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  • feedwordpress 05:47:36 on 2015/12/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , predictions 2015, Random, But Interesting,   

    Predictions 2015: How’d I Do? 

    The post Predictions 2015: How’d I Do? appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    ea8e9ff77d5d1332ef85b4eded4b28953aa4f64bEach January for the past 13 years, I’ve been making predictions on this site. Twelve months later, I pull back and review how those predictions have fared. I’ve already got a running list of predictions for 2016, but in this post, I want to handicap how my prognostications for 2015 turned out.

    I made a total of 12 predictions in 2015, so I’ll run through each in turn.

    1. Uber will begin to consolidate its namesake position in the “The Uber-ization of everything” trend. 

    In essence, I predicted that Uber would launch delivery and logistics businesses in 2015. This wasn’t particularly insightful of me – the company had already launched two small pilots (UberEssentials and UberFresh)  in the Fall of 2014. But in January 2015, Uber killed UberEssentials, and for months, there was no expansion of either service. So was I wrong? Nope. In April 2015, Uber launched UberEats in four markets (since grown to a dozen), and this past October, Uber launched Uber Rush in three major US cities.  I think I got this one right.

    2. Related, Uber will be the center of a worldwide conversation about the impact of tech and business culture on the world. 

    Well, again I think I got this one right. And again, it was a pretty safe bet that the company would be the talk of tech and culture throughout 2015. A major proof, to my mind, was Rachel Whetstone’s decampment from head of Google comms to take a similar role at Uber this past May. For nearly a decade, Whetstone had successfully guided Google as it consolidated its position as the world’s most controversial and talked about tech brand (yes, yes, Facebook and Apple might compete for that honor, but we can argue that another time). But in 2015, Uber was the go to protagonist (and antagonist) of the tech conversation, from its incessant opportunistic fundraising to its starring role in critical economic, policy and cultural issues, I think it’s fair to say the company took pole position from Google, Facebook, and Apple in 2015.

    3. Google will face existential competition from Facebook due to Facebook’s Atlas offering.

    This prediction stemmed from my penchant for adtech geekery, and while I think it will prove long term true, I didn’t find a lot of proof that it came to fruition in 2015. Facebook made steady gains here, including the hiring of key Google adtech talent, but I think this one needs another year to prove true.

    4. The Apple Watch will be seen as a success.

    Well, you didn’t see this one coming did you? I’m usually an Apple naysayer (though I love the Mac), but I believed that the watch was a natural extension of the phone, and I still believe this to be the case. The results are decidedly mixed – Apple’s Tim Cook agrees with me, naturally. But plenty of others believe Apple’s foray into wearables was a disappointment. Apple doesn’t break out units shipped for its watches (a strong sign the company is itself disappointed), and estimates range from a low of single digit millions to a high of nearly 20 million. Given the paucity of data here, all I have is my gut, and my gut says, the Apple Watch was a push. Not a failure, not a success. Since I said it was going to be seen as a success, I think I whiffed this one.

    5. And Apple Pay will not.

    Long term, I think I’ll be proven wrong on this one, but in 2015, I think I got it right. This Fall, Bloomberg called Apple Pay “underwhelming,” and Cook’s prediction that 2015 would be “the year of Apple Pay” is widely seen as off the mark. However, I think 2016 will prove Cook directionally correct.

    6. But Beacons will re-emerge and take root.

    Ummm…my first reaction to this one is to cringe – beacons were not really top of mind for anyone in tech this past year. And try as I might, I couldn’t find proof otherwise. So, another whiff, at least for now.

    7. Google’s Nest will build or buy a scaled home automation service business.

    Well, no. Nest did launch a developer platform, which is related, but not the same. I still think this is a natural fit for Nest, but it didn’t happen in 2015. Whiff.

    8. A breakout healthcare startup will emerge in the consumer consciousness

    Well, does Theranos count? Because, well, I think it does. Not in the way I had expected, but still…give me half credit for this one.

    9. A breakout mobile startup will force us to rethink the mobile user interface.

    Oh man, we are so so so close here. Overall, my intent with this prediction was to say that in 2015, we’ll finally realize that it’s time to break out of the “apps and home screen” approach to mobile. And I really think that happened. Just so much great work happening here. There’s Google App Streaming, of course. And there’s Wrap. And this widely cited post from Intercom.io on the end of apps as we know them. And much, much more. But again, no one breakout mobile startup that acted as a forcing function. Alas. I’d say half credit here, right on the intent, wrong on the specifics.

