7 Predictions: Millennial Usage of Tech in 2017

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Inspired by Fred Wilson’s annual What is Going to Happen post, I wanted to share my predictions for millennial usage of tech in 2017.

#1. AI. As Benedict Evans pointed out in his Mobile is Eating the World post, AI represents the next computing platform.

Amazon Prime + echo/dot is best poised to take this market and I think millennials obsessed with the latest gadgets will be buying these devices in 2017.

I also believe 2017 is the year AI assistants go mainstream. This time next year, I fully expect an AI assistant will automate many of the menial tasks in my life (ex. scheduling haircut appointments, basic research, etc).

#2. AR/VR. In Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report, she talked about how explosive millennial spending power will be over the next 10-20 years.

We have good jobs, no major expenses like houses or kids and have a lot of free time. Therefore we are able to direct our disposable income and attention to entertainment and travel.

Which is why I think AR/VR will be a major category in 2017. Pokemon Go demonstrated just how big the market is and I think we’ll see more apps using the same playbook.

If I were running Airbnb, who already has a strong brand with millennials, I’d be investing heavily in AR/VR. Beyond using VR as a better way to evaluate and experience whether you should pull the trigger and book two nights at that London flat, Airbnb has an opportunity to be THE global travel company. Imagine if you can’t afford to go on a vacation, but can be transported via an Airbnb VR headset to your dream location. Millennials would gobble this type of offering up.

#3. Devices. I think many millennials will move away from Apple and experiment with devices from Google or Microsoft in 2017.

#4. Security. My email was hacked in 2015 and since then I’ve been using two-factor and a password manager. I think hacking of personal devices/web services will become more common in 2017 and millennials will start paying attention to steps they can take to be more secure.

#5. Social media. The majority of social media usage will move away from Facebook/Instagram/Twitter and into SnapChat and the mobile messaging services. This is driven by fatigue from the fake news/click bait epidemic.

#6. Chat bots. Millennials expect information instantaneously via the Internet. Many traditional offline services (legal, financial advisors, real estate, home improvement, etc) will launch  chat bots as a way to engage millennials who are hungry for information about a particular vertical/topic. I believe this is a mega-trend over the next 5-10 years and will be looking for ways to get involved.

#7. Bitcoin/blockchain. This is more of a moon shot in 2017 that bitcoin/blockchain awareness and usage goes mainstream with millennials.

There are many use cases and benefits of Bitcoin/blockchain for millennials, but I believe the technology is not being marketed properly. I’ll be looking for ways to get involved in this topic as well.

More to come!


7 Observations: Millennial Usage of Tech in 2016

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To follow up my post from last year, I wanted to reflect on millennial usage of tech in 2016.

#1. The macro theme in 2016 wasn’t the emergence of new apps or technologies, but more time directed to the most popular apps: SnapChat, Facebook/Instagram, Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Netflix, HBO Go, Venmo and the messaging services.

#2. I’d rank SnapChat as the most popular app for millennials. Very excited for the Snap IPO in 2017.

#3. Binge watching. So much binge watching. If you aren’t staying up to date with Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Westworld, etc good luck having a conversation with your friends. Netflix and HBO Go are providing the best content.

#4. AI entered our lives. I got an echo as a wedding gift and use it daily. More friends got echo/dots as presents over the holidays.

#5. Venmo is the preferred digital payments service. Its so pervasive, it’s become an interesting social network to watch. Public transactions on Venmo are more insightful than Facebook or Instagram.

#6. This couldn’t be a 2016 reflection post without talking about the election. Regardless of your political views, I think the 2016 election was a wake up call for most millennials. I know many friends took some time off from Facebook following the election.

#7. The flash in the pan that was Pokemon Go demonstrated (a) how big mobile is and (b) how efficiently you can tap into this market if you get the product right.

Check out my predictions post for what I think will happen in 2017.



8 Observations: Millennial Usage of Tech in 2015

#1 Digital payments took off. We’ve had Paypal since 1998, but it was the emergence of mobile-focused digital payment services like Venmo and Square Cash that really caused the category to take off.

#2. SnapChat is a force. By adding filters, geotagging and lenses, SnapChat has become the most used social media app of my friends. Instagram and Facebook are still used, but the disappearing nature of SnapChat generates more usage.

#3 Fitbit is trending. Fitbits are being given away for free or can be purchased at reduced prices through employers.

