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Postive Slope / S.Belsky - Digest #2

Postive Slope / S.Belsky - Digest #2
By Scott Belsky • Issue #2 • View online
In the spirit of continuing this “newsletter” experiment, topics for this edition:
  • Those $#&@# Notifications & The Limits Of Mobile…
  • My Ongoing Obsession With The Future Of Media
  • Other Thoughts On Ego, Old Playbooks, & More
  • The Awesome New 2nd Avenue Subway In NYC

Thinking About...
(1) Notifications & Pushing The Limits Of Mobile
Recall, when the first iPhone was launched, there was no location awareness or bandwidth/support for real-time video. But now, with the future of mobile services being centered around connecting in real-time or taking action based on where you are or what you’re doing, the app-centric model breaks.
Since the major operating systems (iOS and Android) are all about your “apps,” notifications are the critical hack to bring activity and actions out of your apps and to the surface. Unfortunately, the fact that notifications are an unsustainable “hack” is becoming increasingly clear. The most effective mobile notifications are finance related, fear related, or have some degree of FOMO (fear of missing out) in them. As such, companies are playing games to get us to pay attention. Notifications are a classic “tragedy of the commons situation,” a few bad actors ruin it for everyone.
So, what’s the solution? For companies that make apps: taking the time and care to get notifications right can become a powerful moat. Live video companies (whether you’re Periscope, Houseparty, or a premium live content broadcaster like Cheddar) must innovate on when and how they notify users of events. A simple logic model will not suffice. Case in point, Slack’s logic map for whether or not to send a customer a notification (see below). Damn impressive.
Ultimately, the logic for notifications must be determined by artificial intelligence and factors like relevance, urgency, location, and relationships. For example, if an app knows that you are interested in a certain topic and are in an Uber for your daily commute, that’s a great time to notify you of a live stream on that topic.
The bigger solution is to build a new mobile operating system for a world where your location and desires matter more than which apps you have installed on your phone. I’ve been spending some time with teams thinking at this level, we shall see…
(2) My Ongoing Obsession With The Future Of Media
Some of you know that I spend a lot of time, whether it be with the Video/Periscope team at Twitter and others, thinking about the future of media (specifically live video, the mix between user-generated content and professionally produced content, how people will discover new topics and become influential in the ones they care about most, future business models, etc…). These interests have also made me more interested in emerging brands like TheSkimm, The Hustle, and especially Cheddar - all of whom are exploring a more cost-efficient, better distributed, modern form of media content. I especially liked Cheddar Founder/CEO Jon Steinberg’s article on “Post Cable Networks” that explores the role of professionally produced live video.
Other Thoughts Of Late…
  • Ego is rust. Achievement rarely ages well, unless you keep sanding it down. The point is, managing achievement requires active effort, otherwise an impermeable wall is built between new opportunities/people and the world as you know it. So many examples…
  • The perfect playbook to disrupt an industry needs to be iterated (and ultimately replaced) when you become the leader of the industry. It’s logical, but it’s very hard to realize, as the protagonist, that the stuff that made you successful is likely to backfire. By definition, disrupting the status quo requires a willingness to fight and a stubbornness that keeps you fighting despite the odds. The challenge for the leader is to constantly re-evaluate the playing field and to realize when (not if) you’re suddenly playing a different sport.
  • Undeniable theme among founders i’ve invested in/worked with: The less defensive, the more potential. Those that absorb feedback and alternative perspectives - and are able to integrate such input - consistently outperform. I test for this in a variety of ways as an investor and employer. But it’s also important for prospective employees to seek managers that view feedback as a form of non-financial reward (and seek it themselves).
  • Call For Talent! There are a few new companies I am particularly excited about that are recruiting designers, iOS/Android engineers, and backend engineers. If you (or someone you know) has tremendous initiative, cares deeply about the culture of a team and long-term possibilities of a product, and is up for a bold journey, please make the intro. 
In Case You Missed It...
The new 2nd Avenue subway in NYC is quite remarkable. It only took about a century to complete. I took a stroll through a few of the stations on opening weekend and admired the art which attempts to capture the diversity and eccentricity of New York City. Here are some photos…
The art attempts to depict the live of an everyday New Yorker.
The art attempts to depict the live of an everyday New Yorker.
They loved it.
They loved it.
I recognize this "random New Yorker" - Chef Daniel Boulud.
I recognize this "random New Yorker" - Chef Daniel Boulud.
The Right Customers At The Right Time
Worth Sharing...
Consider this the “curation” section. Here are a few things I came across recently that were worth sharing…
In case you didn’t read it, Warren Buffett’s latest letter to shareholders. As insightful and self-reflective as ever, always a reminder that continuing to learn is an elixir to life.
I have long believed that a better and faster product yields more than new features, but how do you go about leading this way? Good nuggets in this post from the Pinterest engineering team, including the fact that “User Perceived Wait Time” matters more than Page Load Time.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Scott Belsky

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Scott Belsky, NY/SF