    10. At least one hotly-anticipated IPO will fizzle, leading many to declare that the “tech correction” has begun.

    Ok, pretty much nailed this one.

    11. China will falter.

    My point here was that China could not keep growing the way it had been, nor would its endless cyber attacks on US and other corporate assets continue to go unnoticed. And in 2015, both were called on the carpet.

    12. Adtech comes back.

    My final prediction was that adtech would rebound by the end of 2015, after a terrible 2014. And while the public adtech stocks are still battered, I think I got this one right as well. Rubicon, seen as a bellwether in the category, is on an upward trajectory after hitting a low in September. AppNexus is once again looking to go public, and my sources with knowledge of the company say it’s doing quite well. And while I can’t delve into specifics, I’ve never been more bullish about sovrn Holdings, where I am Chair. The company completed an opportunistic financing round in 2015, and is positively killing it going into 2016. Overall, I think the world is going to figure out that adtech is about more than ads – it’s about creating an open, accessible processing and notification layer for the entire Internet. In 2015, adtech was definitely back.

    So overall, how’d I do? Well, by my count, I got seven right and two half right, and whiffed on three. Not a bad year, to be honest – 8 of 12, for an average of .750. That’s at the upper end of my predictions, which usually come in between .500 and .750. I guess I’ll try again in a week or so. Till then, thanks for reading in 2015. I plan on writing a lot more in 2016…here, at NewCo, and on Medium and LinkedIn as well.

    Have a great New Year, folks. See you in 2016.

    The post Predictions 2015: How’d I Do? appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 01:13:04 on 2015/12/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , Random, But Interesting   

    Bring Back the Ozone Hole   

    The post Bring Back the Ozone Hole   appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    ozone_still_2000_09_06_lrg

    Way back in 1985 an unlikely coalition of world governments, business, and enlightened citizens did something extraordinary: Responding to the findings of leading scientists, they united in decisive action to address a looming and existential global climate threat.

    That threat was a dangerous thinning of the Earth’s ozone layer due to society’s use of man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Ozone, it turns out, protects the Earth’s surface from dangerous UVB radiation — which causes skin cancer, cataracts, and all manner of unpleasant ecological chaos.

    Invented in the 1920s to power chemical processes that enabled refrigeration and aerosol spray cans, CFCs rapidly accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere. By 1985, CFCs had effectively blown a massive “ozone hole” over Antarctica. A single scientific paper noted the threat, and subsequent press pickup engendered a “hot crisis” — the public perceived a clear and present danger, and as a result, we demanded a cohesive government response.

    The narrative was easy to understand: Ozone protects us from cancer-causing UVB rays, CFCs deplete ozone, so unless we eliminate CFCs, we’re all going to fry.

    I was in college in 1985, and I remember how common the ozone hole meme had become. My mother used to call and remind me to wear sunscreen, citing “the hole in the atmosphere” created by narcissists addicted to hair spray. I even remember telling my friends to stop staring into open refrigerators, because taxing the machinery that kept our food cold meant releasing more CFCs in the air. CFCs became an international boogie man, and within two years, world governments had banned them. And instead of denying the existence of the threat, industry found alternatives to CFCs. As of this year — 30 years after the public’s initial awareness of the threat — the ozone hole has effectively closed.

    Which of course begs the question: Why can’t we run the same play against our current climate change crisis?

    Remember the Ozone Hole? Oh, right, you probably weren’t born yet…

    We can’t because for most of us, climate change isn’t personal. We don’t walk outside, feel the warmth of the sun on our skin, and then wonder “Wait…is this going to kill me?”

    Climate change lacks a clear villain. Instead, we’re all rather like the frog in the boiling pot — it seems things are getting a bit warmer, but no matter, we’ve got our lives to get on with. We look at photos of smog in China or melting glaciers in faraway places, and we think — yeah, we should probably do something about that.

    No galvanizing metaphor elicits public outrage. If scientists had proof that climate change was ripping a cancer-causing hole in our atmosphere, I’d wager we’d be well past debating with climate deniers. But absent that, responding to climate change requires enlightened, long term thinking. And most of us kind of suck at that.

    I never thought I’d say it, but I kind of miss the ozone hole.

    (cross posted to Medium)

    The post Bring Back the Ozone Hole   appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 02:52:12 on 2015/10/01 Permalink
    Tags: email, faux pas, , Random, But Interesting   

    Do It Right. Not Fast. Right. 

