There has never been a better time to be an early stage investor in mobile. The technology keeps giving, mobile devices are in everyone’s hands, business models generally makes sense, and liquidity is here. It’s an investor’s dream come true so it’s no wonder that mobile remains one of the hottest sectors to invest in. But saying “I invest in mobile” today is like saying “I invest in the internet in the 90s.” So where are the opportunities and what do early stage investors need to watch out for. This is the focus of this 3-part series.
The central thesis of my bestselling book on mobile, mobilized, is that our mobile products are extensions of ourselves. So, when thinking about what makes a great mobile product, I think about what we are when we strive to be our best selves and I use the mind-body-spirit framework to describe what that means:
- Body: We all want to look good and expect the same from our mobile product.
- Spirit: We all want meaningful lives and similarly expect that our mobile products will be highly personalized.
- Mind: We all want to learn and grow and we expect that our mobile products will do so with us.
Where are opportunities for investors? What should they stay away from? Let’s start with part 1: body. There’s a lot more to beauty on mobile than the pretty pictures. In fact, beauty on mobile is about efficiency and wow.
Efficiency: new tools, but not for geeks.
When I look at what it takes to build for mobile today, I’m appalled. Mobile products today feel like cars at the beginnings of the 20th century, which required a highly-skilled mechanics as driver. We need better, easier tools to build mobile products, tools that allow us to build for any platform and any form factors. Few companies can afford to build and maintain an app for iPhone, one for Android, one for iPad, a mobile website and so on. It doesn’t make sense to keep duplicating experiences across platforms. Smart entrepreneurs will look for fix that systemic inefficiency. A first wave of such tools, like Xamarin (acquired by Microsoft), was developed in the early days of mobile, but they were cumbersome and targeted at developers. There’s room today for a next generation of easier, smarter tools targeted at marketers and designers that provide standard components for the most common use cases like checkout, sign up, etc.
Wow: every medical device will be a mobile device.
One of the industries that I believe will be most disrupted by mobile is life sciences and when it comes to products, my eyes are on medical devices. The cumbersome tools and methods that doctors and nurses use in a hospital to measure our vitals, like blood pressure and sugar levels, will soon be replaced by devices anyone can use in the privacy of their homes. This is particularly relevant for chronic diseases, which today represent 75% of healthcare cost. Having the ability to monitor diabetes, cholesterol, and more from a mobile device will make chronic patients’ lives considerably easier while saving billions of dollars to society. Entrepreneurs at the intersection of mobile and health will build thriving and much needed businesses.
What am I less excited about as an investor: AR/VR.
This is a space where I have first-hand experience, having built an award-winning AR service that got pre-loaded on most Nokia’s smartphones back when Nokia had 40% of the market worldwide. While applications in gaming, complex manufacturing and hospitals are promising, I don’t buy into the current excitement and massive levels of funding that has been poured into AR/VR because the technologies are still not mature enough to graduate from pilot experiments and support commercial-grade applications. My advice to investors is to wait and see: let platforms like Facebook, Google and Apple build the enablers of compelling use cases and then fund the companies building these use cases.
If you’re an early stage investor, I’d love to hear your perspective and who knows, we might co-invest. If you’re an entrepreneur building a mobile company, I’d love to help you so drop me a note or grab some time with me via my website: scmoatti.com.