Some Initial Thoughts On iPhone6 and iOS8

I got my new iPhone6 from T-Mobile on Thursday. I spent Thursday evening setting it up and putting all the Android apps I regularly use on it. I’ve been using it as my primary phone since Thursday night and after three full days on it, I have some early observations.

1) The TouchID service is pretty great. I secure my phone with a password and although its a little thing to simply be able to hold your thumb down instead, little things sometimes are the biggest things and TouchID is like that. I really like it.

2) I miss the three buttons at the bottom of an Android phone. I’m never sure how to get back to a previous screen on iOS. I’ve come to realize that by tapping at the top of the screen, I can often get back to the previous screen. But it is super nice to have a back button that works identically on every app and I miss that.

3) I don’t like having two maps services on the phone. Some apps default to Apple Maps and I prefer Google Maps. Maybe its possible to change the defaults so that all the apps go to Google Maps but I’m not sure how to do that.

4) I don’t understand why Google doesn’t make GCal for iPhone. I really dislike the native mail and calendar programs for iOS and wish I could use the native google apps for both mail and calendar. This is probably the number one reason I will most likely go back to Android. Mail and Calendar and Maps are three huge things for me and I’m not comfortable with the Apple versions of those products.

5) Notifications on iOS works a lot like Android now. But I miss getting the notifications across the top of my home screen. Having to swipe down to see them is one step more than I’d like to have to do. I realize you get a notifications count on the app icon, but if that app is not on the home screen, I don’t see it.

6) I like the “today” tab in the notifications service. Its a lot like what Google has done with Google Now. I think Google should copy Apple and put Google Now into the notifications service.

As I am writing this it occurs to me that I am trying to use iOS like I use Android. I’ve set up my iPhone home screen to be as identical to my Android home screen as I can. I’m trying to make iOS work the way I am used to working. I realize it would be better to fully embrace iOS and go with the flow. But I’m not sure I can do that. I am a creature of habit even though my move to iOS was all about getting out of my comfort zone.

It is interesting to me that the two dominant operating systems are becoming more similar as Apple copies the best parts of Android (notifications being a prime example) and Google copies the best parts of iOS. It was not that hard to move from Android to iOS (other than downloading all of those apps and configuring them). When I go back to Android in three to six months, I don’t think that change will be particularly hard either.

We have a duopoly in mobile operating systems and that seems how the mobile market will operate, at least in the near future. Both Apple and Google are spending huge sums of money to stay competitive with each other. Both make fantastic mobile operating systems that work really well. As I’ve said before, mobile has matured. Maybe if I’m looking to get outside of my comfort zone, I need to be looking somewhere else for a new and different experience.

Incremental Innovation

Early this summer I walked into my parking garage and saw that they had installed two Chargepoint electric vehicle charging stations. I turned around, walked back to our apartment building, and went upstairs and told the Gotham Gal that the moment I had been waiting for had come and I wanted to get a Tesla. That weekend we took a trip up to the Tesla showroom in the art gallery section of Chelsea and bought one. It came last week and we are enjoying driving a car built by software people. We may be late to this party but we are happy to be at it now.

This past week Tesla announced a software upgrade that offers Autopilot features. I’ve been wondering for a while now how self driving technology would come to market. Google has been working on this technology for close to a decade and I’ve seen driverless cars on 280 heading from San Francisco to Palo Alto. But who wants to get into the back seat of the first self driving car and let the car do its thing? Not me.

On the other hand if self driving technology comes to market feature by feature, the way Tesla seems to be approaching things, we can get used to it bit by bit and someday we will happily get into that back seat without thinking twice about it.

It sounds like it will start with things like highway lane changes and parallel parking (if there ever was a thing that machines can do better than humans that would be it). And over time we will get more and more autopilot features. And at some point the car will be driving itself and we will be fine with that.

This makes a ton of sense to me. Sometimes incremental innovation is better than doing the whole thing at once. When you want to change behavior on something as game changing as driverless cars, I think the incremental approach makes a ton of sense.

Feature Friday: The One Tap Checkin

In commemoration of my first full day with an iPhone6 (today), we are going to talk about a pretty cool feature that just arrived on the iPhone – the one tap checkin.

If you have the swarm app on your iPhone (get it here), you swipe down to get your notifications, and in the Today tab, you go to the bottom and hit edit.

You will see various widgets that you can add to your today notifications. Select Swarm and hold it down to position it (I put it on top). Then save.

Then when you want to check in, you just swipe down to get your notifications and you will see something that looks like this:

Then you can tap the checkin icon and you are checked in.

I just did this and checked into the Kava Cafe. It works like a charm.

As you can see Swarm will also tell you where your nearby friends are in the notifications timeline.

All in all, a super cool feature. I will be using it a lot.

Values

Most companies have a mission statement and many have a values statement. But not so many companies live their values so much that they permeate the company and ooze out from every pore; the product, the office, the hiring process, the marketing, and so on and so forth.

Last night I did an event with City National Bank and their clients. I did a chat with Robin Gill and he asked me to talk about my most successful investments. I don’t really like to stack rank my investments so I struggle with that question. But I found my footing and started talking about Etsy. Etsy oozes its values from every pore. I am not sure they have a printed out values statement. Maybe they do somewhere but I don’t think I’ve seen it. But it really doesn’t matter because Etsy’s values are hard coded into their culture and they emanate out in every conceivable way.