    The post Do It Right. Not Fast. Right. appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

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    (Cross posted to LI and Medium. Cuz that’s how we roll these days)

    If you’ve never blown it big time using email — you will.

    I have several times — in fact, I just did it earlier this evening. And gaaaah!, I wish technology had an answer for the clear and present danger that is myself, rushing through an afternoon, trying to GSD and hit inbox zero. Then again, life does have an answer: SLOW. THE F*CK. DOWN.

    Allow me to explain. Earlier today I got an email newsletter from an organization that is doing a NewCo session next week. I noticed that while the newsletter was promoting all manner of things, it didn’t mention its own NewCo session — even though the contents of the newsletter were all about upcoming events and other goings on that might be of interest to the intended audience.

    A bit miffed, I forwarded said newsletter to my team, asking in rather frank terms why our partner wasn’t promoting its own session in its main communications outlet. A typically frank back and forth ensued, ending with my decision to forward the offending newsletter to folks I knew at the organization, with a polite top note enquiring if they might include mention of their session in a subsequent missive.

    If you’ve made the same mistake as me, you know what happened next.

    Yep, I forwarded the email with all of the frank back and forth between my team included.

    Holy f*ckin’ mother of christ I am such a huge assh*le. That was my first response. Second response? “Wait, isn’t there a way to unsend this?” Third response. “Oh sh*t, I have to change settings and it only works within 30 seconds and sh*t it’s already been longer than that.” Fourth response? A servile, lame-ass apology to the (most likely forever offended) parties involved.

    Fifth response? Write this post. Reminding all of us to- slow down. The goal is not to get shit done. The goal is to get it done right.

    The post Do It Right. Not Fast. Right. appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 04:16:45 on 2015/04/27 Permalink
    Tags: corporate sustainability, , , , , Random, But Interesting,   

    Uber, The Rashomon. 

    The post Uber, The Rashomon. appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    Uber Women Promo

    Our industry loves a rashomon, and in the past year or two, our collective subject of debate has been Uber. Perhaps the fastest growing company in history (its numbers aren’t public, but we’ll get to some estimates shortly), Uber has become a vector for some of the most wide-ranging arguments I’ve ever had regarding the tech industry’s impact on society at large.

    It’s not that Google, Facebook, Apple, or Microsoft didn’t evoke great debate, but all those companies came of age in an era where tech was still relegated to a sideshow in the broader cultural conversation. Microsoft was taking over the computer industry in the 1990s, Google the Internet in the early 2000s, Facebook and Apple the mobile and social world in the late 2000s. But Uber? Uber is about a very real and entirely new approach to our economy, a stand in for the wealth divide festering in the US and beyond, an existential rorschach testing your values around the role of government, the social contract, and the kind of society we want to become.

    When an Uber glides to its appointed pickup point, what do we see? Do we see an innovator hastening the inexorable shift to a new information-based economy? Or an arrogant bully using cheap capital, greed, and a dangerous, misogynist culture of convenience to consolidate a trillion dollar market?

    Or do we see both?

    Yes — that’s a cop out, but it’s also an honest answer. I know people who work at Uber, and I know some of Uber’s investors as well. They are in general a well intentioned group — and many of them have reservations about Uber’s unbridled success and its mixed reputation.

    Uber’s success is breathtaking. Consider: Uber’s most recent round valued the company at over $41 billion — $15 billion more than Google’s initial public market cap of $26.4 billion. At a conference I attended last month, an Uber executive mentioned the company was clocking more than one million rides each and every day. If you (conservatively) estimate each ride at $10, that’d be gross revenue of $10mm a day, or $3.65 billion a year. Uber takes roughly a quarter of that revenue (20% is the widely reported number, but when I ask drivers, they tell me it’s 25–28%), or just under a billion dollars. And their costs are….well, assume about 2,000 employees (I’ve heard estimates of 1200 to 2500), for $250mm or so in labor costs. I’m pretty sure they’re not spending another $750mm on marketing and platform costs. So the company is most likely quite profitable already.

    And my figures are conservative. Business Insider claims the company is on track to do $10 billion in gross revenue this year, and CEO Travis Kalanick last year claimed revenue is doubling every six months. In five years, Uber has expanded to 57 countries. So, yes, this company is astonishingly successful.

