We’re heading into the final months of 2019 (can you believe it?), and a lot of great things have happened here at Speedinvest. We’ve seen our founders progress to the next stage, continued to welcome and support new entrepreneurs to our family, and we’ve even featured a few of our favorite tunes.
As we take stock, and think further about the kind of companies we want to partner with, we’re sending a “call to action” for founders working in spaces we’re really keen on.
We’re excited about companies under the umbrella of “Next-Gen Sharing”. Here’s what we mean by that, and why we think it’s interesting.
What we’re seeing
Sharing, connectivity, and data handling practices have all taken center stage in the global conversation. What we put onto the web becomes an extension of ourselves, and how that piece of our identity is treated becomes paramount to users. So consumer shifts on these topics can have real economic magnitude.
Social Platform Evolution
32% of the entire world is on some sort of social network platform. Naturally, when the values and mission of these companies get discussed in public, the world pays attention. With question marks surrounding social media taking central stage, wouldn’t you expect platform user bases to be in flux?
For Facebook, a high-level picture of usage actually looks quite stable. Globally, they saw ~8% daily active user (DAU) growth YoY Q1 ’18 → Q1 ’19. And almost no quarter-over-quarter DAU declines across all regions. Impressive given the recent scrutiny.
Though as seed-stage investors, we’re on the lookout for “the new new thing” and sometimes that means looking toward the younger generations.
You can see clear shifts in the sand when looking at the age 12–34 demographic in the US. We think this 4 year transition toward other platforms (including Instagram, which is of course owned by Facebook) signifies market receptivity for something new. Facebook boldly pushed for a public forum approach as they tweaked the News Feed algorithm in 2013 (more news links, fewer memes, and commenting receiving greater attention). And this approach arguably fueled some of the recent public outcry.
Roughly 1 and 1/2 years into the implementation of GDPR, Europe is continuing to adapt. The new regulation has clearly impacted business operations, but it’s also a very consumer-facing piece of legislation. For the first time, people are confronted with choices on how their data is processed when on the web. Some people are learning what “cookies” mean, some are unsure who benefits from this regulation, and some are learning that their old habits are in violation of the new law.
In any case, Privacy (yes, with a capital “P”) is becoming more and more important. So much so, it’s entering the mainstream marketing rhetoric.
Attention to privacy isn’t simply regulation-driven. We think ambitious founders can play a role too, and latch onto a growing interest in privacy-first platforms.
Growing Access to Each Other
On a pretty intuitive level, greater connectivity across humanity has become more possible due to internet access. Less intuitively — we are tracking behind our global internet access goals. 1/2 the world was expected to have access (at least once every 3 months) by 2017. Instead that goal is being pushed back to the end of 2019. Some speculate that 5G will have a leveling effect between developing nations and the rest of the world. And in any case, 5G will accentuate networks in developed countries as we establish a larger ecosystem of connected devices, and deeper virtual ties to one another.
Despite falling behind the UN Broadband Commission’s goals, data reveal a steep incline in global access to the web.
Tremendous internet adoption is not a new narrative. But finding improved ways to share and interact with each other gets increasingly critical in a more connected world.
What this means
These 3 things,
1) evolving social platform usage
2) shifting sentiment on privacy
3) an increasingly connected globe
create a challenging mix for founders building software that helps people share ideas, stories, and emotions.
But with these changing attitudes and infrastructure, we see 4 categories of companies that can capitalize on these trends.
What we’d like to see more of
1. New Social, New Mediums → The data (above) can indicate that “visual-heavy” platforms (Instagram/Snapchat) are soaking up usage when younger users shift away from Facebook. Picture/video/meme share was only part of Facebook’s intended value prop. There’s meant to be a sense of intimacy/privacy intermixed with feelings of community involved in these platforms.
But what if there was a different medium that helped build this sense of intimacy? We think voice is one format that has this potential. Koo! is an audio-first platform for short-form bites of content. You can listen to and create “mini-podcasts” and interact with both friends and producers of your favorite audio content. The adoption of AirPods/”Alexa’s”/Google Home’s means the hardware is increasingly there, so software in the form of a social platform feels like an inevitable extension.
Sarah Tavel of Benchmark mentioned the idea that consumer social today is “95% read and 5% write” and we may move to a more “participatory era” of social. We’re eager to see how new mediums (such as audio-first) can shift the read:write ratio in a more balanced direction.
2. Personal Data Economy → The 2000’s and 2010’s era of platform <> user data agreements are being re-conceptualized. Users have been exchanging personal data in return for access to software and a network. But what if we could be more proactive and centralize our choices on who views our data and when?
BitsAboutMe gives consumers more clarity and control on how their personal data is leveraged. The app lets users maintain a profile of their own data, be selective about which companies receive access, and also monetize this access. It helps make the user <> company relationship just a bit more fair and transparent, and better understood on both sides of the equation. And in the process, data kept on the platform is encrypted and not accessible by BitsAboutMe. Very important for new generations growing up in the era of GDPR.
3. Media and News Discovery → The way people hear about local and world events can differ greatly by demography and geography. But “echo chambers” can stop people from learning about new perspectives. In an increasingly connected world, you’d expect to see more diverse content pushed to consumers, right?
We think the next generation of media dissemination will account for all sorts of variety in tastes. And in the process, more broadly expand people’s horizons while simultaneously connecting them to their core interests.
With the advent of serious AI capabilities, comes an opportunity to improve media content distribution. Snipfeed is a “direct to media” channel for publisher content (news articles, video, podcasts, etc.) to reach people in a mobile-first way. Articles are optimized for modern attention spans, and AI helps push content that users love, including content they might never have been introduced to otherwise. There’s no social graph attached to Snipfeed. So you won’t simply see the same content that your network sees. AI is looking more present in our future, and this is just one of the ways media discovery is being reshaped.
4. Social Features, Practical Use → Social and mobile platform use has become ingrained in human interaction for many of us. A next generation of software will leverage familiar components of existing platforms (frictionless video/image sharing, snapshots into personal character, messaging interfaces, perhaps even “disappearing” content) in professional settings.
Happeo is a social intranet meant to ease internal collaboration and comms for the enterprise. It combines familiar social interfaces with integration of the practical things employees need (like Google Drive/Docs). Giving your team an easy-to-use, friendly virtual space can go a long way especially as we move into an era with more and more distributed workplaces.
This category gets some extra boost thanks to shifting attitudes in the “future of work”. Increasingly workplaces are becoming more open to bringing more of your “whole self” to the office, and employers want to know who they are hiring, not just what he/she can do. Future workplaces also look more flexible with freelancing/nimble contracting and a one-to-many relationship for employee → employer. Genuine and frequent collaboration becomes critical with these 2 shifts, and social features have the opportunity to provide that authenticity.
Give us a shout
If you’re hustling somewhere in one (or two!) of these categories we’d love to hear from you! You can reach out on Twitter @KrishanAllen, my DM’s are open.