Kickstarter is the same way. They stand for something. It’s not just talk. It’s real. And you can feel it in the product, the office, the marketing, and in the founder and in the CEO.

Twitter is like that too. I saw that they filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to be able to publish a full transparency report of all government information requests. That’s fucking awesome. And it is not a publicity stunt. Dick Costolo once said “Twitter is the free speech wing of the free speech party” or something like that. That’s a deeply held core belief of the company and it runs deep and strong in the culture.

These are three examples that folks will have some connection to and are easy to talk about. They are not the only three companies I work with or we have invested in that live their values. Meetup and SoundCloud would be a couple of other obvious examples. But they are good enough for the point of this blog post.

Values matter. A lot. In a hypercompetitive world where technology eats at every advantage you have over time it is good to have unique and distinct values that you live as a company. That’s a form of differentiation that is not easily copied. It matters and is at the core of building great companies. The kind of companies I like to talk about when people ask me about my best investments.

Bitcoin Adoption Metrics

I said in yesterday’s post that price and volume charts were not what I look at when I think about Bitcoin. I mentioned Github repos, hackathons, and teams in accelerators working on bitcoin projects. This morning I came across an excellent slideshare on the state of the Bitcoin ecosystem. It had this slide in it.

These are the kind of metrics we need to be looking at to decide how Bitcoin is doing. And on these measures, I’d say 2014 has been a great year for Bitcoin.

bitcoin adoption metrics

I bumped into a friend of mine last night who said “all you write about is Bitcoin.” That may well be true. But I write about what I think about. So take that for what it is. I’m not going to apologize for my obsession with Bitcoin.

Bitcoin – Price and Promise

I’ve written a lot about Bitcoin. I’m a believer as I think it will be the transactional plumbing of the Internet and mobile and lots more in due course.

But the story right now is the sagging price of Bitcoin.

In full disclosure I’ve started buying it again after staying mostly on the sidelines for most of the past two years.

I have never owned much Bitcoin. I give away or spend what I buy. I am not a hoarder of Bitcoin. I don’t care about that aspect of Bitcoin, although many (most?) do. I care about it as programmable money.

But, of course, Bitcoin’s price is a function of its promise. Why own Bitcoin if it has no future?

So does a sagging price mean sagging promise?

In the long run, absolutely.

In the short run, not so much.

The market price of an asset in the short term is driven by emotion (greed vs fear), liquidity, technical factors, and a bunch of other things. Right now, those factors are driving down the price of Bitcoin. Last year they drove it up.

I continue to believe that the thing to watch is not the price chart, the volume chart, or any chart. The thing to look at is Github, Hackathons, Accelerators, and everywhere else that entrepreneurs and developers showcase their work. That’s where the future of Bitcoin and its promise will be determined. And right now, based on what I’m seeing, it’s future is very bright.

For another take on this same question, William Mougayar has a post up today on the same topic.

A Couple Of Good Books For Entrepreneurs

I feel like we are in this zone where everyone is doing a startup. Of course that is a great thing. Getting people out of dead end jobs and into their creative zone seems like a good thing no matter what the outcome. There is a flood of angel and seed capital flowing through the economy and it is easier than ever to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Another thing that is driving this startup phase is the plethora of information on how to do it. It started with blogs, like this one, but has moved to podcasts, videos, and books. It is so easy to share what you’ve learned these days that more and more people are doing exactly that.

Two friends of mine have recently published books that are excellent and quick reads for entrepreneurs.

Randy Hunt is the Creative Director at Etsy. He built and leads Etsy’s team of designers who help create Etsy’s web and mobile applications. He has taken everything he’s learned in that role over the past five years and put it down on paper. The book is called Product Design For The Web, but it is highly relevant for designing mobile applications as well. The great thing about Randy’s book is you don’t need to be deeply technical to get value out of it. In fact, I think it might be most useful to someone who is just getting into designing interactive applications.

But knowing how to design and build something is not the only thing you need to know. Maybe most importantly you need to know what to build.

My friend Frank Rimalovski has been a VC since the late 90s. He currently runs the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and the NYU Innovation Venture Fund. He explains in this blog post that in the 16 years he’s been working with entrepreneurs, he has seen countless numbers of them build something first and only then seek customer feedback. Frank believes that seeking feedback after you’ve built the product is tough because by then you are so invested in your product that you don’t hear the negatives well enough. And so he and another friend, and sometimes commenter at AVC, Giff Constable, have written Talking To Humans, a book that explains how to do the customer development interviews in a way that will get you the most accurate and actionable feedback.

Reading these two books in tandem will help you figure out exactly what to build and how to design it in a way that users will love it. And that is a recipe for success in the startup world.

The AVC Community Is An Optimistic Bunch

The results of the poll we ran on Friday are interesting:

poll results

62% of AVC readers think the NASDAQ will be flat to up 10% in six months. That means continuing the steady march upwards that it has been on for six years.

6.5% of AVC readers think the NASDAQ will be up big (>30% in the next six months). That would be a blowout. Hard to imagine how that could happen but there are some among us who can.

32% of AVC readers think the NASDAQ will be lower in six months with half of them thinking it will be down a bit (10%) and the other half of them thinking it will be down big.

I will say that I’m in the latter camp. I can’t recall if I voted for 4000 or 3500. I did not vote for below 3000. I hope I’m wrong to be honest. We’ve got plenty of assets that are in some way or form tied to the markets and I’d prefer not to see them go down. But I am mentally prepared for it.