Billions of Dollars Up for Grabs in Indian Mobile Market

In the next few years, the number of smartphone users in India is expected to grow to over 20% of the population--that means nearly 300 million people in India who will be using smartphones. That’s almost the entire population of the US . . . using smartphones. Or, put another way, it’s the combined populations of Australia, England, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and France. All liking, tweeting, buying, streaming, and posting from their smartphones.

In addition, individual data consumption in India is slated to rise by 75% by the end of this year. For app developers, that’s big news because India is one seriously big market. Think, China big.

However, there is one pretty significant barrier standing between developers and these millions of potential customers.

Data in India is expensive. Really expensive.

Imagine if the cost of downloading an app was a full day’s wages. Or watching a clip on YouTube meant you had to work two extra shifts. In India, this is reality. 95% of consumers use prepaid mobile plans on which data is prohibitively expensive. As a result, users don’t download apps when they’re on-the-go, which is when smartphones are used the most, and many will deactivate data altogether.

Because high data costs influence app download and purchase decisions, developers attempting to achieve growth in this potentially lucrative market are up against consumers who are neither willing nor able to experiment with different apps. Consumers will only buy the data they can afford. As a result, 20% of people buy premium-priced data packages daily, and nearly a fifth of all consumers buy top-up data for use only on familiar and specific apps, like Facebook and Whatsapp. For developers, this equates to literally millions of missed opportunities for engaging with potential customers because they can’t access your product.

One of our products, Gigato, removes this roadblock by offering sponsored data. With our sponsored data app, consumers no longer need to worry about how much of their wage will go to downloading an app, and developers can attract and retain many more users. It’s a true win-win, and a democratization of a system that has, until now, been controlled by mobile operators.

We want smartphone users not to be afraid of turning their data back on and downloading your apps. Because, after all, what’s the point of having a smartphone if it can’t be smart?

How Babies and Startups Have Plenty in Common

Author: Raina Kumra, Co-Founder of Mavin (based: Silicon Valley)

Having a startup is like having a baby. It is busy. It is hectic. You are in early developmental stages with a child and a company — and they frequently fall down, take unsteady steps, and often make a really big mess. As the mother of a 15 month old, and a co-founder at a 12 month old startup, I see similarities every day. Here’s a list of ten ways they are alike:

Kids and Teams Grow in Unique Ways

Every kid is different, and every startup is different. One might have a growth spurt early and then slow down, while another will see plenty of growth late in the game. So you need to talk to people who understand you, your child, or your startup specifically.

General advice can be useful, but it’s far less important than targeted advice from someone who knows your product/team/child’s personality well.

The Initial Conception is So Much Fun

Seriously, there’s incredible creativity and passion that goes into beginning these endeavors. The ideating, the naming, the dreaming. The hard and unrelenting work comes later — after you’ve committed!

Never Hire Out of Desperation

As Rob Hayes from First Round Capital says, “Hire the right people.” Nothing will affect your success more than your first hires. And you want them to be stellar, because the better they are — the better off you will be. (Truth be told, I am not beyond poaching amazing nannies or UX people when I have the chance! Speaking of… if you’re amazing, we’re hiring.)

Every 6 Months, You Think you’ve figured it out

But you didn’t. With babies and startups, the only thing that keeps you going is endless hope. The smallest bit of progress (“He’s using a spoon!” “We’re getting user growth!”) can make you feel like you’re just around the corner from a product breakthrough — or a child that sleeps through the night. You’re constantly seeking stability that doesn’t exist. You’ll boomerang from on-top-of-the-world confidence to exhausting fear.

A Good Night’s Sleep? What’s that?

Personal time? Going to the gym? Forget it. Startups and kids need constant attention. You’re never off: work or parenting responsibilities can intervene anytime, anywhere.

You’ll find yourself multitasking because it’s more relaxing than letting everything pile up on you. But for sanity’s sake you can always take a walk, and you should.

It Eats up Your (Financial and Cognitive) Surplus

Let’s be real. There’s a cost to doing business, and sometimes it’s more than bootstrapping can handle. You’ll start running dangerously low on monetary resources — and cognitive resources, and you can’t afford to stretch either. Also, people who say that having a baby doesn’t cost much Money clearly did not have Amazon Prime.

“Babies and Startups Make Liars Out of All of Us”…

…as Nilofer Merchant said to me recently. It’s so true. In public, you always have to say ‘it’s going really well!’ and keep up positive appearances so as not to scare away any potential new investors or friends. With most people, you can’t speak freely about constipation solutions or your user acquisition issues. The friends who understand those things are very important because you can be 100% authentic about your worries.

If You Want Something Done, You Have to do it yourself

When the shit hits the fan, everything is on your shoulders. There’s no one else to appeal to when it’s time for a decision. You also have to manage stress appropriately — which is stressful! And no you don’t get an award for doing all of this. Your reward is getting through a day.

Feeding Babies is like User Testing

Through rapid iterations, you experience constant failure and occasional wins. Learning to quickly test, fail, and redesign and try again is important for both. (Strawberries were a win for my kid, so they’re part of the permanent design… I mean, menu. Everything that failed ends up on the wall.) You simply cannot lose patience whether you are feature testing, or feeding.

