I want to go there.

This week, Science published a noise map of the U.S., showing where the loudest and quietest places are.

It reminded me of a tree map of the U.S. published a couple of years ago.

If I were a maps geek, I’d try to combine these two maps so I could see at a glance the places that are both filled with trees and quiet. Because those are the places I want to go.

Sometimes a tree-filled and noisy place, like Central Park, can be invigorating, while a quiet and treeless desert, like Death Valley, has its own special charms, too. But most of the time what I’m missing is being among the trees, in silence, like a druid.

New map show's America's quietest places, from Science Magazine
New map show’s America’s quietest places, from Science Magazine
Where the trees are, from the NASA Earth Observatory
Where the trees are, from the NASA Earth Observatory
I want to go there.

Think mobile is big? You ain’t seen nothing yet

Mobile technology has been one of the biggest drivers of growth in the tech sector since the iPhone’s launch in 2007. But if Digi-Capital‘s predictions hold water, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

According to the research and advisory firm’s latest Mobile Internet Investment Review, investors plowed more than $32 billion into mobile tech companies in 2014.

These 68 companies have $1B+ valuations.

The most valuable of those companies — the 68 mobile “unicorns” with a valuation of $1 billion or more — added $28 billion to their combined value in just the fourth quarter to reach a total of $261 billion.

“To put the $28B value added last quarter in perspective, that’s $300M [per day] — or more than 30 Tim Cooks (who got paid over $9M last year) a day,” said Tim Merel, the managing director of Digi-Capital.

“But it wasn’t all plain sailing, as fourteen of the billion-dollar companies lost value (in some cases multiple billions of dollars). Admission also doesn’t guarantee lifetime membership, with two former unicorns falling below $1B in Q4 for a total of five dropouts last year.”

You might think that these unicorns are the cream of the crop, and you’d be right. But even within this exclusive club, there’s a tier of truly successful elite companies.

Just 20 of those 68 billion-dollar mobile companies account for almost 70 percent of the entire group’s value, or $178 billion of the $261 billion total. Those top 5? Uber, WhatsApp, Twitter, Flipkart, and Snapchat.

The Pareto principle at work: The top 5 mobile unicorns account for 70% of the value.

Digi-Capital predicts that revenue from the mobile Internet will top $700 billion annually by 2017, more than tripling its 2014 figure. The vast majority of that, $500 billion, will come from m-commerce, or purchases made by people using their phones to order things online.

The U.S. and Europe will account for a fair amount of m-commerce growth. But where the market will really boom is in Asia, which will account for almost half of the m-commerce total by 2017, Digi-Capital predicts.

There are some other intriguing data points in this report. Not surprisingly, Android app downloads greatly outnumber iOS app downloads, while iOS apps are far better at making money. That’s a story we’ve been hearing for a couple of years now.

But what surprised me is that the Google Play store only accounts for a minority of Android app downloads worldwide. Google Play has 20 percent of overall downloads, while iOS has 17 percent — but competing Asian Android stores are close behind, with Baidu at 17 percent, Tencent at 16 percent, and Qihoo at 11 percent.

Android and iOS app store market shares and monetization, 2014.

Not surprisingly, mobile games dominated mobile app revenues, with 74 percent of the total.

And if there’s a power law operating in the valuations of the biggest mobile companies, it’s an even more powerful effect when you examine the performance of the top mobile apps. For instance, the top 1 percent grossing apps have 35 times more sessions per day than the top 5 percent, and 20 times the customer lifetime value. That’s an enormous differential that shows where the money is mostly going in this market.

The question, then, is how to capture some of this epic growth. That’s where VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit comes in. I’ll keep my pitch short: This small, invitation-only event that we’re hosting next week will bring 180 of the top mobile executives, founders, and investors into one place to talk about ad tech, user acquisition strategies, how to make the best use of mobile data, and how to optimize and personalize apps for your customers.

And Digi-Capital will be giving a detailed, 47 page summary of its extensive 578 page report to all attendees.

If you’re in the mobile industry and want to find out how to get on the leading edge of the growth curve described in these charts, the Mobile Summit is well worth the price of admission. I hope to see you there.


Think mobile is big? You ain’t seen nothing yet

Facebook’s fake “real names” policy

Dana Lone HillIn October, Facebook issued a very clear statement saying that it’s never been the company’s policy to require legal names — but rather, to require people to use the names they go by in real life. “For Sister Rosa, that’s Sister Rosa. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess,” a company spokesperson said.

But Facebook is repeatedly reneging on that promise. For Native Americans, for instance, it insists that names like “Dana Lone Hill” don’t meet its guidelines — and then it requires legal documentation (copies of a driver’s license, for instance). For punk music writers like Legs McNeil, it requires a more “legitimate” sounding name. For video blogger Jay Smooth, it briefly suspended his account (and then reinstated it when Smooth, who has quite a following, complained about it on Twitter.)

