A style of entrepreneurship that Silicon Valley overlooks — but you shouldn't

When you read about entrepreneurship, you can get the sense that there is only one type of company. Invent some new technology, get hundred million users and IPO. The theme was echoed by the always thought-provoking Steven Black in his fireside chat on Startup Hacking. (link). During the presentation he caveats his point by outlining four types of entrepreneurs and suggest that there are other kinds of entrepreneurship that might be different from a classic Silicon Valley Startup;

– Lifestyle entrepreneurs, like a surfer that take a few students to help her finance her passion.
– Mum & Pop entrepreneurs, like corner shops and small family businesses
– Tech entrepreneurs, like the founders of Facebook and Google
– Feature entrepreneurs, people who make features or technology that then get bought by bigger tech companies.

I find it to be a refreshing thought that there are different types of entrepreneurship and that founders should build the kind of company that fit their temperament, skills and region. Especially because, I as a non-Silicon Valley founder, often find the advice and methodology provided by many in the startup community to be very specific for the type of tech startups that Silicon Valley create so well. What seem to be especially lacking (and sometimes even looked down upon) is what we can call the ‘Old School Startup’. New companies that are not enablers of new technology but powered by it. Startups that might not create a whole new behavior or industry but are replacing or expanding an existing one. Companies like Warby Parker, Vice Media and JustEat. I realize that for a VC, a perfect home run is a new tech startup where the returns are incredible. However, I suggest that there is a host of big innovative startups that are being built that use a different methodology than what is best practice in Silicon Valley. Theses companies might never become as valuable as Uber, Google or Facebook — but they, not small Mum & Pop shows either. A few properties that make them different;

– The are powered by technology not an enabler of a new one
– They are most often disrupting an existing industry that have been dormant or not innovated in their product, business model or service layer
– The founders are often not engineers
– They often have a business model in place from day one and can scale their business while they expand their user base (vs. focusing on getting a big user base and then figuring out the business model)
– They are often made by creating fresh brands — and using web tools to make products/services/experiences better and cheaper.

There are several other types of entrepreneurship (agencies and service startups comes to mind), but in our fascination of companies like Facebook that grow from nothing to 100B in a few years, we seem to be forgetting that the world is filled with these other amazing companies. Now the world is not binary, and there are certainly startups that are a hybrid between ‘Old School Startups’ and Tech Startups. (e.g. Uber), but as we talk about startups in general, we should become more aware that there are different types — and methods that work for growing one type — might not work for others.

I asked founders on mobile trends for 2016 — here are the six highlights…

Everyone has heard “desktop is dead” and “mobile is eating the world” a million times, but what does that actually mean? And, more specifically, what does it mean for you?

For starters, it means that 900 million people — almost 1 in 7 people on the PLANET — use Facebook on their phone every day. It means that over 3 billion videos are viewed on Snapchat, and 5 billion more on Youtube, every single day. And I don’t think I’d be far off in saying that you probably check your phone well over 100 times a day. In fact, I’d be surprised if you weren’t reading THIS on your phone.

So, what “desktop is dead” means is that mobile should not be part of your strategy. Mobile should BE your strategy. Whether you’re B2C or B2B, being customer-centric means living, working, and breathing mobile. Below is a handful of short, to-the-point, and directly actionable insights on mobile based on trends the team here sees that you should be thinking about as you head into 2016:

1. Video: vertical and… soundless?

Have you ever held your phone horizontally to type a text? Do you check your news apps or Facebook in horizontal mode? Thought not. But you probably engage in the all-too-familiar video-watching battle every day… You hit play on a video in your feed, and it starts to roll, but it looks small and distorted, so you turn your phone to the side, which makes the video pause or skip, so you have to rewind or flip the phone back to vertical… meanwhile, you’re frantically hitting the “volume up” button with one hand whilst trying to disentangle your earbuds with the other…

All of which is to say, we all need to rethink how video is made for mobile. Video viewing on Instagram is square, but we’re seeing more and more vertically rectangular video across content platforms. And a muted auto-start — which Facebook does — will have people deciding if they want to watch the video without the audio playing. So video content needs to capture your audience without audio and should probably be made in the way people use their phones: vertically.

2. App-less apps.

Texting is the native mobile interface. It’s universally easy, natural, and quick. In the past year, we’ve seen an influx of apps capitalizing on this interaction framework — apps that aren’t really apps at all, but deliver a service or a product via the text interface. These “hidden” apps — like Alfred and Magic — have tended to deliver luxury experiences, but we predict that hidden apps will start to cross over into middle-market products and services. Listen to more thoughts on chat-based interfaces here, on the Prehype podcast.

3. Platform agnostic content marketing

Yes, Facebook has 1.5 billion users, and you should be optimizing your content for Facebook. But Instagram has 300 millions users, Snapchat has 200 million users, Pinterest has 100 million users, and Reddit has 40 million users. Medium now has nearly 1 million. Outside of Facebook, where does your audience lie, and how can you optimize your content marketing strategy to span these platforms? At BarkBox, we’ve built an influencer community that spans all of these networks, and we run campaigns and contests that work fluently across the board. Think less about your content as a destination — and more as bite-sized part of the wider web.

4. Hey… you still reading this?

Okay, so maybe (hopefully) you are, but there’s a good chance you’ve clicked away or switched back and forth through other apps over the course of reading this. This is because mobile consumption is distracted consumption. Say goodbye to the traditional story arc of beginning, middle, end — content needs to be continuously engaging. Stories should be made up of smaller sound bites, and the format in which you publish your stories (text, video, audio) needs reflect that.

5. Your customers are on their phones — why isn’t your team?

Customers browse your products on their phones. They read your content on their phones. They chat with your customer service team on their phones. They make recommendations to friends about your products on their phones. If they are waiting for their car to get fixed, their doctor to see them, or for a friend at the bar — they are on their phones. However, I bet that all the presentations you see at work are on a computer, from the screenshots of your new website to the email campaign. Start making the mobile change today by demanding that products are presented in meetings in the same way that your customers see them — on mobile. A mobile future calls for a mobile now, in all aspects of business-as-usual.

6. The landing page is dying.

The traditional path for app discovery is getting turned on its head. We tend to think that people download apps because they see an ad, click through to a landing page and learn about the app, decide they like it, and then go to the app store. But this model is changing. What we see is, instead of turning to landing pages for information, people jump from the ad straight to the app store to download and test out the app. This means that the real discovery process takes place within the app, through users actually interacting with it, not on a site dedicated to explaining what it could do for them. The problem is, most app UXes don’t account for these totally unindoctrinated users. In lieu of landing pages for apps, apps themselves must offer introductory experiences, which also means apps must be optimized for conversion.

… Thoughts? Questions? Just want to say hi? Would love to hear from you.

PS. If you’re curious about what we have been up to lately at Prehype… here’s a few things that kept us busy this year…

Prehype partners continue to launch great homegrown startups … AndCo and Amberjack have launched in 2015.

In 2015 to date, we have co-created around 6 ventures with corporate partners like LEO Pharma, Dow Jones, and RBS, with more to come.

We have moved into secondhome for our London office, it has plants, entrepreneurs and other startups. Come by.

Ahh, and another shameless plug; we’ve launched Prehype’s podcast earlier this year, where we discuss everything from health tech to social engineering and architecture. Would love to hear what you think about it, and would always appreciate any topic suggestions.