Today, Matchbook is available worldwide in the app store. You can download it here.
Matchbook is a dead simple bookmarking application for places like bars, restaurants, and shops. The idea is akin to taking a matchbook from a restaurant or bar so you remember to return to that spot.
Lets say that a friend recommends that you should stop by the Ace Hotel:
That’s Matchbook in a nutshell, but there are a few other cool features we built in to make sure the experience is silky smooth.
We believe in building software that has its roots in the already occurring behavior of people outside the tech industry. Before we wrote a single
line of code, we did a lot of user research. We knew that females have been slow to adopt location based services due to privacy concerns. We wanted to find out what women would be willing to do doing around location.
After speaking with hundreds of women we found a very pervasive pattern. A huge percentage of them already had some method of bookmarking places, such as emailing themselves or writing it in their notepad. Despite doing this work, they explained that the result wasn’t useful because the places weren’t centralized or organized on a map. Matchbook solves this problem.
Since privacy was the number one reason women shied away from other location services, we were very conservative with social features. We see this as a growing trend with apps like Path, that are socially cautious until there are better solutions for the elastic social network problem.
As we move forward, “where you are now” is only going to be one part of the location-based space. We are asking the question “where do you want to go in the future”. Ultimately it's a different way to capture location data that will be used to tap the $140 billion dollar local ad market.
Cross posted from the Matchbook blog.
Of all the emerging tech sectors, Local remains the one with the most potential. This post is an overview of where we are, what we know and where the opportunity lies for the local market.
Cross posted from Matchbook
Next week we’ll be releasing an app called Matchbook. Signup to be notified when it’s out. We’re a proponent of the lean startup methodology, so we wanted to share the process we used to get this app out the door.
We like to build software that mimics real life. The goal of software should be to make already occurring behavior easier, not to create new behavior. So, if you’ve ever taken a matchbook from a restaurant to remember it later, then you have an understanding of what this app does. Matchbook is a dead simple bookmarking application for places. When someone gives you a recommendation about a bar, restaurant, or shop you can bookmark it. The app will organize those places so you can make a fast decision about where to go out. We’ve heard it described as Delicious or Instapaper for places.
I called up a buddy I often discuss tech with and said, “Something is nagging me about the location based space. It doesn’t feel like mainstream America is quite ready for the check-in.” The question became, “What type of location based activities are normal people ready for?”
Mobile location research should be preformed in real locations, outside of the office. To answer our question we sought out feedback from normal people instead of from the tech industry.
To achieve this we planted ourselves at a bar, approached groups of people, told them we were about to build an app, and asked some questions. We also used the dating site HowAboutWe.com to go on dates so we had the undivided attention of a female for market research. No judgment; we paid for dinner. This turned out to be a great place to do market research because:
This is what we found:
We started wireframing the app in Omnigraffle. We spent most of our time removing features until we had what we thought might be the minimum viable product. We went back out to the bars and tested them. We rigged up a clickable prototype with a great app called Interface that allowed us to do our user testing. We would get a nights worth of feedback, re-do our wireframes, and then go back out. We iterated through this process about 30 times.
We kept going until:
When we began, we thought that Matchbook would be a social app. We envisioned it helping people make plans, share tips, or share bookmarked places. As we talked to more women, we found that they were a little burned out on social and a more then a little concerned about sharing their location. The number of women that perfectly articulated the social circles problem was amazing. As a result, our wireframes pivoted away from social and became a personal app. We will probably add in social in the future, but we need to rethink exactly how that should work for this market.
The MVP is a bookmarking application for places. The user can:
Once we had our MVP, we moved onto the development phase. We outsourced the entire thing, which involved a good chunk of time spent iterating through developers instead of code. That will be the subject of another post, but in the end we found a great team. My co-founder and I developed the entire thing for about $10,000, paid for out of our savings.
A key problem with building an iPhone app is that Apple only allows 100 slots for beta testers. This was rough as we tried to test our assumptions. We needed to ASK all of our users to download it, which skews the data.
