Editor’s note: Navin Chaddha is a Managing Director at Mayfield Fund, a global early-stage venture capital firm with over $3 billion under management, whose portfolio companies leverage the drivers of cloud/SaaS, mobile, social, energytech and big data. Some current Mayfield Fund investments include Appcelerator, Fab, Marketo, Poshmark, Solarcity, and Zimride.
The U.S. e-commerce market is estimated at $200 billion and is still projected to account for only 9 percent of total retail by 2016 (source: Forrester Research Feb. 2012 U.S. Online Retail forecast). We believe there is ample room for growth, and much of it will come from marketplaces. The metaphor of online marketplaces, established by Amazon and eBay starting in 1995, has endured and is flourishing once again – but in a different way than in the past. From an investor point of view, four things have changed:
The Rise of Vertical: The e-commerce market is large enough to support vertical marketplaces that super-serve consumer needs and are defying the “winner take all” theory that eBay or Amazon will be the only game in town. These vertical marketplaces have tuned the user experience to very specific needs by vertical and are easier to achieve liquidity due to their focus. Examples include Homeaway (vacation rentals), Etsy (niche artisan goods), and OpenTable (restaurant reservations).
Global? Not As Much: The incumbents have not been able to execute a “global playbook” strategy across geographies, as local giants have emerged that offer a customized business model depending on the geography (China: Taobao [has more than 65 percent of the market and growing according to CrunchBase] and India: Flipkart) with many more to come.
Platform Disruption: New platforms such as mobile are proving to be disruptive for incumbents and require a different approach. Poshmark (a Mayfield investment) is a great example of a vertical women’s fashion marketplace where consumers can list fashion items in their closets in just a few clicks, and any customer can purchase simply and directly from the phone. The ease of listing (via your camera on the phone) combined with the simple viewing metaphor (similar to Instagram but for fashion items to purchase) were purpose-built for this platform.
Offline/Online Marketplaces: We are beginning to see offline models disrupted by online marketplaces, which was very difficult before smartphone, Internet ubiquity, and examples of rapid local scaling like Groupon and Yelp. Craigslist reigned here for a while, but now users demand a simpler, more vertical experience and safety/social identity lacking on that marketplace. That said, these are not easy as they are highly local and require operational excellence in addition to a great mobile/online product. Examples include Uber and Zimride’s Lyft in the transportation space (Mayfield is an investor in Zimride), TaskRabbit for personal services, Postmates for delivery, and Airbnb for real estate rentals.
As a result, there is still a lot of potential for creating game-changing companies that use the marketplace as a model. With the rise of the social and mobile web, today’s marketplaces demonstrate some unique characteristics that entrepreneurs should think about. I’m categorizing six of them under the acronym “ACCESS” – accessibility, curation, community, efficient commerce, simplicity, and symmetry.
The era of the “mobile social vertical” marketplace has just begun, and entrepreneurs all over the world are creating companies to leverage these foundational behaviors. We are excited to support entrepreneurs in changing the face of e-commerce through next-gen marketplaces.
Excerpt from: The Rise Of The Mobile-Social-Vertical Marketplace
Poor Romain. Being TechCrunch’s only remaining intern, we had him brave the New York City night and blog from the iPhone 5 line. He did it like a champ. And now he’s sleeping. In his Aol cubicle.
He’s a grown man — a 22-year old Frenchman who’s braved multiple big cities on his very own — but I couldn’t help but worry about him the whole time. But lo and behold, here he is, sleeping like a baby.
And we’re glad to see it.
As you very well know, we’ve covered the iPhone 5 NYC launch to its fullest extent, with a live stream of the doors opening, a report on the lack of fanboys in line, a guide to getting the best value for your purchase, and updates from the line itself. Yes, from Romain.
So, as any good intern should expect, we stole it and took a panorama shot of him.
See more here: Sleep Tight, Sweet Romain. You’ve Earned It.
Bashing Twitter has become easy.
It’s making fabulously unpopular moves by restricting what developers can do with its data and application programming interface. It’s pushing your favorite third-party clients out and replacing them with its own apps, which are unfortunately inferior in a lot of ways. And it’s communicating these changes in business-plan jargon, rather than speaking plainly.
Twitter is making what many of us feel to be mistakes with its beloved service. A service with a legacy of robust developer support and user-created community.
But Twitter is not evil. It is not out to get you and it is not making the recent changes it has made to its service out of spite. Twitter is trying to find a way to evolve the company from a single feature into a suite of products that it can use to make money.
Sometimes the truth of this can get buried under the dust clouds of controversy and outrage. Some of which I may have contributed to myself. I’m not saying that outrage is unwarranted. Twitter made its choices knowing full well what it would be bringing upon itself.
Still, it has to make hard choices.
