Meet Mosaic

Today is a day I have been looking forward to for a long time. We are announcing Mosaic, a fast and spontaneous new photobook experience for iPhone.

I’ve been hard at work on it with my former Yobongo colleagues at Mixbook for more than six months; in total secrecy. No longer will I have to coyly dodge questions about what we’ve been up to since Yobongo was acquired. There is still much to be done, but today marks a major milestone.

We believe that there’s a need for a fresh approach to the entire photobook experience. There are many people for whom photobooks are purely an intriguing concept, not a must have. We aim to change that with Mosaic.

Mosaic is about your everyday photos and making something beautiful with them incredibly fast. It’s more than just an app, or a book. It’s an entire experience.

We’ll be sharing more details soon, but in the mean time check out http://heymosaic.com/i/caleb and signup to be alerted when we launch.

Why does the Ad world classify digital as unmeasured?

The advertising world classifies media into two buckets, measured and unmeasured. Not being deeply embedded in the advertising world I was surprised to discover which was which.

I would have bet that search advertising, mobile, display, and online video would be in the measured bucket. I was wrong. These are considered unmeasured. TV, radio, and print are considered measured. This seems backwards. How can this be?

It’s because the segmentation came about before the internet existed and ad tracking services like Nielsen were considered the gold standard of measurement. And because big firms have not agreed on a standard, most digital media is still considered unmeasured.

This matters because according to AdAge Internet spending by the Top 100 advertisers is expected to surpass newspapers for the first time, positioning internet in the number two spot, right behind TV.

As companies like Facebook and Twitter battle to attract these Top 100 advertisers they fight a bias that digital is unmeasured. This is peculiar and must be incredibly frustrating for the sales teams inside these technology companies. They will need to work even harder to define standards and create reports that CMO’s will believe in as much as the reports they get for their TV and print spend.

The shift is inevitable. Attention has already shifted online while ad spend hasn’t kept pace. It’s just going to take a while, since something as basic as what is measurable and what isn’t is seemly completely backwards.

Why is Android not like Windows?

Android is often compared to Windows, not because of its being open source, or for it being run by a software company that doesn’t charge for software, but because some find Android to be following a similar playbook. One that aims to build a platform that serves a greater ecosystem of hardware manufacturers. And for this reason Android will win in the long run. I don’t think this line of reasoning holds up.

The argument seems to go something like this – Windows was dominant, Android is like Windows, ergo Android will dominate. Just as it took Windows a few years to really get its grove, Android is still in this early period, and just like before, Apple’s early lead will deteriorate. At least this is how the argument goes.

Microsoft was able to build Windows into something that manufacturers wanted to use as a way to sell their hardware. Fast forward two decades and we find Google building Android into something that manufacturers wanted to use as a way to sell their hardware, only this time the computers fit into our pocket and happen to make phone calls. Like Windows, Android works on various screen sizes, CPU speeds, and form factors.

However, the key difference is that Microsoft also got the developers. Developers started building for Windows with key productivity apps and soon games for the platform. They chose to build for Windows first and would later port to Mac. This is a critical difference from today. Developers primarily build for iOS first – Instagram, Flipboard, Rovio, OMGPOP, etc. iOS is where the developers start. Android is where they port. In this way, iOS is more like the Windows of old than Android ever has been.

iOS will continue to dominate as long as developers continue to choose iOS first and everyone else second. People care about what these devices can do for them, and great apps are still what matter.

Break’s over

It has been over a year since my last essay. I did not specifically intended for such an extended break, but that’s what happened. I was busy with Yobongo, then busy selling Yobongo, and now I am busy with Mixbook. But the past year has crystalized ideas that had been floating around, and it has exposed me to fresh perspectives and new situations which are, no doubt, shaping me now. 

In an attempt to reduce the hurdle of posting, I may post shorter essays more frequently than I did in the past. The ideas may be more raw, but at least they will be written down and shared. 

Here we go.

Why is Parallel a Pipe Dream?

There is always more to do than can be done. This simple fact can lead one to work on multiple things at once with the false belief of ‘doing more’. This manifests in splitting a day into tiny chunks and incrementally advancing a laundry list of tasks. I have caught myself doing this recently. I am coming to understand that parallel sucks. Instead of running multiple projects concurrently I now tackle the most important project until completion. Then move on to the next most important project.

The benefits are profound. While there are indeed many things to get done, there are usually only one or two that are critical at any point in time. The opportunity cost of sacrificing attention on the high priority tasks just to feel like you are ‘getting more done’ is economically irrational. Answering a random email or taking a coffee meeting are rarely the most important things.