After some brainstorming we came up with an alternative. We are going to launch in the Canadian app store first. Since we can’t do a private beta, this will be our beta test. People in the US can’t see the Canadian app store so we will localize things there. We’ll use our Canadian launch to get feedback and gather metrics.
Once we’ve iterated based on that feedback we’ll launch a more polished product in the US app store. The idea is to couple the download traffic from launch PR, with the iTunes Recently Released app list. This concentration of downloads will hopefully bump us onto a Top Downloads list in our category.
These are the assumptions our lean process has yielded. We will be testing these in Canada next week:
We started with this step at the same time as Step 3. We decided that offering local deals is the best bet for monetizing a location based startup. Since we don’t have the money for a sales force we began our customer development process by speaking with group buying sites. We found out that they:
To better understand the group buying market, we offered to help out a NY based group buying site with their metrics. This gave us enormous insight into the types of challenges our customers face, and we learned great tactics for optimizing daily deal sales.
That’s it for now. The app will be out in Canada in a week, and out in the US shortly after.
Thank for reading,
Today was the launch of Path, a photo-sharing app that has received a good deal of hype in the weeks leading up to the launch. The product principles that the Path team used are genius, and the tech press is completely missing it.
The tech blogs seem aghast that Path would dare to put out a product without standard social features. What they are missing is that Path is an app built for the mass market and not for tech early adopters. They omitted these features because normal people don't need them.
Normal people do not have hundreds of friends that they want to share things with. According to Dr Marlow, the “in-house sociologist” at Facebook, the average number of Facebook friends is 120 and the average number of people that one user actively interacts with on the service is between 7 and 10. I think this correlates very closely with the real world. At any given time you only have close relationships with 7-10 people. Dave McClure wrote an excellent post on the need for intimacy in social networks and Path is a great example of how it can be done.
I want to break down three important pieces of Path’s product strategy for appealing to the mass market by keeping things small and intimate.
On most social apps, the service will check a user’s Facebook and Gmail contacts to see if any of their existing friends already use the service.
The problem is that Gmail and Facebook are filled with contacts that you are not close with. As a social app becomes more popular, there is an increase in the number of inbound friend requests from people that fall outside of a users inner social circle. There is considerable social pressure to accept these friend requests, even if doing so ruins the intimacy of the network. Path gets around this issue by removing this type of search capability.
Path could let users have as many friends as they want, and let them decide how intimate or open they want their experience to be. However, the normal mass-market user is not yet equipped for this type of calculated approach to friending. They have not thought about their social graph like those in the tech industry have, segmenting it in multiple ways an
d assigning various groups to appropriate levels of online sharing. That's a concept that we have been working over for the last 2 years, and is a mental construct that is mostly foreign to them, at least in the online sense.
Normal users will not carefully preen their friend list. Instead, they will accept everyone they feel socially obligated to accept, and the service will ceases to feel intimate. The 50-person limit makes each additional friend mean something. This constraint gives it value, and makes the user think for a moment before adding someone new. It gently leads the user to the understanding that not every person you know should be your 'friend' on every service.
Of all the social media fallacies this is the biggest one. Normal people do not NEED the ability share things from one app to Twitter and Facebook. It does not address a real pain point. The feature is added because it’s a good marketing channel for the company, and not because it provides a better user experience.
Great software puts user experience first, and the proliferation of Share This buttons isn’t part of a good user experience. They are confusing, error prone, and they clutter up the UI with something that is usually unrelated to the purpose of the app.
When I bring this up I’m always told , “you can't possibly scale a user base without viral components like this”. That's sort of true.
When an app achieves quick adoption numbers, those users are all tech early adopters. They are people who track this industry for fun and jump on a new hot service to test it out. There is little evidence that capturing that group will translate into mainstream adoption. I would be willing to say that because an app is designed to appeal to tech adopters, it won’t achieve mainstream adoption.
