I’ve been thinking about what “truth” means lately. With almost no effort I can find contradictory articles, thoughts, perspectives, statements, and opinions on almost everything being discussed today. I’m sure our election cycle is amplifying this, but I see this in a bunch of stuff I’m reading about tech as well.
As someone who views independent critical thinking as extremely important, this dynamic is perplexing to me. A few months ago I wrote a post about TruthRank vs. PageRank. It started me down a path where I began separating types of truth. Specifically, I’ve begun referring to “your truth” vs. “the truth.”
When I say “your truth” I’m not referring to opinions. I’m referring to your deeply held beliefs. Your truth is the set of ideas that forms the basis of your view of the world. It requires a huge act of will and introspection for you to change your truth.
To understand this better, I’d like to use a classic example from tech – that of Steve Ballmer’s view of the iPhone, and subsequently his approach to the mobile business.
Let’s set the stage with a classic interview with Ballmer at the time the iPhone is announced in 2007.
Now, let’s look at Ballmer’s reflections about this in 2014.
As part of this arc, Ballmer’s big solve was to move Microsoft from a software only company to software+services and then software+devices. For many years, Microsoft was disdainful of Apple’s tightly coupled hardware+software business. In a final thrust of reactionary behavior, Microsoft bought Nokia in 2014 for $7.2 billion and then wrote off $7.6 billion a little over a year later.
Ballmer had “his truth.” It was stronger than an opinion. It shaped his entire view of the world. He held on to it for seven years (or probably longer).
And, at least in the case of mobile, it was completely wrong. It was not “the truth.”
I see this in all aspects of the world. It’s noisiest in politics right now, but it’s prevalent through all aspects of society. I’m running into it constantly in business and technology – both at a macro level (about the industry) and a micro level (within a company).
In the same way it’s different than an opinion (which can be wrong and/or invalidated over time), it’s different than strategy. I’ve always felt that a strategy was the framework for executing your truth. Strategies evolve and opinions change but your truth doesn’t.
And herein lies the problem. I’m seeing people hold onto their truth for much too long. They hold on too tightly. They turn an opinion into their truth. They extrapolate their truth from a small number of data points. The generalize one experience to create their truth. They react emotionally to something that they disagree with and anchor on their truth. They justify their behavior by holding onto their truth.
In many of these situations, individual critical thinking goes out the window. The internal biasing behavior of your truth dominates. You stop being able to listen to other perspectives, to process them, to think about them, and to evolve your opinion. Instead of deeply held beliefs, you end up with a shallow and self-justifying perspective that you hold on to endlessly rather than think hard about what is actually going on.
I embrace the idea of seeking the truth. I love the construct of deeply held beliefs as a framework for it. I challenge everyone to think harder about what the truth actually is, rather than just hold on to your truth to justify your perspective. Remember, the truth is out there.
Many companies travel a long and interesting journey. When we invested in NewsGator in 2004, RSS was just starting to emerge as a protocol and wire up much of the content on the web. At the time, it was impossible to anticipate how the web would evolve, as 2004 was a particularly low point in the evolution of venture capital and tech companies. Of course, it was also the year that Facebook was founded, which is an important thing to remember about the relationship between perception in the moment and long term reality.
A little over a decade later, mobile is dominating much of the growth of the web. Every company we are involved in is working on a mobile app. Every Fortune 1000 company I’m in touch with is focused on its mobile strategy and figuring out how to build and deploy mobile applications to its employees, many of them who are now engaging in BYOD where their personal mobile device and work mobile device is the same iPhone or Android phone.
A year and a half ago NewsGator acquired Sitrion to expand from their historical Microsoft SharePoint ecosystem product footprint to include SAP via Sitrion’s products. We decided to rebrand the company Sitrion as we liked the name better. As a hidden gem, we got the beginnings of an amazing mobile product that Sitrion had started working on.
