Making Sense of the App Economy

People are buying an ever-growing number of things through app stores, including music, games and productivity tools.  This has given rise to a new digital economy that has emerged over the last several years with app stores at the epicenter.

There are whole companies that only sell through app stores and these days one would be hard pressed to find a large business that isn’t trying to reach customers that way, too. Airlines, banks, media companies and retailers all have their own mobile apps.

But it’s still hard getting any sort of meaningful information about how this new economy really works. App Annie is the first company we’ve found that offers meaningful market data and an analytics platform that allows people to see how mobile apps are faring. More than 300,000 apps are being tracked by their creators using App Annie, providing them with analytics on downloads, revenue, and rankings across several app stores. So far, the company has tracked over 25 billion downloads and $6 billion in app-store revenue. 

Cisco acquires Meraki: how 3 guys from MIT transformed the networking industry

Meraki founders

Quick: when was the last time you plugged in an Ethernet cable? If you have trouble answering that question, you’re one of the reasons why Cisco has agreed to acquire Meraki.

Six years ago Sanjit, John and Hans saw our Wi-Fi world before many others. Meraki offered smaller wireless ISPs a complete package to roll-out wireless networks without a lot of time, money or expertise. It gave upstart ISPs a way to enter new markets and disrupt existing ones. The benefits were obvious: the ability to scale without wires, low cost of entry, ease of use, and network analysis tools to help operators maximize revenue from their small networks.

I’ll always remember meeting the guys for the first time. We were introduced by Rajeev Motwani, Larry & Sergey’s thesis advisor at Stanford. They were a bunch of MIT PhDs who had built a very proprietary solution as part of their own thesis called RoofNet. They were clearly world-class, super smart and personable. I bought their product to test it out.  It was so easy to use, I set up a wireless network myself in minutes. You just plugged in the box and it worked. That’s all we needed to see. Chris Sacca, who was at Google at the time, was equally enthusiastic. Google bought 1,000 routers and invested as well.

Creating room in a crowd

Paul and Steve

Sometimes it’s never too late to join a crowded market. Just ask Paul English and Steve Hafner, who today announced an agreement to sell Kayak to Priceline for about $1.8 billion.

Today, Kayak’s promise of ‘One and Done’ is well known as befits a company that fielded 600 million travel queries in the first half of 2012 and whose mobile app has been downloaded nearly 17 million times.   

However, the world looked different in 2004 when Paul and Steve decided to start a company in an industry teeming with competitors such as Expedia, Orbitz, Hotwire, Priceline, Travelocity, LastMinute.com and plenty of others. These sites, plus thousands of hotel and airline sites, which all furnished their own confusing and biased results, is what fueled the frustration that gave Kayak a chance. It’s hard to remember but before Kayak it could take thirty minutes to book a flight or reserve a room.

How to Choose Your Startup Idea

Editor’s note: This is a guest post on TechCrunch by Greg McAdoo. Greg’s interests include collaborative consumption, the cloud infrastruture and the post-PC era. He currently works with companies like Airbnb, Bump, Songkick and Y Combinator

Tomorrow hundreds will meet up for Startup School, YC’s annual event for gutsy hackers thinking about founding a company. It’s one of my favorite events, and this year’s attendees will get to hear from everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Stripe’s Patrick Collison to Weebly’s David Rusenko. It’s oversubscribed again, so here are some thoughts on how to choose an idea for your startup for those who can’t make it.

Investors always tell you to pursue big ideas, find your passion and iterate rapidly.That’s valuable advice, but there are some other important considerations that you don’t hear very often: tackle a small market, look for bizarre behavior, don’t make waves, and be unwilling to do anything else. Paul Graham also has some helpful suggestions here and here.

“We always assume that anything is possible, while simultaneously imagining that others want to put us out of business.”

— Sequoia Capital

"We are looking for people who want to make a dent in the universe" Alfred Lin at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.