Here is New York, E. B. White, 1949 (via )
One of my favorite pieces on the incomparable NYC.
We tend as a technology community to be obsessed with the bleeding edge of innovation. Many of the greatest companies of our time have been built on it (Google, Apple, Microsoft) and many of the rising stars are being built on it (Facebook, Twitter).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the bleeding edge. Heck, I live on it. But let’s not forget the “boring” businesses, the ones solving a preexisting need or problem that start by addressing a larger audience of folks, many of whom aren’t as tech savvy and often don’t live on the coasts.
– Coupon and other loyalty businesses. We recently invested in Linkwell, pursuing a unique coupon model in the health-care space.
– New approaches to long-standing vertical businesses, eg. Oyster.com in travel or Tracked.com in finance.
– Retail businesses such as Diapers.com.
– Mobile businesses and apps for phones other than the iPhone.
There is a somewhat obvious, but important lesson in this even when conceiving and building products initially for the tech savviest consumers: the extent of their success is ultimately a function of how widely useful they are. This affects product decisions, messaging and everything in between.
This does not mean that products should be non-innovative, nor does it mean they should take on too much. It just means that they need to be broadly relevant and accessible in addition to focused, clear and simple.
Facebook and Twitter actually represent great examples. While they both started catering to very specific audiences, Facebook to students and Twitter to geeks, their core propositions were much more widely relevant. Facebook tapped into the fundamental dynamics of human relationships, and Twitter tapped into the simplicity of communication and a flexibility that allows anyone to use the platform how they see fit.
While it may be unbelievable to you, even scare the shit out of you, Rush Limbaugh has got more listeners than any other radio voice in the country. And building businesses that appeal to them is usually a good recipe to make money.
Today we announced Spark’s investment in Aviary (www.aviary.com) – a pioneering suite of digital creation and editing tools in the cloud. With this investment, we join a terrific team of existing investors including Bezos Expeditions and a prominent network of angel investors who continue to be engaged in the business.
Aviary’s business is exciting on two primary fronts. Firstly, Aviary is fundamentally democratizing digital creation by bringing free browser-based tools to a previously desktop software dominated market. The software as a service model has been proven over and over again in multiple markets (Salesforce, NetSuite, Google Docs, Flickr, Vimeo, DropBox, etc.) and it is sure to extend to the creative marketplace. And the Freemium business model is continuing to prove itself across a number of these businesses as well as many others.
We are also in the very early stages of an emerging digital economy. I’ve that I expect the digital goods market to grow substantially over the coming years and mirror the market for offline goods in many ways. We recently reached the $1B threshold of digital goods sold, and it’s still incredibly early. Aviary provides the manufacturing capacity for this digital economy. Their toolset and open API empower the market for creation, allowing users to participate in the creation as well as consumption of digital goods. This completes the circle necessary to exponentially increase the number of creators and collaborators contributing to the digital goods marketplace and ultimately drive the velocity of the digital economy.
What I’m most excited about though is having the opportunity to work with , , and the rest of the terrific Aviary team. The products they’ve built to date are nothing short of fantastic. And they’re just getting started…