Venture Capitalist at Theory

About / Categories / Subscribe / Twitter

2 minute read / Mar 22, 2013 /

Mobile Productivity for Normal People

Over the past few weeks, there has been a new refrain among consumer mobile startups that I’ve met with: we’re designing for normal people or normals as Chris Dixon would put it.

There are a few reasons for this trend. First, there is a movement towards great design. Second, there is a wave to reinvent and reimagine core applications of the mobile phones. The apps shipped with the standard OS were ports of their desktop counterparts. Only now, after using these cloned applications for a while, do we understand how email, phone, calendar, etc should evolve. Third, machine learning technologies make magical experiences possible like priority inbox or Google Now.

But, developing a product for a different segment demands a different approach.

First, alternate customer acquisition techniques are required. Unlike productivity nuts whose unrelenting persistence of even minor time savings drives product experimentation and usage, normals discover products by chance or through word of mouth. Large scale distribution deals like carrier bundling, embedding in the operating system and mass media channels seem to me to be much more effective for reaching this audience.

Additionally, the value proposition must be clear, simple and immediate. Normals have far less patience. In other words, this user segment demands better designed applications.

Last, the user feedback from productivity nuts and normals will vary dramatically. The first will demand ever more sophisticated features and integrations while the second will oppose functionality in pursuit of simplicity. Picking anything in between will develop a product that fails to meet either need well. Product must clearly prioritize one’s segments needs.

The opportunity for startups targeting normals is massive. But approaching the market requires a new mindset, different product prioritization and alternate marketing tactics.

In what other ways must startups serving normals evolve? Join us on this Branch.

Read More:

Why the File System Wars Will Trigger a Wave of Consumer M&A