Running Twitter isn’t cheap, and it will need to make real money sooner or later in order to continue doing so. It has chosen to make that money using advertising, and that’s what it’s attempting to facilitate. Sure, it could have gone several other directions in order to make money, but this is the choice that it has made, and it is now executing on that plan, and hard.
There has been internal strife at the highest levels about this direction, that much I know, and I’m also aware that there are engineers within the company that feel uncomfortable with how the policy changes have affected a once-robust development community.
But its bed has been made and it’s moving forward. There’s no sense crying over spilled milk.
And I’m not exactly sure that this will be a terrible thing for the service as a whole. Frankly, I’m unconvinced that the vast majority of the hundreds of millions of users of Twitter will ever be aware that there has been a change. Most people use the official apps, which aren’t very good at the moment (but there are very good engineers working a Twitter, so perhaps that will change). And most people will be happy with the media-rich future that the service has in store.
Expandable tweets with images and video — or other content — are more conducive to advertising, which is why Cards exist. But a more media-rich Twitter could be a cool thing too. Maybe not for those of us who love the raw feed of information, but for a lot of people.
Unfortunately, this environment, where Twitter needs to control the way that Tweets are displayed (and the way that advertising is displayed) is not friendly to developers, period.
I wish that Twitter had found a way to do both, to encourage Twitter developers to integrate Cards into their clients or to display advertising. But that’s not to be. Being honest about the fact that it’s not a friendly platform to many developers isn’t being harsh, it’s being honest.
There are a subset of companies using Twitter data to do interesting things that Twitter approves of, for them it’s fine. But most developers using the Twitter API need to carefully read the rules and evaluate whether what they’re building violates them, because Twitter is not kidding when it says it’s going to enforce them.
Why has so much been written about Twitter and its motivations? Because people love Twitter, including me. It’s a lifeline, a news service, a water cooler, a way to experience the second-by-second events of the day through a firehose of pure information.
It’s a lot of things to a lot of people and that’s why we’re so passionate about it. Twitter’s creators hit on a need that we didn’t know we had, for a real-time version of the web.
Now, it’s changing into something else, but there’s no way of knowing yet if that will be good or bad. It’s still in flux.
It’s possible that it could lose the facets of itself that make it important or special to you, which is why I still believe we need alternatives. But it’s also possible that it may not.
The truth about Twitter is that we care because we love it, and we don’t want to see it destroyed. Now, the only recourse is to move on to another service, or to hope that there are enough people at Twitter that feel the same.
Go here to read the rest: The truth about Twitter
Apple’s latest mobile operating system gets released tomorrow, a few days ahead of the iPhone 5′s launch on Friday. iOS 6 brings a lot of new stuff, and we’ve covered that in detail in previous posts. Here’s the skinny on what’s important to remember ahead of the iOS 6 launch tomorrow beyond the added features, which we’ll let you know about as soon as it’s live and ready for download.
That’s what’s essential in terms of preparing for iOS 6 (though users may also want to note the differences in one significant feature — Maps). Tune in tomorrow to see when it arrives, along with more details about what it brings to the table.
See the original post: Reminder: Apple’s iOS 6 Arrives Tomorrow, Here’s What You Need To Know
You pick it up and it almost feels fake. That’s not to say it feels cheap; because it doesn’t — quite the opposite, actually. It just doesn’t seem real. Certainly not to someone who has been holding the iPhone 4/4S for the past two years. It feels like someone took one of those devices and hollowed it out.
The iPhone 5 is here.
I’ve had the opportunity to play around with the latest iPhone for the past several days. I won’t beat around the bush: it’s fantastic.
Of course, you’re probably expecting me to say that. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. The fact of the matter is, you can either listen to me or lose out. You’re going to want this phone.
Reading the press coverage since the unveiling, you may have heard that the iPhone 5 is disappointing, or boring. Those people, quite frankly, are fools. They either haven’t actually used the device, or only played with it for a few minutes in the hands-on area after last week’s event. (Or worse, they’re projecting their own boredom in their jobs due to Apple’s dominance of the tech scene these past few years.) Using a device on a regular basis is what really matters. And in that regard, the iPhone 5 shines in just about every conceivable way.
In fact, I’ll go a step farther: I really do believe this is the best iPhone upgrade that Apple has done yet (besting the iPhone-to-iPhone 3G jump and the iPhone 3GS-to-iPhone 4 jump). As such, it’s the best version of the iPhone yet. By far.
Let’s start with the body. I already talked about just how incredibly light it is. I almost want to compare it to one of those fake electronics place holders they put on floor display units at furniture stores — but that’s obviously not right. Perhaps it’s better to compare it to some of the Android phones out there. Several of those are also very light. The key difference here is that those often attain the low weight by going with a plastic shell. That makes them feel cheap.
