Posts from BlackBerry

Foursquare Lists

I had an epiphany today. I was in Storm, a cool store in Copenhagen, and I checked into Foursquare. In the result screen of that checkin, I saw a tip that there was another design store right around the corner called Hay. And that my friend Naveen had recommended Hay on his Copenhagen list.

I immediately saved Naveen's list to my phone and then saved a few other Copenhagen lists that were recommended to me.

Now every time I checkin somewhere in Copenhagen, I get a tip for another place that is nearby on one of the lists that I saved. No more thinking about where to go next. Foursquare will tell me based on suggestions from my friends and the lists I've saved.

I've tried every kind of travel guide out there. Some are great, like the Luxe guides and the Wallpaper guides. But an interactive, real time, geolocated travel guide built by my friends and likeminded travelers is way better.

So I'm going to create lists on Foursquare from now on so that others can benefit the same way that I am right now. Here's my list so far from a day or so in Copenhagen.

#Blogging On The Road#mobile#Travel

Mobile Gatekeepers

One of the things we try to avoid in our investments is gatekeepers. We would prefer that a company has easy access to end users and doesn't need to navigate through a gatekeeper or a series of gatekeepers to get into the market.

Mobile internet investing has been tricky for as long as I have been doing Internet investing. Initially it was the carriers and handet manufacturers who controlled access to the end user. If you wanted to be in the mobile internet business, you spent your time working with carriers and handset manufacturers to get distribution. We didn't like that business and didn't invest in it.

With the advent of the iOS app store model, we saw a change in the market and changed our stance. To date, we have at least a dozen investments where mobile apps represent an important part of the user base.

But in the past ten days, I have seen three different situations, not just in our portfolio but with companies I've met with or know well, where the company's app was either not approved or pulled from the market. This is not limited to the iOS app store. It has also happened in the Android marketplace. And of course, we have seen RIM's removal of a Blackberry app create great harm to a portfolio company.

These actions are always taken in attempt to enforce terms of service and to protect end users. I am not complaining about the actions or saying they are unfair. They are what they are. But the mobile Internet is not the open web and may never be.

Welcome to the new boss. Same as the old boss.


Feature Friday: Foursquare Radar

A few weeks ago I ran into Dennis Crowley in the USV offices. He whipped out his iPhone like the excited kid he still is and showed me Radar running on his phone. He was running a pre-release of iOS5 and a pre-release of the new Foursquare app. His phone alerted him, just like getting a text message, that he was at USV and he ought to check in there.

I said, “Dennis, this is the feature we’ve all been waiting for. This is what I’ve wanted Foursquare to do since the day I put it on my phone.”

There are features and then there are game changing features. Foursquare’s Radar is a game changing feature. Radar will prompt me to checkin more frequently, to use lists more actively, and to find people and places I need to know about while I’m out and about. Radar is one more bit of the big Foursquare vision being rolled out.

Here’s Foursquare’s post about Radar and another with answers to some frequently asked questions. It’s interesting to see that Radar is leveraging some new technology in iOS5 to make it work without draining the battery:

Radar uses a very battery-friendly location-finding mode that is totally new to iOS 5, the same one Appleā€™s own Reminders app uses.

Now, can we get Radar on Android and Blackberry please??


Mobile Reading Trends At AVC

I noticed that 16.2% of the visits to AVC in the past 30 days were from mobile devices so I did a little digging into that number. I opened a spreadsheet and went back in time on google analytics and the result is this chart. If you want to make it larger, click on the chart and load it in its own tab.

Mobile visits to avc

I then drew up a couple graphs. Here is total visits from the four most popular devices over time:

Mobile visits trend

But traffic to AVC has been growing pretty rapidly, so then I looked at this chart expressed as a percent of total visits:

Mobile visits percentage

So what does all of this tell me? Well first, a lot of people are reading AVC on mobile devices. Total mobile visits to AVC in the past 30 days was just north of 45,000. But the mix is equally interesting.

Probably the most interesting figure is iPad vists per month. In September 2010, AVC had 17,091 visits from iPads. In the past 30 days, iPad visits were 17,219, essentially flat. And on a percentage of total visit basis, the number was 7% of all visits last September and it is 6% of total visits in the last 30 days. That is not what I would have expected. iPad visits to AVC are not growing and are declining on a percent of total traffic basis.

iPhone, on the other hand, continues to grow month after month and now represents 6.7% of all visits. However, it was 5% of all visits in June of 2010 and 6% of all visits in September of 2010. So iPhone visit growth is slowing after a tear in the second half of 2009 and the first half of 2010.

