Recent CNBC Talk: App market, Apple vs Google & VC value-add

Not too sure why but a few weeks back I got the opportunity to talk to CNBC on one of their live morning shows. I’d love to say it was all fun but it was really intimidating at first – you don’t see who you’re talking to and you can hear yourself, the moderators and the producers all at once over a small earpiece. Of course you also have no idea what kind of questions are going to come up. But the moderators were super nice and it actually did end up being a bit of fun. Despite it being a more broad financial markets programme, we actually touched on a few of the most important debates going on in the tech world – so clearly these have arrived outside of the tech community:

It’s very hard to break through the cacophony of the mobile app market

As costs to build and distribute applications has gone down significantly it has lead to an unprecedented growth in the number of software products available to consumers and companies. Of course this means now its a lot harder to cut through the noise; and the still relatively widespread philosophy of “build a cool product and do some PR” is clearly becoming less effective by the day – see Dave McClure’s post / rant on this and Fred Wilson highlighted some changes a while back. We are seeing teams being more structured on this and also thinking about hiring differently – a healthy evolution.

However I remain bullish for what this means for VCs – you have more people taking shots, more companies to look at, teams are building products quicker, etc. It requires a some adaption in sourcing (more analaytics tools e.g.) and investment strategy  of course – but being kept on your toes is a good thing.

Google vs. Apple: Apple may need to make bolder moves

I had to chuckle a little that the video is titled “Google will win over Apple: Expert” – not only because the expert piece is slightly stretching it, but because I am entirely within the Apple ecosystem myself (with the exception of a Nexus 7 that I have to check out Android apps) and still prefer it to Android. Having said that google does appear to have the upper hand right now and is pushing the boundaries of a mobile OS harder than anyone else – also the more open ecosystem approach is a winner as average consumers are becoming more and more acquainted with smart phones and demand more flexibility.

Having said that I would hate for google to be so dominant. Not only do I hope that Apple will make some brave moves (both on the hardware and software side), but I hope we see new players emerging as they always have in the history of the tech. But back to Apple – seems like everyone is really focused on the new design aspects of iOS7 – sure it’s great to have a fresher look. But I am pretty sure Apple has more up its sleeves in terms of capabilities of (future versions of) iOS, the way it integrates with applications and other hardware, giving users more choice, etc. – this is where I’ll be looking for innovation, not the calendar design.

VCs need to be thinking hard about the value-add they provide

Especially in Europe it used to be fine to just have money, to just do “deals”. This is not enough anymore. A lot of funds especially in the US have began hiring senior people in roles such as HR support, PR, etc quite a while back – while also ensuring the partnership itself has a good combination of skill-sets and backgrounds. Others are creating platforms and systems (esp. FirstRound) to enhance the exchange of know-how within the portfolio community. This is easier done with larger funds / fees, as you can hire more folks – but it’s not an excuse and smaller funds / VC teams will need to think hard about how they can make their value add to entrepreneurs more tangible than the occasional intro and boardroom feedback. No doubt we will see more of this in Europe soon too.

In any case here’s the full length interview that goes in to a little more detail on those topics.

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