Why? Why can’t we just add the features the tech crowd expects and let the mass market ignore them? That's not the way the mass market works and that’s not how you build great software. When a normal user sees something they don't understand they stay away from it. They don't just use parts of a service, they use the entire thing because it makes sense, or they back off because something is confusing and it scares them off. They don’t first understand a service and then figure out how to hack it to make it work for them. They use it for the base case or not at all.
Path has recognized this and built a product that will make the mass market feel at home, even if it means taking a little longer to build an audience. I give a lot of credit to Dave Morin and his team.
Every year I set out searching for a graduate degree suited to my career in the Internet industry. I am looking for a combination of computer science classes in web development, design courses that focus on UI, and business courses that teach Internet entrepreneurship.
Disappointed by what universities are offering, I created my own course catalog. It is aimed at entrepreneurial, non-developer, technology professionals that work in the Internet field. There is a strong core of development courses, but they are designed for someone to understand web development as opposed to training students to be developers. I hope to see something like this offered soon.
Please comment if you think a course is missing or disagree with my choices.
Introduction to Programming
An overview of programming that touches on PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, and Objective-C.
Internet Activity Theory and Psychology
What causes users to do the things they do? This will be an in-depth look at the psychology of an Internet user.
Ideation for Web Startups
Students will learn the process of brainstorming and picking apart business ideas. They will learn to spot indicators that an idea will work or not, and how to go about testing a thesis before heavy development begins.
An in-depth course on equity financing where students and will learn about each step of the fund raising process with mock simulations at each stage.
Development in PHP
Learn the CakePHP framework and in-depth development in PHP.
Development in Python
Learn the Django framework and in-depth development in Python.
Development in Ruby
Learn the Rails framework and in-depth development in Ruby.
Development in Objective-C
Learn the iPhone SDK and in-depth development in Objective-C.
Development in Java
Learn the Android SDK and in-depth development in Java.
Students will learn to create frontend interfaces and clickable prototypes.
User Experience and User Interface Design
Students will learn the fundamentals of usab
ility, and how to design interaction and user interfaces.
Business Modeling and Current Events
A case-study driven course will break down successful web companies and their business models. Emerging models will be discussed and students will brainstorm their own. Current events in the tech world will be closely monitored and discussed. STUDENTS WILL NOT BE ASKED TO WRITE A TRADITONAL BUSINESS PLAN.
Launch an App Part 1
Students will work with pairs to develop their own app. In Part 1 users will finish the semester with high-fidelity wireframes, a clickable prototype, and detailed tasks broken down for development. In Part 2 students will begin heavy development.
This course will focus on choosing the right set of tools. It will cover languages, hosting environments (Cloud vs Dedicated Hosting), and databases (SQL vs NoSql)
In this course students will learn to create a product roadmap. They will learn skills to conduct thorough requirements gathering and user testing. Finally they will learn to break down features into tasks for developers.
Agile Project Management
Students will learn the agile project management methodology and will take part in multiple simulations.
Launch an App Part II
Students will continue their work from Part I and begin development of their application. Professors will be available throughout the process for programming help. Students will end the semester with the launch of their application.
Analytics and Performance Tracking
Students will become experts at setting up, managing, and gaining insight into analytics.
Co-founders, hiring, compensation plans, benefits, management skills, company culture, and office space are all issues that entrepreneurs need to deal with. While these are common to most businesses, startup operations requires a unique touch to create fast moving and innovative environments for your employees.
Internet Marketing and PR
Students will learn to conduct marketing and PR for their startup. SEO, SEM, ad-buys, blog PR, and traditional media PR will be covered. Marketing through your website, building a brand, community management and customer service will also be part of this course.
There is a lot of talk about how the iPad will be the savior of magazine publishing. The thought is that the iPad’s use as an eReader, combined with its accompanying content store, will revitalize the fading periodical industry. The implicit strategy is to get people to pay for online content. If periodicals can convince readers to buy subscriptions on the iPad, they can also require similar subscriptions on their website.