The iPhone 5 sheds the weight of the iPhone 4/4S in two major ways. First, by dropping the glass back in favor of aluminum. And second, by integrating the touch technology right into the display itself (previously, it has been a layer over the display), which has allowed Apple to use a thinner sheet of glass on the front of the phone.
The iPhone 4/4S never felt heavy in my hand during day-to-day use over the course of the past two years. But when I would pick up an Android device like the Nexus S, there was no question that the iPhone was heavier. Now the iPhone 5 is actually lighter than the Nexus S, and again, it did with without reverting to plastic. The result is a device that feels every bit as solid and realized as the iPhone 4/4S.
The nice side effect of the reduction of the front glass and the removal of the back glass is that the iPhone 5 is now also significantly thinner than the iPhone 4/4S. This is less noticeable to me in regular usage, but holding them side-by-side, the difference it very obvious.
If, like me, you carry your iPhone in the front pocket of your pants, both the trimness and the weight of the iPhone 5 are most welcome additions (subtractions?).
The other crazy thing about the weight of the iPhone 5 is that it’s so much lighter even with the addition of a significantly larger screen. This is a clear testament to Apple’s hardware and manufacturing prowess. It’s tempting to wonder just how light Apple could have made an iPhone 5 with the old 3.5-inch screen…
Speaking of the screen, I was one of the skeptics about a larger screen making sense on the iPhone. My rationale was two-fold. First, I didn’t want to see the type of fragmentation that Android users and developers face because of the various device sizes in that ecosystem. Second, I just loved the 3.5-inch screen size. It seemed perfect with regard to ergonomics.
In both cases, Apple did something smart.
In terms of fragmentation, Apple avoids any major issues by allowing developers to target the 4-inch screen if they choose to, but only as a part of the same app binary from which they target the 3.5-inch screens. In other words, there will be no apps that only run on the iPhone 5′s screen — at least not any time soon (I do imagine 4-inch screens will eventually be the norm). I’m told that Apple has no plans to enforce that developers must target the 4-inch screen either. It’s fully up to them.
And if they don’t target the new screen, it’s really not a big deal. The iPhone 5 simply takes the standard-sized apps and runs them in “letterbox” mode with small black bars along the top and bottom (or sides, if the device is horizontal) of the screen. Think of it like an iPhone app running on the iPad — only the effect is much less pronounced since the iPhone 5 screen is far smaller than an iPad screen (4-inches versus. 9.7-inches). In fact, on the black iPhone 5, it can be hard to notice the black bars at all thanks to the black front of the device. The bars just blend in.
One nice side effect of the letterboxing is that the iOS system elements can still use the larger screen. So, for example, when Push Notifications come in, they flip down from the top of the screen and settle perfectly above the 3.5-inch app (as opposed to on top of it).
Still, I’m sure that many developers will target the 4-inch screen because I suspect the iPhone 5 will quickly become the best-selling iPhone yet (not to mention the new 4-inch iPod touch coming next month). Apple worked with a couple companies leading up to the iPhone 5 unveiling (OpenTable and CNN), and I’m told it was fairly easy for them to get 4-inch apps ready to go.
In fact, at the time of this writing, there are already several iPhone 5-tailored apps that have gone live in the App Store (which is pretty crazy since most of those developers haven’t actually seen the iPhone 5 in person yet). Reeder, Path, Tweetbot, Well, Lift, Highlight, GroupMe, and Tiny Post are all good to go. As are all of Apple’s major apps, as you might imagine. (Sadly, Twitter itself, which just pushed a major 5.0 upgrade today, apparently didn’t get the 4-inch memo — even though they’re baked right into iOS. Of course, neither did the newly native-app-focused Facebook.)
Most of the apps listed above are simply making use of the longer screen for vertical list-style display purposes. But I’m personally most interested in the apps that use the extra space to get creative with regard to UI/UX. CNN is one of those, as they brought some elements of their iPad app over to the iPhone 5 app (though that updated version is not live just yet).
The other smart thing Apple did with regard to the 4-inch screen was only make it taller. That is, the screen on the iPhone 5 is the exact same width as every iPhone that came before it. It’s simply longer. This minimizes the ergonomic impact of the change (as well as the impact on developers).
To be quite honest, it’s something I’m still getting used to. I don’t find my thumb straining to reach any of the upper touch elements, but I do find myself holding the device slightly differently (cue the “you’re holding it wrong” jokes) than I held previous iPhones. I’m fairly certain this is just something I’ll get used to over time. No big deal. (Though slightly annoying is the tendancy to double-tap the top of the screen on 3.5-inch apps which no longer scrolls you to the top of the app, because you have to actually double-tap the time area.)
I very much appreciate the actual vertical screen real estate within apps such as Mail and Calendar, which now can display much more info. It’s also great for any text-heavy app. And of course, the web.
(Below: Path optimized for the iPhone 5 versus on the iPhone 4S.)
In horizontal mode, the new screen gives you a 16