Android is coming up fast. It grew 4x as a percent of visits from March 2010 to March 2011. But Android is not growing fast enough to overtake iPhone and iPad anytime soon. At the current growth rates, that would not happen until late 2012 at the earliest and that assumes continued flattening of iPhone and iPad.

Blackberry trails the other three devices by a lot and Blackberry visits to AVC have not grown in absolute numbers since the middle of last year.

The AVC audience are early adopters and the leading edge of technology users. So these numbers are not likely to be representative of blogs or online media broadly. But it is still very interesting to see them.

The iPad numbers in particular are interesting. I'm wondering if iPad users are reading via applications that Google Analytics does not record as an iPad. That would make sense. If so, the iPad numbers could be significantly higher than the numbers shown above.

But the big message is the early adopters are reading more and more on their mobile devices and at the current growth rates, half of the visits to AVC could be on mobile devices by the end of 2012. That is a megatrend. And it is investable.


The Present and The Future (continued)

It's the theme of the weekend. What looks great today may suck tomorrow.

Case in point, Blackberry and their parent company RIM. I was at dinner a few weeks ago with old friends. Both of them carry Blackberrys and they love them. I predicted that they would be using a new device shortly and that RIM would be in deep financial trouble within a few years. They were surpriseed to hear such a negative point of view.

But as this excellent analysis of RIM's business suggests, the present and the future look very different for RIM. The charts in this post come from the post I just linked to. You should read it.

If you look at RIM's financials, everything looks rosy:

RIM revenue and profit
Not only are revenues and profits at an all time high, but so are subscribers:

RIM subscriber growth
But subscriber growth has peaked:

RIM subscriber growth rate
And may be headed into decline:

Future OS plans of smartphone users

It is often the case that on the surface companies can appear to be in great shape. If you just focus on the financial results, you can miss the underlying symptoms of future problems. I've made that mistake many times, hopefully enough times that I will make it less in the future.

What you need to do is peer into the future and try to figure out what is going to happen next. In RIM's case, I sense that a "platform collapse", as the author of the blog post calls it, is a real possibility in the next year or two.

RIM's stock is trading at a PE of just under 12, almost identical to Microsoft's. It seems like the market is well aware that the growth era is over and is counting on a long period of flat growth but strong profits for years to come. A platform collapse is not baked into the market's multiple.

The big platforms out there, Apple, Android, RIM, Facebook, Twitter, etc are powerful but fragile. They need to keep innovating and providing users AND developers real value. As myspace has shown, when platforms stagnate they can easily fall apart and the decline can be fast and devastating.

I think the assumption that tech platforms can stop growing but remain great businesses is flawed in most cases. Maybe RIM can pull it off. Their strong enterprise franchise may make it possible to execute the long fade, but it is also possible that it won't. If you are an investor or manager in a large tech platform, dont' get caught up in the present. Think hard about the future and where the platform is going. That's where the value is.

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#VC & Technology#Web/Tech


Building web apps is not getting easier. The fragmentation of operating systems and browsers is getting worse, not better.

Here's a chart of the past thirty days of activity at

Browser & os pie chart

No OS/browser combo has more than 17% share. And there are five with more than 10% share. iPhone is about 6% and iPad is about 4%. If you go down to the next ten combos, you find a number of Android and Blackberry combinations.

Mobile OS/browser combos in total add up to about 15% of all visits and that number is up from less than 5% a year ago.

Add in the need to build mobile apps for iOS, Android, and possibly Blackberry and you've got quite a difficult environment for developers these days.

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Blackberry Gets Some Social Media Mojo

Bberry twitter  I've been carrying around two phones for most of this year, my trusty Blackberry and the Google phone. I use the blackberry for voice, text, and email and the Google phone for web, maps, and apps. I'm getting pretty good at typing on a touch screen but I still cannot type a three or four paragraph email easily on the Google phone and until I can, I'm not walking away from the Blackberry.

I do occasionally use the Blackberry for mobile apps and my two favorite Blackberry apps are SocialScope and Foursquare. I've been using both of these apps since they were in alpha and they have improved a lot over the past six months. They are now rock solid.

This week The Gotham Gal got a new Blackberry, the 9700, which is what I use. It's a mighty fine phone. This morning I installed the Blackberry App World on her phone (it's crazy that it does not come pre-installed by T-Mobile). Then I installed Foursquare and the new Blackberry Twitter app. You'll find the new Twitter app in the Test Center category in App World.