The music industry placed similar hopes in the hands of Apple with the iTunes store. It didn't work out for them and it's not going to work out for print. Instead of placing their hopes in a consumer electronics company, they need to look to a company that figured out the publishing industry’s business model years ago; LexisNexis.
Asking someone to decide between an online subscription to the New York Times and the Washington Post is an absurd choice. Years ago all news was pushed to readers by a single newspaper. People didn't need to read about the same story from two different papers, nor did they have the time. With the Internet, readers are pushed news by many sources (Twitter, Facebook, feed-reader, email), and they pull news from search engines and browsing. Given these various channels, choosing a content source to subscribe to becomes impossible. At any given moment a person can be sent an article from thousands of publications. Without p
rior knowledge of where they will receive their content from, how can they decide which publication they should subscribe to?
What happens when a story breaks in real-time on the Washington Post, but I subscribe to the New York Times? What happens when someone shares an article with me on a publication that I don't subscribe to? What happens when I do a search for a topic and the top result is for a magazine I don't pay to access? These are all common use cases and in each, the concept of paying for a single source of content breaks down. The only logical way to move forward is to charge people for a better quality experience than the one they are currently comfortable with. I’ve said this before; people are willing to pay for content, but it has to be instant, unlimited, comprehensive, and organized.
For the periodical industry, this means one-fee to access to all content across magazines and newspapers. LexisNexis has been offering this to libraries for years and now it's time to bring that service to consumers. The library is charged a single fee to access the digital version of thousands of publications. Doesn't that make more sense for everyone?
Apple will eventually offer this for both publishing and music, but nothing is stopping these industries from acting now. Maybe LexisNexis will step up to be publishing’s killer app.
When I was traveling around Germany I visited Neuschwanstein. The whimsical castle was never finished because its patron, King Ludwig the II, was declared insa
ne. The enormously expensive construction was halted in 1886. Walt Disney went on to model his castle after this amazing building.
This story reminds me to never underestimate the value of capturing someone's imagination. The people of Ludwig's time thought he was out of his mind to spend money on this castle, much like people think that it's crazy for VCs to invest in startups with no business model. The next Walt Disney is out there, and she will turn that captured imagination into a fortune.
The Internet is a force that levels communication, distribution, information, and access. Controlling these four things has been the foundation of business. In the past if you could control one of these things better than your competitors, you had an advantage. The Internet removes this advantage, and thus, levels money out of practically every industry it touches.
It is my opinion that both the individual and humanity as a whole benefits from the Internet. I also think that particular businesses have capitalized on the unique opportunities the Internet presents. From a macroeconomic standpoint I worry that the net result of the Internet has not been positive for business. As the Internet increases efficiency, the efficiency creates unmanageable data overload. While it drives down costs, it also drives down profits. It increases communication but it demands instantaneous, around the clock responses. It allows for quick and cheap distribution, but the distribution channel can no longer be controlled. Digital files can be infinitely replicated at zero cost, but it drives down the value of the contents to near zero. It provides businesses with vital information, but that information is also available to competitors and consumers. It gives us access to the world, but it prevents anyone from restricting access to anything.
It's clear that this has happened with music, movies, television, print, cable, auto, telecom and real estate. I'm sure there are dozens of industries that have not had their profits ground out by the Internet. I
would theorize that this is only because the Internet has yet to set it's sites on that industry. Where the Internet touches, profits shrink. You can think that your industry will be exempt, and you might be right. Chances are it will be swept under; it's only a matter of time.
This may seem like an odd thing to say coming from someone who is a proponent of the Internet. The Internet has reshaped the business landscape and redefined the profits that can be expected. It doesn't seem like the business world has fully adjusted their expectations. I keep hearing the question asked, “How can X industry return to its former level of profits?” In response the industry inevitably tries to generate more revenue with the same business model and it doesn't work. It's possible that once the Internet touches an industry, pre-Internet revenue levels will never return. The only solution is to change the size of company so it is in line with the profit potential. For example, you don't need a massive building with hundreds of employees to sell music. It is very likely that this is the dawn of the small business age.