NewsGator also had developed key mobile technology, especially for the enterprise, but with a tight dependency on SharePoint. Last year the combined product team stepped back, thought about what it had, and redefined the vision of the company around the notion of “the industrialization of mobile.”
Daniel Kraft, the CEO of Sitrion, has a very simple explanation of what the product and team addresses. Today, mobile apps are hand-crafted solutions for a specific use case. Accordingly enterprises make investments in very specific projects and just start to look for ways to mobilize their entire workforce.
Instead of building a new app for each use case, Sitrion provides the customer with one app for each platform (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) and pushes all the required services (micro-apps) to this app based on people’s roles, context or even behavior. As a result, you can create many custom apps, for specific use cases, without having to have a developer create multiple apps.
We think this will result in up to 90% reduction in development costs as you actually don’t need any OS developers. Time to market is correspondingly faster and TCO drops dramatically. Instead of an employee having 25 different company apps on their BYOD phone, they have one “container” app with 25 micro-apps.
What do you think? Are we in front of an industrialization of mobile, or are enterprises just slow and need to wait many more years for mobile being the main way things get done in large companies, just like how it’s playing out with consumer behavior?
My Nexus 5 / Nexus 7 experience has been a winner so far. I’m 14 days into “Android instead of iOS” and I’m enjoying it a lot.
Almost all of the apps I use on iOS are on Android. Most are just as good / some are better.
And some of them are awesome. I’ve discovered Cover and I love it. It’s one of those things that just does what you want it to do. Another is Agent which has helped with battery life but also made it simple for me to keep my Nexus 7 in the bedroom since I just tell it to “sleep” from 9pm to 8am and as a result all the notification activity goes away and I don’t have to think about anything. Finally, the Nexus Wireless Charger is awesome.
I’ve got 17 more days before I decide whether to stay with the Nexus 5 or go back to the iPhone. Either way, I’m learning a lot.
I’m mid 2011 I wrote a post titled Competition. Things in my universe had heated up and many of the companies I was an investor in were facing lots of competition. It’s 18 months later and there’s 10x the amount of competitive dynamics going on, some because of the maturity, scale, and market leadership of some of the companies I’m an investor in; some because of the increased number of companies in each market segment, and some based on the heat and intensity of our business right now.
I wrote a few more posts about competition but then drifted on to other things. But I came back to it this morning as I find myself thinking about competition every day. Yesterday, I was at the Silicon Flatirons Broadband Migration Conference hosted by my friend Phil Weiser. I go every year because it’s a good chance for me to see how several of the parallel universes I interact with, namely government, academics, broadband and mobile carriers, incumbent technology providers, and policy people think about innovation in the context of the Internet.
News flash – most of them think about it very differently than I do.
One thing that came up was the idea of creating the best product. This has been an on and off cliche in the tech business for a long time. For periods of time, people get obsessed about how “the best product will win.” Then, some strategy consultants, or larger incumbents, use their market power to try to create defenses around innovation, and suddenly the conversation shifts away from “build the best product.” And then the entrepreneurial cycle heats up again and the battle cry of the new entrepreneur is “build the best product.”
This isn’t just a startup vs. big company issue. I remember clearly, with amazement, the first time I got my hands on an iPhone. Up to that point I was using an HTC Dash running Windows Mobile 6.5. It was fine, but not awesome. I remember Steve Ballmer in a video mocking the iPhone.
We all know how this story has played out.
I remember a world when Microsoft and RIM were dominant. When Apple and Google didn’t have a product. And when people talked about “handsets”, WAP, and we squinted at our screens while pounding on keyboards that were too small for our fingers. Next time you are in a room full of people, just look around at the different phones, tables, and laptops that you see.
In my startup world, the same dynamics play out. Building the “best product” doesn’t only mean the best physical product (or digital product). It doesn’t just mean the best UI. Or the best UX. It includes the best distribution. The best supply chain. The best customer experience. The best support. The best partner channel. The best interface to a prospective customer. I’m sure I’ve left categories out – think about the idea of “the best complete product.”