After I did the install, I played around a bit with her Twitter and Foursquare apps. It occurred to me that with the arrival of rock solid apps like the new Twitter app, Foursquare, and SocialScope (which aggregates all of these services into one app), the Blackberry has become a damn good mobile social media device. The only thing that it is missing is a good Facebook app. The current one is not great.

Blackberry has a bunch of catching up to do to stay relevant and one important thing is getting really great social media apps on its platform. My sense from this morning's experience is that they are getting there. And not a moment to soon.

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What Blackberry Is For Outlook/Exchange, Android Is For Google Apps

My friend Wil Stephens posted his thoughts on his first day on a Nexus One just now. If you click thru and read it, you'll note the similarity with the review I posted last week. I am not suggesting Wil was influenced by my review, I'm simply pointing out that we've had very similar experiences and both of us moved over from a Blackberry Curve.

In Wil's review, he says:

Cube, like many companies I guess by now, have Gone Google. My Calendar, Mail, Docs, Contacts are all hosted on Google. This made the setup and transition to the Nexus very easy. I entered my Google credentials and within seconds, my mail, contacts and calendars were all synced up and ready to go. Which, unintentionally or not, makes this a seriously good business phone.

I've spent the past year migrating from Outlook/Exchange to Google's Apps. I've done it gradually, in fits and starts, as our firm is still on Exchange. But I just could not get Outlook or any other Exchange client to scale to the size of mailbox I operate. And so I had to move to a more scaleable solution. That solution was Gmail and now that I've been on Gmail for almost a year, I am so happy.

Most people and companies move to Gmail for different reasons, mainly cost. But regardless of why this shift is happening, it's a very important one to pay attention to. Because it leads to other changes.

Like what phone you want to use. Blackberry is the perfect phone for someone with an Exchange setup. The Blackberry Enterprise Server for Exchange is a great product. If you run that alongside your Exchange server, setting up a Blackberry to be a full blown Exchange client with mail, calendar, and contact sync is a breeze. That's how we've been doing it at the venture firms I've helped manage for over a decade now.

But as Wil points out, if you are on the Google App suite, turning on an Android phone is even simpler. You simply login to the phone with your Google credentials and you are done. And the native Google apps on Android are extremely well done.

So, for good and for bad, I believe Blackberry is attached at the hip to Exchange. As Microsoft loses share to Google in the enterprise, something I believe is bound to happen, Blackberry will lose share to Android as well. Wil and I are cases in point.

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Thoughts on Blackberry Fail

As most Blackberry users know, there was a large failure of the Blackberry network yesterday. I experienced it although it wasn't clear to me at first what was happening. The first sign was that my wife and kids were not responding to my messages on Blackberry messenger (we use it as our family's "batphone"). Then I stopped getting email on my phone. At dinner last night I could not checkin on Foursquare through the mobile web or socialscope. I couldn't get any access to the mobile web on my blackberry.

What this points out, and what this blog post is about, is that Blackberry took down all my data services, not just BBM and email. And I think that is nuts.

Somehow Blackberry took down mobile web access on T-Mobile, ATT, and other networks. I guess that means that Blackberry has some kind of overlay network on these carrier's data networks. I am sure that is well known to mobile phone geeks and has been true for a long while. I just never wrapped my head around it.

I don't think that is smart. In the perfect world, Blackberry makes hardware and software apps like their mail, calendar, contacts, BBM, browser (if only they could make a good one). T-Mobile, ATT, Sprint, Verizon, etc provide the voice and data service. And the two don't impact each other.

During this outage, I took the SIM card out of my Blackberry and put it into a phone I recently got as a gift under the condition that I can't blog about it. So I won't. But I will say that my T-Mobile SIM card with the Blackberry data plan wasn't working in this new phone. I couldn't even place calls on it.

Now the outage is over and the Blackberry network is back up and running, the T-Mobile SIM card works fine in my new phone. I'm not sure what that means or why it happened, but it did.

The point of all of this is the Blackberry approach to providing services via the carrier networks is not ideal. They are playing carrier, software provider, and hardware provider all in one. That's not good.

Readers of this blog know how much I love my Blackberry, but this new phone I can't blog about is very nice and can take a plain vanilla GSM sim card with data services on it. I started thinking a bit harder about that configuration last night.

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