#4 Airbnb is catching fire. 2015 was the year we tried Airbnb for the first time. Many of us had great experiences so I expect to see a lot more usage in 2016.

#5 Uber or Lyft? We have both apps downloaded on our phones and choose the cheaper option. No brand loyalty here.

#6 A large percentage of our social media interactions moved into messaging services. I have two groups of friends on iChat. Another just moved from Whatsapp to GroupMe because we wanted more gif/meme functionality. No clear category winner.

#7 We have multiple streaming services – sometimes up to 5 accounts across Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go and ShowTime. Cable is still paid for, but no one watches live TV except for sports. We stream the latest shows through apps on our SmartTVs or Chromecast.

#8 Music? One word: Spotify. It’s pervasive.


Identifying Big Breakthrough Ideas

Marc Andreessen discusses how his venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz identifies big breakthrough ideas in the YouTube video below.

He explains that big breakthrough ideas are not predictable and may seem nuts, but so do all the crazy ideas that will never amount to anything. So how do you identify them? Andreessen Horowitz “tilts into the radical ideas” by having a prepared mind, which means reading broadly about as many things as you can. Then when they meet with an entrepreneur, they enter into a zen like state with perfect humility and ask the entrepreneur to teach them about their idea. He explains the reason really big breakthrough ideas appear nuts is because if they weren’t nuts than a big company would already have done it.

Andreessen contrasts this with the “top-down” approach of how other venture capital firms identify big ideas. He explains that the partners draw a map at the beginning of the year with boxes that represent product categories within each market. Then they go out and try to find the best company possible to put into each box. If they have names in each of the boxes at the end of the year then it was a good year.

I really like Andreeseen Horowitz’s approach to identifying big breakthrough ideas.

Start-ups, Technology

Deal Highlight: SnapChat Raises $13.5 Million

SnapChat, the mobile photo messaging app, raised $13.5 million last week from some big name VCs. I personally consider $2 million as a good rule of thumb amount for how much is raised for a Series A, so this is a big investment.

My guess is the VCs got between 30-40% of the company for their investment, which values SnapChat at $47 to $58 million post-money. Looking at these numbers, its pretty easy to see the VCs are thinking SnapChat will be the Instagram of 2013. SnapChat is currently seeing 60 million pictures pass through its service every day. In comparison, Instagram has 40 million pictures passing through its service every day and was acquired by Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012. SnapChat founders have said they want to grow SnapChat into a long-term company that is focused on mobile. If SnapChat can truly figure out mobile and be the leader in that vertical, I think you start seeing Facebook as a comparison, which is currently sitting at a $66 billion market cap. Both of these scenarios are great for the VCs who invested in the Series A and is the reason SnapChat was able to raise such a large amount for a Series A.

Here is my take. I do not see the current SnapChat product being around in 5-10 years. I think it is a fad that will go the same way as social games-gets mainstream adoption, have pullback and right size to a still large, but niche market. I do believe SnapChat’s core strength is its ability to provide stream of conscious pictures without any consequences. This approach works perfectly with mobile devices, so if they can take this concept and build a product that fulfills a core need, then I have no doubt they could become a long-term company. Otherwise, I think they are a fantastic acquisition target that is putting up some BIG numbers right now.


iPhone 5

I checked out the iPhone 5 today. I had heard from a friend that it was a significant improvement over the iPhone 4, but I thought his inner fan boy was biasing his opinion. So going in I was determined to be resistant and see the phone for what it was.

As soon as I picked it up, I knew my friend was right. It was lightweight and fit perfectly into my hand. The screen was thinner and longer, which combined with the lighter frame made it feel more like an extension of my hand than a phone. I loved it and quickly pulled out my iPhone 4 to find myself blatantly aware that I was holding a phone.

I am excited to see the next generation of iPads that have the 5 design features incorporated.

My Life, Technology

Sold My Apple Shares Today

I sold my Apple shares today. I bought those shares in July 2010 in the middle of the iPhone 4 antenna issue that sent the stock down. Apple was selling a record number of the devices at the time and it did not make sense to me why the stock was going down due to the antenna problem when they had a solution for devices sold and had already fixed the phones in production (I have since bought one of these), so I pulled the trigger at $254.

Flash forward to today, Apple hit its all time high of around $430, which combined with the death of the visionary Steve Jobs was reason enough for me to sell. I will continue to watch Apple very closely and hope the company continues Jobs’ legacy of innovation, technology, and stunning design.