Whenever the company gets called on this behavior, it says each individual instance was a mistake. But this is a repeated pattern. The “mistake” excuse does not hold water.

This is not responsible corporate behavior. This is the behavior of a company that believes it can say one thing publicly and do something completely different in daily practice.

Facebook’s fake “real names” policy

Why Twitter will always be #2

Twitter buttons

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Twitter’s got an interesting problem: Its revenue is booming, but — as with all the major social networks — its user growth has slowed to a crawl.

That’s not a good place to be for Twitter: It means that the odds are very, very good that the company will forever remain #2 or #3 in its market.

Here are the numbers.

In its earnings call today, the social network reported Q4 revenue of $479 million, up 97 percent over the same quarter in 2013, when it posted $243 million in revenue.

Meanwhile, the number of people using Twitter at least once a month increased 20 percent year-over-year to 288 million — but that was actually a decrease of about 4 million from the previous quarter. Last year, it reported 30 percent year-over-year user growth. So growth is slowing.

Compare that to LinkedIn, often regarded as an also-ran social network that’s focused on the lucrative but boring business niche. But LinkedIn is doing pretty well. LinkedIn reported just 93 million monthly active users (a year-over-year increase of 23 percent) and revenue of $643 million for Q4 (44 percent growth year-over-year). Same slow growth, but much larger revenues.

Or the giant in this market, Facebook, which grew its count of monthly active users 13 percent year-over-year to 1.39 billion, while its revenue grew 49 percent to $3.85 billion for the same quarter.

Let’s look at the annual figures:

2013 vs 2014 figures for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

What these three companies tell is a similar story: Growth is slowing down to the 10-30 percent range, while each of the companies gets far better at actually making money from those users. Of course Facebook has the lion’s share of both users and revenue, but there’s probably a healthy amount of the market left over for the other two.

Networks like Facebook-owned Instagram and Twitter-owned Vine attempt to capture the younger crowd, but let’s stipulate for now that these sub-networks aren’t a major force — yet. (Though Snapchat’s reported 100 million user figure, and its forays into original content, suggest that there might be another chapter to this story.)

For now, Twitter’s main challenge is hanging on to its existing user base, so it doesn’t fall even further behind Facebook. But it’s also got to figure out what makes it special.

What does Twitter do uniquely well?

There are a few possibilities. Twitter plays a key role in the news ecosystem: For me, as for many journalists, Twitter is both a valuable dashboard of what’s going on in the world and in the tech industry. It’s also a useful tool for publicizing the news that VentureBeat publishes.

But I think I am in a minority, and our traffic figures — like those of most publishers — show that far more people use Facebook to learn about the news.

Twitter is a useful mobile tool that offers great control to end-users than Facebook does. Rather than try to anticipate what you want to see, Twitter lets you curate your own lists — or just follow the whole tweetstream generated by everyone you’re following — without mediating that too much, other than with the occasional promoted tweet. So it probably appeals to control freaks who get weirded out by Facebook’s algorithms. Again, a minority.

It’s a uniquely public place to hold conversations, so famous people — or even slightly famous people, like tech journalists and VCs — can have intelligent conversations with one another that other people can follow along with. But along with that public quality comes a significant downside, which is that anyone can troll anyone else. Just ask Anita Sarkeesian about the downsides of public conversations.

It’s one of the last major bastions of pseudonymity, so you don’t have to use your real name on the service. Again, the downside is trolling. To his credit, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo seems to recognize that this is a serious problem, and says he will make dealing with it a high priority. How he does that remains to be seen.

And finally, Twitter helps people form more emotional connections with each other — and with the content they’re consuming. A very intriguing and somewhat creepy study done by Twitter’s marketing science team shows that actively using Twitter while browsing the web increases the sense of that web content’s relevance by 51 percent.

That’s powerful evidence that Twitter can play a key role in making content more persuasive, powerful, and effective. That’s news that should be incredibly interesting to digital marketers as well as publishers of content.

For the most part, Twitter has avoided being tarred with the same kind of brush that’s often used to paint Facebook as a privacy-hating, opportunistic marketing machine. It even won an award last night at the Crunchies (an annual tech industry event cosponsored by VentureBeat and TechCrunch) for positive social impact.

So Twitter’s future lies somewhere along that line: The smaller, more likeable social network that news publishers and marketers use to forge stronger ties with their readers and viewers.

Maybe it will always be #2 or #3 in users and traffic — but as LinkedIn has shown, if it can identify a lucrative segment, even a smaller social network may be able to turn its users into an ever-larger slice of revenue.

