Sunday, November 23, 2008

If I was a VC I won't give any penny to...

Today I wanted to post about a though I had about Search and Online Communication BtoC markets. After 2 years of work on Yahoo! Mail and a previous experience in Search Area at Convera, something suddenly became very obvious to me:

If I was a VC today, I won't be likely to give any penny to a startup creating a BtoC Search engine or an advanced Webmail, especially if they tell me that their objective is to switch users from big providers... No matter how cool the product is in terms of features. Sorry for Ciul or others really cool and talented start-ups but I think that's actually right to say.

Some of you might think: "this guy is telling me S###" so let me explain.
Google search as Yahoo! Mail (or Gmail) are currently delivering a good level of satisfaction to more than 50% of online users worldwide.

What are the main expectations that Search and Webmail users share?
The service needs to be fast and reliable at anytime.

Just think about 2 situations:

- You're in a store, and you need to quickly check a product price online with your mobile before buying your next digital camera, you do a search and find out that your search engine site is currently down...

- You're late to take your eurostar, your booking reference is in your booking confirmation email, right in your inbox... You need it to get your ticket and take your train. You try to access your email with your Laptop at Saint Pancras station, your webmail is not accessible...

In both case, I'm pretty sure you'll be pissed off with your provider, and will probably churn at some point. Communication and search are two area where productivity and reliability becomes more and more essential. The day Ciul went on, ... their delivery was really poor... How many times did you see Google search having downtime?

As far as I remember, I've seen Google having a downtime one time only in close to 10 years, (maybe i missed some... or not). Note that even Google is not doing that great with Gmail reliability, they have large scale outages frequently.

Those markets will remain dominated by big players, cause you need the scale, a huge network and a terrific architecture to deliver the basics right. When a startup is innovating in that area in terms of features, bigs players just have to deploy the same idea to a far bigger scale.

If I don't see any opportunities for those kind of startups today, you could maybe get acquired if you do a very good user interface. That's probably your only chance to scale... You won't success without a big player infrastructure here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Few weeks on the Yahoo! US campus

Since few months, I'm working on a key feature of Yahoo! Mail planned to be launched in 2009,
from Product Management to Product design, passing by Product Development. This project is probably the most complex I had to work on since I'm at Yahoo! So at some point, to be able to write the PRD (Product requirement document), I had to travel and meet the Yahoo! product and engineering teams in Sunnyvale. Looks good to me!

This is for sure one of the advantages of working for a big company like Yahoo!. The downside is to have your face picture on Valley Wag the day of your layoff, fortunately I'm not there yet. I spent two weeks in San Francisco, taking the Yahoo! Shuttle to commute to Sunnyvale campus everyday (1:30 each way).

I've been amazed by the campus ambiance, there is definitely an emulation there that we don't have in Europe. I would say, the valley seems to be a geeks' microcosm. Let me explain, the vision of people in the valley when it comes to users' education and demand is very different. Let's say you've been using Photoshop exclusively to do illustration design for about 10 years. One day Adobe force you to migrate to Illustrator, would you understand this new interface in 10s and never think about asking to be switched back? If not, you're probably not smart enough or potentially from India or something.

Don't get me wrong, even if it drives bad product management decisions sometimes, it also drives a big amount of innovation, contributing to a massive flow of new online business every single month. I think that in Europe we are less optimistic (naive?) about online business in general, so we try less which means less success at the end of the day... That's also probably why it's more difficult to lever money in Europe, we are more sceptic, less enthusiastic, more conservative!

I was in the valley when Sequoia capital send out their "RIP Good times" deck to their portfolio. It was a bit hard for me to feel the panic from Yahoo! Cause I think we actually don't. Or at least people in the Yahoo! Mail team don't.

2009 is gonna be a pretty interesting year with increasing users' expectations.
I guess it will be harder than ever to satisfy in 2009 for big actors like Yahoo!, Ebay or Google. You'll see I bet Google search ACSI score will decrease this year.
A new era for start-ups will come soon.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thèse professionnelle sur les réseaux sociaux (en Francais)

Ma thèse sur les réseaux sociaux est a présent distribuée.
Elle traite de l'avenir des réseaux sociaux et répond clairement a la question suivante:
"Vers un monopole ou l'émergence de réseaux sociaux verticaux?"

Cette thèse fut la concrétisation de 2 ans d'investigation sur le sujet des réseaux sociaux et de 2 business plans (So ME en Décembre 2005 et Warpzoner en 2007).

En voici le plan:

1. Executive Summary

2. L’auteur

3. Le phénomène des réseaux sociaux en ligne
3.1. Définition
3.2. Structuration sociale
3.3. La valeur délivrée par les réseaux sociaux
3.4. Friendster : 1er acteur positionné
3.5. Myspace : la thématisation des réseaux sociaux
3.6. Facebook : élitisme social
3.7. Impact les médias et la communication en ligne
3.8. Croissance des investissements publicitaires
3.9. Intérêt des groupes médias traditionnels
3.10. Impact sur le e-commerce
3.11. Intérêt des pionniers de l’Internet
3.12. De nombreux nouveaux entrants sur le marché
3.13. Deux hypothèses d’avenir pour les réseaux sociaux

4. Vers le monopole d’un réseau « multi-spécialiste »?
4.1. Une masse critique atteinte en occident
4.2. Effet réseau potentiellement irréversible?
4.3. Limites sociales
4.4. La division des classes : un frein sociologique
4.5. Myspace VS Facebook : concurrence indirecte
4.6. Coexistence de deux réseaux sociaux dominants
4.7 La multi-spécialisation : un besoin existant
4.8. Leviers de « multi-spécialisation » : outils génériques
4.9. L’ambition Facebook
4.10. Stratégie de Myspace et alliance avec Google
4.11. De sérieux atouts pour convaincre les annonceurs

5. Émergence de réseaux sociaux de niche?
5.1. Réseaux sociaux de niche ou réseaux sociaux verticaux
5.2. Les limites des réseaux sociaux non verticaux
5.3. Spécialisation et légitimité
5.4. Accroître sa différenciation sociale
5.5. Masse critique et viabilité
5.6. Le vrai potentiel des réseaux sociaux de niche
5.7. Diversification verticale
5.8. Une initiative européenne?

5. Conclusion
6. Bibliographie


Cette thèse réalisée pour HEC Paris & Telecom Paris fut rédigée en Février 2008.
Ce document s’adresse à tous les acteurs qui voient dans les réseaux sociaux une
opportunité de création d’activité, de développement produit ou d’investissement
financier qu’il s’agisse d’un réseau social généraliste ou de niche.
Il permettra également å tout marketer de bien comprendre le phénomène des réseaux sociaux et comprendre le contexte de leur investissements publicitaires sur ces derniers.

Vous pourrez l'obtenir en l'achetant 129 euros via Paypal.
La these vous sera envoyée par email dés bonne réception de votre paiement.
C'est avec plaisir que je discuterai avec vous et répondrais a vos questions sur le sujet.