The secondary benefit is psychological. Completing an important task feels good. It feels good to ship. It feels good to sign the deal. It feels good to hire. Days and days without that mental satisfaction is grating.

Technology companies hack the daily routine of parallel to get to serial, they are appropriately called ‘Hack Days’. They are wildly productive and energizing because they focus all attention of a team on one goal. They allow the team to cut scope to ensure high quality. And the end post is clear — the project will be completed before moving on.

At Yobongo we are working hard to stay serial. Focusing our effort on the key task and blocking out everything else. It is hard. But that is the point. Which opportunities are you willing to sacrifice out of the endless possibility set. If you tried to do everything, you might feel like a superhero, but what you choose not to do is definitional. Thinking deeply about what you direct your attention to is critical.

Leaving Justin.tv to found a company – Yobongo

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”Walt Disney

Today will be my last day with Justin.tv as I am leaving to found a company called Yobongo with my great friend David Kasper.

Over the past year at Justin.tv we have accomplished a great deal — we re-imagined how web broadcasting should work, resulting in a 700% increase in conversion rate, redesigned our front page to increase the number of broadcasters on the site and more clearly position the site as a place to create and share live video, and most recently we’ve launched the best mobile broadcasting applications on Android and iPhone to millions of downloads. Justin.tv is thriving and has amazing products in the pipeline with uber-talented people tackling immensely challenging technical and user experience problems. The decision to leave was not easy, but we believe Yobongo is something special.

I have started many web projects in my life from Toluu, a simple way to share what you read, to Kallow which makes buying electronics comprehensible for regular people, to KickPost which is the fastest technology news aggregator. All of these have informed how I think about product — the critical importance of simplicity and focus of purpose. However, these ideas are small. They either serve a niche, in the case of Toluu, or are inherently not web scale businesses, in the case of Kallow. Yobongo is different.

It is clear to us that there will emerge new ways to communicate as a result of the proliferation of always connected location aware mobile devices. We have not seen anything truly new created yet, imagined from the ground up, that takes advantage of the unique characteristics of these new mobile devices. We believe Yobongo will be a new way to communicate and share with people nearby from your mobile device.

We are incredibly pumped to be building this product and company. Over the coming months we will be sharing more and more of our vision and shipping product. We are already hard at work.

If you are interested in learning more or want to join us in building Yobongo follow us on Twitter @Yobongo.

Here we go!

Why do Startups Fear their Idea?

Startups are about potential. The potential to build something great, the potential to make people’s lives better, the potential to change the world. However, I often see this potential get in the way of the present with some of the early stage startups I meet. They let their vision for the future invade their present too soon.

The most obvious symptom is a bloated and unfocused product. I believe founders are afraid that their core idea isn’t smart enough, isn’t big enough, isn’t useful enough — so they add. It is this fear that leads to the rationalization for adding feature after feature in the hope that the sum will be greater than the parts. Founders are very good at convincing themselves that users will need this feature or that feature without actually knowing as such. Expecting to stumble upon a killer feature is a fools errand, that results in a product riddled with half-baked features collecting dust.

A good product is not a bucket of features, a mere bulleted list of things users can do. A good product is an exercise in exclusion. A good product is defined as much by what it doesn’t do as by what it does. This is especially true at the start. At the onset, people don’t care about you, they don’t know what you do, and they certainly won’t put up with a confused product. This apathy must be acknowledged and combated in a product that does one thing extremely well; otherwise it won’t stick.

When the product is merely a half-baked idea the excitement leads to idea after idea, cool feature after cool feature. It is hard evaluating the relative importance of these ideas in the glow of creation. The urge is to do it all, but the critical step is to realize most features are not absolutely necessary in the beginning, and that adding them can be destructive.

At the start, more features means more apathetic users. Every feature a user encounters adds to what is referred to as ‘cognitive load’. This added cognitive load will retard user adoption because there are more actions for users to comprehend and use than their level of engagement will permit. Users are deciding whether to leave your site, not how to take advantage of all your features.

Fear leads these startup founders to add. They add and add. Each additional feature can be rationalized on its own, but what is often left unconsidered is the true impact of these features on the product as a whole. More features require more code. More features require more design. More features lead to more user confusion. More features lead to less focus.

Startups need to be confident in their core idea. The idea should be sharp and pointy, an idea that lodges itself in people’s brains where no other idea has already taken up residence. The more they add, the more they do, the harder it is to own a unique spot in people’s minds. Features upon features is a downward spiral. Features are not the magic bullet, stop treating them that way.

Special thanks to:
Evan Solomon, Corvida Raven, Jordan Fulghum, Alex Hofsteede, Jacob Woodward, Ben Bloch and David Kasper.