 70-90% of the people who have downloaded your app are not using it.

Some of them will still have the app on their phone and can be notified.

Most of them will be reachable via email.

So that is the winback opportunity.

You can’t just spam those users with notifications or emails that say “hey, try out our app again.” That won’t work and will lead to users quickly uninstalling your app if they haven’t already done that.

But you can look for targeted opportunities to tell these churned users something useful to them and invite them back to get more useful stuff.

This could be an offer for a big discount if you have an e-commerce related app. This could be a geotargeted offer/insight if you have an app that is location oriented. This could be the fact that a close friend is active on the app and an invite to join them.

These winback campaigns, if done properly, can be incredibly effective.

If you aren’t doing winback campaigns, you should be.

If you are doing them, think about how you can do them better and do them more frequently.

This is about the lowest hanging fruit out there in the mobile app growth landscape.

Feature Friday: Password Reminder Popup

I use the Authy mobile app to serve up my 2-factor tokens when I need them. I’ve blogged about Authy before here at AVC so regular readers will be familiar with it.

Authy does something that I really like. Even though my password is stored on my mobile phone and I don’t need to type it in every time I log in, Authy regularly prompts me for my password so that I don’t forget it. The popup box has an “ignore” link on it that I can click if I don’t want to be bothered. But I type my password in every time I’m prompted to do this because I realize that regularly typing in my password is the best way to insure I don’t forget it.

It’s one of those things that makes so much sense and makes you wonder why more apps don’t do this.

Well done Authy.


Feature Friday: While You Were Away

I love the “while you were away” feature on Twitter. It’s full of great stuff every time they show it to me.

My sister in law said to me last weekend “I hope they never get rid of the classic timeline on Twitter.”

I replied “I wish they would have gotten rid of it years ago.”

Different strokes for different folks I guess.

I use gmail’s priority inbox because I don’t want to see every email that comes into my inbox.

I wish there was a curated version of my Twitter timeline so I would only see the best tweets that come in.

Of course, I’d like to be able to see all the tweets if for some reason I wanted to do that. I think Twitter should maintain that view for the hardcore users like my sister in law who want that.

But I doubt most people want to see everything. Facebook got rid of “see everything” as the default view many years ago and they massively improved the user experience in doing so.

So I’m eagerly awaiting a curated version of my timeline from Twitter.

Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with “while you are away.” And I am.

The Phablet Effect

I am seeing less and less user sessions happening on tablets across our portfolio. I heard someone call that the “Phablet Effect” yesterday.

The idea is that as more and more mobile users adopt “phablets”, like the iPhone 6 Plus or the Nexus 6 which I use, they get less value from a larger form factor like a 7″ or an 11″ tablet.

I went to look at the AVC statistics to see if we are seeing the “phablet effect” and the answer is yes.

Here are user sessions at AVC over the past five or six years by device (click on the image to see a larger version).

Blue is total. Green is desktop. Purple is smartphone. Yellow is tablet.

sessions by device

As you can see tablets came out strong and for a few months in mid/late 2012 were neck and neck with smartphones.

But since then tablets have been flat (and down significantly in 2015 but you can’t really detect that in this chart) while smartphones keep getting closer and closer to desktop sessions and will pass them at some point in the next year or two.

We have a bunch of tablets in our homes. They are occasionally used for reading or other applications, but they are mostly used as remotes for our TVs and music systems. They are great for that.

This begs the question if tablets are a failure as a product category. That’s a strong statement given that 45mm tablets were shipped worldwide last quarter. But when 350mm smartphones are shipped in a quarter vs 50mm tablets, you can see what I’m getting at.

Tablets are niche. Watches are niche. You could even argue that desktops are becoming niche.

Everything pales in comparison to the smartphone it seems.

Apple Watch Survey Results

Yesterday we did another Apple Watch followup survey.

The results are in and the numbers continue to be impressive but the trend is not in the right direction.

May 21, 2015 August 5, 2015 Change
Total Responses 760 688
Wear It Every Day 81% 70% -13.6%
Changed Life Materially 46% 37% -19.6%
Love It More Now Than Time Of Purchase 71% 59% -16.9%
Recommend To Others 67% 55% -17.9%

The most impressive number to me is that 59% of respondents say they love it more now than they did at time of purchase. Clearly this device is working for many of the people who bought it.

But the trend is universally down. Less people wearing it every day, less people recommending it to others.

The picture that is emerging to me is a niche device that a small group of people have purchased and an even smaller group of people get value out of.

This is something to build on for Apple, but I remain on the fence on the question of whether the watch is the next big thing in mobile.

Apple Watch Followup Survey #2

I’ve been seeing a fair number of negative reports on the Apple Watch and so I’d like to survey the Apple Watch users here at AVC again. We did this exact survey in late May. I’m interested to see if there are any changes to the results after a few more months of watch wearing.

Feature Friday: In App Advocacy

Web and mobile companies have been using their consumer facing apps to advocate for policies that they care about for a while now. Back in the PIPA/SOPA wars, Wikipedia, Tumblr, and a number of other high traffic apps went black and made a big impact on that debate.

Yesterday Uber added a De Blasio mode in NYC to their rider app.

no cars see why

Which takes the rider to this screen:

de blasio's uber

It will be interesting to see what impact this in app advocacy will have on the Uber debate in NYC.

The Mayor and his administration want a temporary hiatus on additional Uber drivers on the roads in NYC while they complete a congestion study to see what impact the massive influx of Ubers on the roads in NYC are having on traffic.

Uber is fighting this as hard as they can and using in app advocacy as one of their tools to amplify the political pressure.

While this is a smart move on Uber’s part, I am not sure it will work because the constituency that elected Mayor De Blasio is more of the subway rider crowd than the Uber crowd.

But NYC politics are complicated and Uber is working the system hard. And using in app advocacy to further their cause.