Of course, there is the chance that for every industry with destroyed profits, there is an entirely new business model that the Internet has enabled. At the moment, the Internet may be a net negative for business because those new possibilities have yet to be realized. What's more likely is that some industries will discover a new model, but most will have to reorganize around adjusted expectations.
Whenever someone talks about content and the idea that nobody will pay for it, they implicitly reference the fate of the music industry. Music started us down this path by showing us what can happen when an industry does not adapt to the Internet. Unfortunately, the lesson everyone took away was that people aren't willing to pay for content.
Music absolutely does not have to be free and people are more than willing to pay for it. What people are willing to pay, and how they want to consume it has dramatically shifted. The music industry's downfall was that they never adjusted their own perceptions on what music was worth. To this day, 10 years after the release of Napster, they have yet to accommodate the new pricing structure and format the consumer demands.
P2P gave people unlimited, unrestricted access to the worlds catalog of music. It's a beautiful achievement, almost poetic, and the music industry underestimated just how important that was to people. Back then, what if people had been given the option to pay for Napster exactly as it was? The worlds music had just been opened up to everyone, the RIAA was actively trying to shut it down, and there was a credible threat that they may start suing file-sharers. Before they nailed the coffin on Napster, what if they music industry had said, okay, you can do this, but it's $20/month. I believe that almost everyone would have paid. If you were a kid, your parents would have paid just like they pay for cable. If you were a student the university would have paid to avoid a lawsuit.
Napster did relaunch as a paid service and nobody was interested. People were uninterested in paying for a service that was inferior to the original Napster. It cost $20/month for unlimited downloads, but if you ever stopped paying the subscription the music disappeared. Not only that, it didn't work with the iPod.
If people would have paid for the original version of Napster, what about a clean, organized, virus free version? What about iTunes priced $20/month instead of $1 per track; download as much as you like.
Do you spend $20 per month on music? Does anybody you know? In the heyday of the CD industry if you were the the type of consumer that bought one CD per month you were a gold-mine. Columbia House was an entire business based on mailing you one CD per month and it made a fortune. The only thing stopping the music industry from getting back
to the equivalent of one-cd-per-month for every music fan is moving to an all-you-can-eat subscription model. Download all you want, play it on any device, keep it forever. They would get to keep the entire $20 because there is no physical disk to press, no shipping costs, and no store.
The artist would be paid on attention. All of the money from the subscriptions would be split up based on what percentage of overall downloads each artist commands. If you're an artist that can get everyones attention, then you'll get a lot of the pool.
The music industry is incredibly fortunate to have their consumers tell them their business model. They want unlimited, unrestricted access to music. Simple. Provide it and make money. There are multiple indicators that people are willing to pay for this including bigger hard-drives, faster Internet connections, iPods, iPhones, and the expensive risk of a lawsuit. Entire industries are cashing in on this desire and the music industry is missing out.
If this really is the answer then why doesn't the music industry just do it?
1. The three companies that own the music industry can't seem to work together, and you need everyones buy in.
2. Those three companies have abused their artists for so long that they can't work with them to rewrite every contract to accommodate this new model.
3. The music industry has yet to shift their perception of what music is worth
4. The music industry is setup to sell CDs and as a result they are more comfortable with digital models that are similar
5. If an artist on a small label can compete on the same field with an artist on a big label, then their oligopoly is over
My suggestion would be to fold all the labels and start from scratch. What's more likely is that new artists will refuse to sign with the major labels. When there is a critical mass of top artists that aren't controlled by a major label, the smaller labels will band together to make this happen. Emusic.com is in the best position to bring about this change.
What's important is that we do not take away the wrong lesson from this. Newspapers, movies, content, and web apps do not have to be free. People are willing to pay for content, but it has to be instant, unlimited, comprehensive, and organized. The music industry failed because they couldn't adapt to this new model, not because everyone demands free.
