Seventeen Years an Analyst
Moving on to try something new
I have a little more to say about all this below, but the tl;dr version of all this is that I’m hanging up my cleats as an independent analyst and going to run an internal consumer research and insights team for Vivint Smart Home at the end of the month. As such, I’ll be winding down most of the work I’ve done as an independent analyst in the next few weeks.
I’ve been a telecoms and technology analyst since September 2000, when I started in my first full-time permanent job at UK-based research and consulting firm Ovum (the picture above is the first “work” picture I ever had taken). That first role had me covering some pretty arcane stuff as a telecoms regulation analyst, with acronyms like FRIACO (flat-rate internet access call origination) still somehow stuck in my brain over seventeen years later. It was an exciting time in telecoms — I got to watch the birth of 3G and DSL services and study the huge differences between the regulatory approaches to telecoms practiced in the US and almost the entire rest of the world. I also weathered the economic downturn that happened after the Internet bubble burst, and saw many of my colleagues laid off.
I stayed at Ovum for thirteen years altogether, four of them in my native London, and then from 2004 onwards in the US, first in Boston and then in New Jersey. I covered lots of different topics during that time, adding lots more acronyms to my repertoire, and learning which parts of the industry I found more and less interesting. Above all, I discovered that the part I was most passionate about was consumer technology, which I found far more relatable than other topics I covered over the years. As such, even though my formal titles and roles had me covering other things, I always found myself drawn to consumer tech and informally began covering that market as the US counterpart to our UK-based consumer team even as my official role was overseeing our global telecoms research agenda.
In 2013, Ovum was going through the latest of several rounds of restructuring and merger activity and I had what I knew would be one of the best opportunities I’d ever get to go off on my own as an analyst, something I’d always envisaged myself doing eventually. I was given a severance package and therefore a financial buffer, while we’d recently moved to Utah and lowered our cost of living substantially. As such, I decided to form my own company, Jackdaw Research, and cover the consumer tech market exclusively, something I’ve been doing for exactly the last four years.
These four years have been some of the most fulfilling of my career so far, covering the market I’m passionate about exclusively, while deciding for myself what to cover and how, which travel is worth paying for and isn’t, which companies to seek to build relationships with, what research to conduct and analysis to perform, and so on. I’ve built client relationships with some of the biggest companies in the industry, including Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung, and worked in other capacities with many more. I’ve also loved working with reporters, who’ve called me for comments on everything from the latest iPhones to Uber’s culture meltdown to TV cord-cutting. I’ve also been able to contribute to publications like Variety, Recode, Techpinions, Yahoo Finance, iMore, and others as a columnist.
But it hasn’t all been easy — these have also been some of the most stressful times in my life, as I went from the predictability of a monthly salary to the ups and downs of life as a freelancer and the financial stresses and strains that brings. I’ve had great working relationships with many companies in the industry, but not enough regular paying relationships to ensure the financial stability and predictability I and my family needed. As such, over the last few months I’ve been thinking about what I might like to do next, whether going back to work for one of the big firms, or doing something else.
I mentioned earlier that I’d always wanted to go out on my own eventually, but the other thing I’d always hoped to do was to hop over the fence, as it were, and spend some time inside a consumer tech company, helping to build products and develop markets rather than merely telling other people how to do so. One of my frustrations of being an analyst and consultant has always been that it can feel like you do a ton of work and then toss it over a high, impenetrable wall, hoping that your clients make good use of it, and only occasionally seeing glimpses of the execution of your proposed approach in the market some time later.
As such, when an opportunity came along at Vivint Smart Home, one of the leaders in this fascinating space, it seemed like a great fit. The recruiting process has gone very quickly — under a month from start to finish — and I’ll start work there after Thanksgiving. I’m going to be running a newly-created team bringing together all the consumer research and insights work being done across the company, something that feels like a great fit for my past experience and what I love doing. Incidentally, I’ve written about Vivint several times as an analyst, including here and here. I’ve always believed that they have the best model for taking the smart home from the early adopter space where it currently sits to a more mainstream market, so I’m excited to be working on the inside helping to make that happen.
All of this, though, means that the work I’ve done for the past seventeen years as an analyst will come largely to an end. My loyalties now will be to one specific company and helping it be as successful as possible, rather than spending my days thinking, writing, and advising on the market as a whole in a broader, more public role. I have some client commitments which will run for at least a little longer, and some data products which will continue to be available as a result for at least a while. I haven’t yet worked out whether I’ll continue blogging or running the Beyond Devices Podcast in future, either on a less frequent basis or after something of a hiatus. I’ll continue to be on Twitter, though likely posting at lower volumes than in the past, and my DMs will continue to be open for anyone who wants to get in touch.
I feel privileged to have been able to be an analyst during one of the most exciting times in our industry – I’ve seen so many huge transitions, from broadband to mobile broadband, from phones to smartphones, the rise of VR and AR, mass-market availability of machine learning and AI, voice as an interface, and plenty more besides. And I’ve had an inside track on big announcements, attending developer conferences for Google, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, and Facebook in the last few years. Mostly recently, I attended the launch of new iPhones at the Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple Campus, which was one of the highlights of my career. Above all, I think technology is an enormous force for good in our lives, despite some of the worries we all have about the ways it can be used for evil as well (I wrote some more detailed thoughts on the state of the industry in my last Techpinions column today).
Thank you to all of you who have helped me do my work by serving in analyst relations and PR roles at the companies I’ve covered, by buying my research and consulting services, or simply by reading what I’ve had to say. I’ve tried to reach out to many of those people personally over the last day or so, but by necessity haven’t been able to each everyone directly – so my apologies if you’re reading this news here rather than in a more personalized form. And I hope to stay in touch with many of you even as I make this transition — I’ve made lots of friends over the years and we’ll likely bump into each other at the odd industry event here or there. But please stay in touch in other ways too.