    And yet…I’ve not met a single person in this industry who doesn’t express reservations about Uber. Certainly the company stepped in it terribly with the whole Lacy debacle, but the ambivalence goes deeper still. I’m sure pure Uber defenders exist, but the truth is, most of us are worried about the sheer expression of capitalistic force that the company represents. Privately, many are heartened by the regulatory counterforces that are stemming the company’s march through worldwide markets — Germany, Holland, India, Korea, Canada, Spain, France, New Zealand, and many other countries have banned Uber’s services either nationally, or through local city regulations.

    Uber is the poster child for our global conversation about the role of work in our society, and about the kind of company we want to create, work at, and celebrate. And that conversation is deeply political and cultural in nature. On the one hand, the “1099 Economy” is providing hundreds of thousands of flexible, living wage jobs for those who might otherwise be marginalized or underpaid. On the other, it represents the systemic dismantling of our labor laws by rapacious, profit seeking monopolists.

    If you want to hear an unalloyed economic takedown of Uber, head over to Robert Reich’s blog. And if you want to hear a reasoned defense of the company as an innovator, read what Suster has to say. But anyone who read Sarah Lacy’s passionate story has to wonder — if we didn’t have Uber now, wouldn’t the Valley just end up creating it? Certainly that’s Lacy’s conclusion — Uber is the collective creation of the Valley’s deep arrogance, its heartless celebration of high valuations and killer exits, and its male-dominated, aggressive philosophy of “breaking things fast” and “asking for forgiveness rather than permission.”

    Put another way, Uber feels inevitable — a uniquely of-the-moment company, a mirror held up to the Valley’s aggregate psyche. And as we all look into that mirror, we are both fascinated and appalled.

    All of this was at front of mind a month ago when an email from a site called Founder Dating popped into my inbox. Founder Dating is a LinkedIn-like service that connects entrepreneurs, and it sports a lively Quora-like Q&A forum. When interesting new threads emerge, the service notifies you. “Is Uber A Social Impact company?” was the question of the day, and it immediately sparked a strong debate, as you might expect. Lydia Eager, the thread’s originator, opened with this:

    A lot of people love to hate uber because of their aggressive tactics, but the fact of the matter is that they are creating 20K new driver jobs/month and the median uberX driver income in NYC is $90K/year. Feels to me like they do way more good than harm and I’d consider them a social impact company. They are having a much bigger impact than say a non-profit trying to create jobs.

    Do you have to have set out to have a major social mission to be considered a social impact company?

    From there a diverse group of folks, myself included, chimed in with 50 or so thoughtful replies, touching on the importance of purpose- and mission-driven business, the role Uber plays in destroying living-wage jobs in the taxi and livery businesses, the actual economics of driving for Uber and similar businesses, the positive impact Uber has on carbon emissions, congestion, and drunk driving, the inevitable future where driverless cars and automation make workers irrelevant, the positive competitive response Uber has created in the taxi business (better customer service, competing apps, etc), stories of questionable competitive business practices, stories of rape and kidnapping (on both sides — taxies and Uber), debate over the meaning of “social impact” at its core, debate over the role of local and national regulation, debate over consolidation of power and money in markets and society, debate over libertarian political philosophy, and much, much more.

    I hear these questions debated every time Uber comes up at a party, an industry event, or just between friends shooting the breeze. Back in 2013, when we were starting NewCo, we had the same debate when we were considering which companies to invite to our first full-fledged NewCo festival in San Francisco. We asked ourselves whether Uber was really a NewCo — an engine of positive change in our society. We couldn’t make up our mind and ended up kicking the can down the road. This year, we have to once again tackle the question. And I’m still not sure where we’ll land.

    Like it or not, Uber is now our rashomon for understanding the impact technology is having on our culture. The company is showing signs of “growing up” — as all fast-growing tech companies do over time (you have to love Facebook shifting its motto from “Move fast and break things” to “Move fast …with stable infrastructure”). Uber’s stance to local regulators has shifted from a siege mentality to one of engagement (necessarily, I’m sure). Its CEO (and the offending exec) apologized, sort of, to Lacy, and has shifted its public voice to highlight its positive impact on the world — the first image on its site today is of a woman, with the headline “Her Turn to Earn — Creating 1,000,000 jobs for women by 2020.”

    Is this all just calculated PR spin, or might it represent a real shift in the company’s culture? I think I know where Lacy stands on this one — she was personally targeted by a senior Uber executive, and she’s in no mood to give the company a second chance. But for most of the rest of us, the ambivalence — and the broader debate — continues. I personally believe that companies can change over time — Walmart, Unilever, and many others are now champions of sustainability — yet one could reasonably argue they played huge roles in creating the unsustainable world in which we currently live. But does that mean we shouldn’t celebrate and encourage their corporate change of heart?

