Oh no. Not another messaging app.Posted: June 20, 2014
A lot has been said about all these new messaging apps. A lot of questions have been asked around whether the world really needs them, if they are solving ‘real’ problems and if VCs should be more focused on backing ‘real’ innovation.
I have written about this before (social, economic and technical engineering challenges), so let me just focus on why some VC folks are backing new messaging apps that initially appear to be “silly toys”:
- Communication is the core fundament and use case of the web. Messaging = relevant to (nearly) the entire world population.
- Current popular messengers are basically born out of the Nokia feature phone world: address books, conversation views, text streams (even the Facebook messenger is basically an adapted feature phone sms framework). The future can not and will not look like this (heads down & typing in text manually).
- Enter smartphones, where i) the camera is the most powerful input device ii) every complexity and tap comes at a huge expense and iii) information (overload) management is key. We need new messaging paradigms / frameworks that are optimised for this. Startups will find this easier than old platforms adapting.
- If you can massively reduce friction in the way we communicate you can make a real dent in socio-economic behaviours.
- Messaging apps that take how we interact with smartphones to the next level could be huge platforms to do other things: engage with services (payments), machines, other apps -etc. It goes beyond the human – human messaging.
- There will be many messengers tailored to audiences and use cases; there is an opportunity to build more than a handful billion dollar companies.
Ok, so why do some of these things appear really silly at first glance?
- As you introduce (more or less) new behaviours / frameworks you deviate from the norm and – you know – people do not like that. E.g. see the outcry every time Facebook changes its feed layout, now imagine that 10x. It can be cumbersome to learn a new information structure / hierarchy and the value of it only unfolds after you have gone up the learning curve and have enough interactions.
- These products are MVPs to check if they can capture / establish a new behaviour. People tend to judge them as if they are fully fledged out and developed products and platforms, although this is just their first shot. Increased utility comes with time. Step by step.
- Return and ridicule
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the sentiment towards some of these apps. But I have a feeling a lot of it is short-sighted and narrow-minded.