Tonight there will be a rush on Facebook.com as they launch the ability to choose a profile URL such as facebook.com/yourname. I have been doing some serious consideration into what the best one might be.
Facebook is in the best position to be the keeper of online identity. It will very likely become the way that I will prove that I am Jason Schwartz as I travel around the Internet. I think of my Facebook username and password like my social security code, and my profile like a state id. Add in the information they have about my entire social graph, and in the future my Facebook URL may become the center of my online identity. While a Facebook vanity URL seems absurdly trivial now, if my prediction turns out to be true, what I pick tonight takes on an awful lot of importance.
Here are my options:
Jason: It’s short, easy to remember, common, and will be the toughest to get before someone else does.
JasonSchwartz: My full name. It’s long, difficult to spell, fairly common, but professional.
JasonDSchwartz: My name with my middle initial. I go by that in a number of places because Jason Schwartz is so common. When you Google Jason D. Schwartz you only get me. I started doing this before I built up SEO around Jason Schwartz, but now its not quite as necessary. I also own jasondschwartz.com.
JasonS: First name last initial. Generic and common, but also short and easy. It's also my LinkedIn URL.
Jschwa: This is my screen name, which I carefully curated over the last few years. It’s short easy to remember, easy to spell, and what I am known as throughout the Internet. Unfortunately it's a bit common as well, and sometimes it's already taken when I sign up for a new service.
I asked the members of the NY Tech Community what they're going to do:
Here are the responses.
@Woodlandalyssa: Alyssagalella (full name)
@Dens: DCrowley (first initial, last name) Because: “[Facebook] requires [more than 5 characters] so I can't be “Dens”. I'll prob go for dcrowley. The 4 letter thing sucks”
@Evbart: Evbart (screen name) Because: “Evbart seems easier [than Evan Bartlett]”
@Kmaverick: Kmaverick (first initial, last name ALSO screen name) Because: “I use that name all across the web. Plus, when you clic
k on Facebook you get so many more details about me and my full name.”
@Ceonyc: Ceonyc (Screen name) Because: “Screen name everywhere. People use screenames b/c they are unique, self chosen. I'm the only ceonyc but not the only Charlie O'Donnell. I made me ceonyc.”
@Orian: Orian (first name ALSO screen name)
@Tmarman: Tmarman (first initial, last name ALSO screen name)
@Davidsrose: DavidSRose (first name, middle initial, last name)
@Innonate: Innonate OR Nate OR NateWestheimer (confused like me)
@MSG: Mgalpert or MichaelGalpert (first initial, last name OR first and last name) Because: “To find me on Facebook just Google “Facebook Michael Galpert” I don’t really care for personal vanity urls, biz url is different story…I only care to have facebook.com/aviary”
@AJV “For our clients [http://vaynermedia.com], I like for them to have their real name for both twitter and FB – if the name is hard (like mine) – then initials. The biggest thing is consistency – unless you can upgrade [to a 4 letter name. Celebrities only]! If you can get facebook.com/jason – go get it!”
@Garyvee: Already has facebook.com/gary. His advice: “1st go for name Jason then JasonSchwartz then JasonS”
It seems that everyone’s choice is dictated by what screen name they chose to begin with, and how close they got it to their actual name. If their name is short and phonetic then their screen name is very close, and therefore they don’t have a problem keeping it consistent with their Facebook URL.
If their name is a little more complicated like Schwartz or Westheimer, the need for a creative screen name grows. The thing about a screen name is that it’s a bit like a character or a persona. It can take on a life of its own in a way that a persons name can’t always do. This seems to be the situation I’m falling into with Jschwa, and deciding if I am Jschwa on the Internet, or I’m just Jason.
Ultimately I think I’m going to follow AJ and Gary’s advice and choose Jason, and if that’s taken then JasonSchwartz, and then JasonS. Jschwa seems to fit me, but maybe not in the future, and the future is what I'm concerned with here. I may be talking about Facebook vanity URLs for now, but who I am on Internet, and what this URL may come to represent, is a topic worth consideration.