    If we dismiss these glimmerings of change as mere greenwashing, we are handing corporations an excuse to continue past practices. Instead, we should hold them accountable. For Uber — and all of us — that journey has just begun.

    The post Uber, The Rashomon. appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 04:55:32 on 2015/02/13 Permalink
    Tags: business advice, Random, But Interesting, relatinships   

    Your Network Transcends Time – Care For It 

    The post Your Network Transcends Time – Care For It appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    Every year around this year I fly to Arizona and attend the IAB Annual Meeting, a confab of 1000+ executives  in the interactive media business. Yes, it’s a rubber-chicken boondoggle – what ballroom-based warm-climated event in February isn’t? – but I go because I get to catch up with dozens of colleagues and friends, and I usually connect to a handful of interesting new folks as well. I hate the travel and despise most hotel rooms, but on balance, well – I keep going. (And yes, I think the NewCo model is even more productive, but more on that in another post).

    I find the best connections happen over dinner or drinks – perhaps that’s my own convivial nature, but I sense I’m not alone. So I want to tell you a story of a chance meeting at a bar, because it evokes a larger lesson in business:  you’re only as good as your relationships – and those relationships often exist outside traditional boundaries of time and space.

    If you’re scratching your head, stay with me. I hope to clarify.

    Monday night I was at the bar, chatting with old friends in the industry. The room was filled with happy half-tipsy industry types, the pleasant din of convivial glad-handing was well underway.  At one point I looked to my right and saw a young man who caught my eye and lit up with recognition. “John, my man, how are you?!” he proclaimed, extending his hand for an enthusiastic shake.

    Now here’s where I need to admit something. I’ve been in this industry for nearly 30 years, and for 20 of them I’ve been relatively well known in this small circle of digital publishing – I was on the Board of the IAB for six years, and I’ve graced the stage of the annual meeting several times. The net of it is this: At places like the IAB, a lot more folks remember my name than I do theirs. It doesn’t help that I suck at remembering names to begin with, and it’s only gotten worse as I’ve careened toward middle age and beyond. (I’m not alone in this, I just love this TED talk from David Hornik – I’m not dyslexic, but I sure feel that way when it comes to names).

    All of which is a long way of saying I didn’t have the faintest idea whose hand I was at present shaking. He looked familiar – maddeningly so – but I could not remember the connection. I am afraid this happens to me far more than I’d like to admit.

    Usually when presented with this dilemma, I employ a strategy of conversing my way to enlightenment – hoping for a high order bit that might remind me of our connection. Alas, the man was enveloped in his own bubble of conversation, and after his friendly overture, he returned to his group. I doubt he knew I was struggling to recall his name – I’ll admit, sheepishly, that I displayed recognition as I returned his warm greeting.

    Now, I could have written that exchange off, not given it another thought. But these things vex me – I hate not knowing who’s reached out to me with obvious awareness and good intent. It tugged at me the rest of the evening, until hours later, at dinner, it dawned on me who the fellow was. Turns out, he’s a quite successful investor and entrepreneur, but it had been a few years since I’d seen him in the flesh, and I just didn’t make the connection in the moment.

    I was pleased with my recall, even if it was late. It closed an otherwise unfulfilled loop – I hate potential lapses in relationships, even if the other party had no idea I had failed to remember their name.

    The next day provided a perfect example of why this matters. While waiting for my flight at the Phoenix airport I took a call from an old college friend, a man who has built a great career in banking and venture capital. He wanted to talk about a particular firm – a very well respected company with which he had potential business. And by now you can probably figure out whose company that was – it was the company where my mystery man worked.

    “Ah, I just saw him last night,” I could truthfully tell my friend on the phone. “He’s a great guy, and his firm is top rate. I’d be happy to provide an introduction if you’d like.”

    I have no idea if my two colleagues will end up doing business together, but that’s not the point. In business, the network is always on – even across the axis of time. The night before, I had no idea I’d be presented with a chance to introduce two great people. But if I hadn’t taken the time to close that open relationship loop, I’d have lost the chance to provide a truly warm introduction – one that might have strengthen the fabric of not only my own network, but of theirs as well. And that’d have been a shame.

    Tend to your network, and do your best to return the favor of a warm greeting. You never know when it might come back to you.

    The post Your Network Transcends Time – Care For It appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
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