This is getting more complicated by the day as technologies and products increase in interoperability with each other at both the data, network, application, and physical level. That’s part of the fun of it. And being great at it can help you dominate your competition.
Give me the best product to work with any day of the week. But make sure you are defining “product” correctly.
If you are looking to be in on the ground floor of a hot, new mobile startup based in Boulder, now is your chance.
We’ve funded a new company focused on the business conferencing / collaboration market that uses a unique mobile approach. Our co-investors including Google Ventures, SoftBank Capital, SoftTech, and a few prominent angels. The team is led by an experienced entrepreneur who I have worked with in the past and he’s built a dynamite founding team.
The company is looking to build its core development team here in Boulder. If you are a great mobile developer (iOS or Android) and want to help start and build a great company, email me and I will connect you to the team.
Mobile Monday Colorado is hosting a member of the TechStars mentor family, Dion Almaer, for their July 19th event. Dion is Managing Director of Developer Relations at Palm (now part of HP). Besides his involvement with TechStars as a mentor, he is a celebrity in the AJAX community as the co-founder of Ajaxian.com, and previously held senior positions within Mozilla and Google. Dion will be able to shed some light on how the largest consumer device company in the world will be integrating WebOS into various product lineups including tablets and intelligent printers. He will talk about the direction of the WebOS operating environment specifically and the future of mobile and the web. It is sure to be a solid event worth checking out.
I just finished up spending the past two days at Google I/O. On one of the panels I participated in yesterday (VCs Who Code), the endless discussion about open (e.g. Google) vs. closed (e.g. Apple) came up with Dave McClure stating “Open is for losers.” We had a short but spirited debate about a topic that could easily consume an entire panel before Dick Costolo (our moderator) quickly moved us on. Of course, we got bogged down again later in “native apps vs. web apps” question (which I think is irrelevant in the long run, and said so.)
When I woke up this morning I was still thinking about the open vs. closed thing. I’ve been using a Droid for a week (Google gave one to everyone that came to I/O) and I’ve been loving it. I’ve been an iPhone user for several years and while there are a bunch of things about it I love, there are several that I hate, including the pathetic AT&T service, major limitations in some of the applications such as email, the restriction of Flash, lack of tethering, lack of statefulness, lack of multi-processing, and the unbearable shittiness of iTunes for Windows. But, I never really considered an alternative until I started playing with Android 2.1 on a Droid on Verizon.
I’d basically decided to switch to the Droid. The keynote on Day 2 was split between Android 2.2 and Google TV. I was completely blown away by Android 2.2. It doesn’t merely address each of the issues I have with my iPhone, it demolishes them. Google wasn’t bashful during the keynote about taking shots at Apple, which was fun to see. And as I sat there, I kept thinking about how far Android has come taking an entirely open approach.
While Google “had me at Android 2.2”, they sealed the deal by giving every attendee a brand new HTC EVO 4G (running on Sprint). There have been plenty of complaints about Android handsets; the Droid was good although I
have had a Droid Incredible on order. But, now that I have my HTC EVO, I’m completely hooked. The physical device is magnificent, the Android implementation is awesome, and it is still only running Android 2.1 so it get even better when the over the air update is released and automatically upgrades.
I’m now in a position where I can dump my Verizon MiFi since can use my HTC phone as a hotspot. One less $60 / month bill, one less thing to schlep around. And I never have to use iTunes for Windows again. Apple just lost me – again.
The most amazing thing to me when I reflect on this is how much of a complete non-event Microsoft in this discussion. Before the iPhone, there was a different discussion and Windows Mobile (or whatever it was called) was regularly in the middle of it. Not only is it no longer in the middle, it’s no longer in the discussion. Google focused their sights directly on Apple and – with an open approach – is now in a position where it can legitimately threaten the iPhone’s long term position.
I love this stuff. Plus I now have two cool new phones.