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from VentureBeat » Dylan Tweney http://ift.tt/1LWglh3

Why Twitter will always be #2

Dylan’s Desk: Why Silicon Valley is still a man’s world

ipad classroom students

Girls are just better at school, it appears. So why aren’t there more women in key roles at tech companies?

Girls outperform boys in academic achievement in 70 percent of the countries around the world, according to a recent study. The study, done by researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Glasgow, looked at the educational achievement levels of 1.5 million 15-year-old students around the world, from 2000 to 2010.

“Even in countries where women’s liberties are severely restricted, we found that girls are outperforming boys in reading, mathematics, and science literacy by age 15,” said one of the study’s two authors, David Geary, a psychology professor at MU.

The only places where that was not the case were Colombia, Costa Rica, and the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. In the United States and United Kingdom, boys and girls had comparable levels of educational achievement.

But everywhere else, on average, 15-year-old girls do better in all subjects, including science and math.

So why aren’t there more women in tech?

As the researchers write in their paper, this finding “raises the question of why – despite educational opportunities and success – women are under-represented in leadership positions in politics, business, and academia.”

Or, as many have been asking in Silicon Valley lately, why aren’t there more female programmers, engineers, product managers, and tech executives at our companies?

The researchers put forward two theories. One is that, while the average performance of girls is higher, it’s the top-performing individuals who go on to these kinds of leadership positions, and “boys at the highest levels [do] equally well [as] or better than girls at the highest levels.”

The other is that relative performance matters to each individual. If you’re better at language arts you’re more likely to become a humanities major in college; if you’re better at science and math, you’re more likely to become a science, math, or engineering major.

In other words, even if you’re better than most of the boys at math, you still might go into the humanities if those are your strong suit.

The authors acknowledge that there are other issues involved, such as the way cultural norms might feed boys into a “pipeline” of clubs, interests, and majors that culminate in the kinds of skills needed to land a tech job — while girls get directed into other kinds of educational and extracurricular tracks.

Put another way: Between the ages of 15 and 21, most girls face an enormous amount of social and academic pressure to leave science and math. They have to put up with schools, peers, and a society that expect less of them, and people who actively discourage them from pursuing these fields. Despite starting academically ahead, they have to work extra hard just to keep up with the boys, who don’t have to spend half their energy simply justifying their right to be there. Faced with stereotypes, discrimination, exclusion, peer pressure, and more, most girls give up.

But the study didn’t tackle that issue.

The aptitude gap persists

There’s a third possibility, which is that academic performance doesn’t correlate with aptitude, and that from ages 15 to 21, the math-science abilities of boys start to outstrip those of girls.

A blogger who goes by the pen name Scott Alexander has done some interesting, detailed analysis of GRE scores and SAT scores by university department, and has found very strong correlations. Physics and engineering departments have a much higher average score on the math part of the test, and a much smaller number of women, while art history and English literature show the opposite pattern.

Now, GRE scores are taken by college seniors, so that could reflect the benefits of four years of schooling. But SAT tests are usually taken by 17-year-olds, and they show a similar, if slightly weaker, correlation. In other words, Alexander writes, by 11th grade, there is already an aptitude gap between girls and boys in terms of their math abilities.

There are all kinds of ways to argue with that point (going back to the pipeline and stereotype arguments, of course), but it can’t be easily rejected out of hand. Whatever the cause, the gap seems to be there.

If we try to square this two papers, it looks like something happens after the age of 15. Girls, who start out very strong in science and math, gradually drift away from it — for whatever reason — and that causes them to lose ground.

If I were looking to solve the gender gap in tech, I’d start by trying to keep 15-year-old girls engaged with science and math — and prevent people from pushing them out.

The Moneyball opportunity

The Missouri study raises another issue for me. It suggests that Silicon Valley companies, which pride themselves on being meritocracies, are missing a big opportunity.

It’s a competitive job market, which means that many companies would be eager to find a pool of talent that is easier to recruit — and perhaps less expensive — than the usual suspects.

This study shows that there’s an enormous pool of talent like that: women, who for whatever reason, had high levels of academic achievement in science and math early on but wound up going into different fields in college.

Now, granted, many of these talented people will lack the kind of training that most companies need. But with the wealth of coding academies around — many of which are aimed at women — it should be pretty easy to rectify that problem.

You just need to find talented candidates who did well in science and math during high school, regardless of whether they followed up on that interest in college, and then train them up. It’s the Moneyball strategy.

Or, you know, you could just look for culture fit.

from VentureBeat » Dylan Tweney http://ift.tt/1BqZaMn

Dylan’s Desk: Why Silicon Valley is still a man’s world