It Never Feels like Enough

No matter how much your co-parent is doing and how much your co-founders are doing, no one ever gets to the end of their task list for the day. That’s just a feeling you have to get comfortable with. That feeling of never being done…

But, All Things Considered, Both Startups and Kids are good for the Soul

Balancing the needs of a child and a startup are taxing. But it’s so worth it. Even when you fail, you succeed — because you’re always learning. Both of these experiences completely change you and your perspective, and you have to be ready for that change.

Whether you are launching a new idea on the world, or a new human into the world, the lessons are endless and entirely transformative.

Disclaimer: This is a guest post. The statements, opinions and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of iamWire and the editor(s).

Read the full article here.

CEO Shailesh Nalawadi featured in Business Insider

                        Shailesh

                        Shailesh

Ambition to bring more people online as goodwill to the society drove Shailesh Nalawadi to quit his Google career and materialise a solution from white paper to reality. While working closely with Google Maps, he spent a lot of time in the emerging markets. It is then that he realised though more people are using smartphones as its price was dropping tremendously, but looking at data consumption and statistics from the operator, one can see that the cost of access was really high.

"When we started off thinking about mobile Internet, we noticed that especially in India and across emerging markets, there were lot of users who used smartphones but did not have the data on their phones; mostly because they were confused about the charges or worried about high data charges. Because of this their smartphone was not really very smart as it was an unconnected device," Shailesh Nalawadi, co-founder of Mavin (Silicon Valley based mobile startup), told BI.

Though it is an academic problem, there are actually people in the mobile app economy for whom it is a serious business problem. Hence the journey of Mavin began. A concept similar to cashback in retail, Mavin gives a platform to the operators to allow mobile apps to reward their users by giving them mobile data when they use these applications. By offering low cost mobile data, it aims to make smartphones "really smart".

"We are unique in the sense that we have a very specific solution with respect to data," he said.

India being a country with a bullish mobile app economy, Shailesh has rightly targeted the Indian market.

"Our target audience is all prepaid smartphone users in India because we think that this is where the consumers are value conscious. Also they are making these data rationing choices throughout the day because they are trying to stretch their monthly data budget for as far as possible," observed Shailesh.

Challenges

"Convincing people that this is a real problem and solving this is in their best interest is the most important challenge. When there is a new concept in the market, even if something very similar to cashback, people always doubt whether it will work for them or will it incentivise the right behaviour for them? They doubt what if there are features they don't want?" said the Silicon Valley expert.

But having worked as a product manager with top companies in the same genre, he has the solution and it is quite simple; to engage them to small mobile app trials.

"Convincing them to try a small portion and then opening out in full version is how we plan to overcome the challenges. We could also advice them on what kinds of incentives would work best for the users," he added.

Talking about life at Google, Shailesh is confident that quitting his job was the right decision.

"Every now and then you get convinced that there is a problem and you need to solve it. I realised that I can solve or at least attempt to solve this problem much more effectively outside Google than inside of Google. Actually nothing from Google in the last few years has done anything to solve the problem, at least for India... I believe the mission of our company (Mavin) is helping consumers come online with low cost mobile data," told Shailesh.

He added that they have been able to change the experience of the consumers online through Mavin. Here, they support net neutrality through unrestricted data for the unrestricted internet as they truly believe that universal internet access is a force for good in society.

Shailesh is currently responsible for product direction in Mavin Inc. Previously he worked in Product Management at Google, helping launch features in Google Maps, Google Glass, and Gmail.

Read the fully story here.

Mavin Mentioned in Re/Code: Why Facebook's Internet.org is Stumbling in India

Over the past month, critics hammered Facebook’s Internet.org, the company’s initiative to bring wireless Internet access to everyone in the world. That’s because to its opponents, Internet.org represents a skewed view of the Internet — a Facebook view of the Internet that one detractor likened to “economic racism” which stands to benefit the social network and its partners more than anybody else.

Internet.org gives users in underdeveloped markets like India, Kenya or Indonesia access to a group of hand-selected sites (such as Wikipedia and, of course, Facebook) from a mobile device without the need to purchase data.

The data is provided by carriers that partner with Facebook, and their hope is that this glimpse into the Internet will ultimately be enough to spur people to purchase additional data plans to explore the rest of the Web. (In February, Internet.org landed in six states in India working with the local operator Reliance.)

From Facebook’s standpoint, Internet.org is a win-win-win. Users get free Internet services that they wouldn’t otherwise pay for; telecom providers get new customers in the ones who are prompted to buy data plans; and Facebook gets more users from markets that are reaching the Internet for the very first time. This last point is especially critical for Facebook as it has started to see slower growth in the U.S.

But opponents say the plan is not adherent to net neutrality, the belief that all Internet data should be equally treated and equally accessible, and a principle that Facebook has vocally supported back in the United States.

The debate may go a long way in determining how Internet.org is adopted in other parts of the world.

What’s the criticism?

The stink over Internet.org came about after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of Indiareleased a consultation paper in late March that focused on net neutrality and asked for public comment. Following a concerted push from Internet activists, more than a million people responded in support of net neutrality, even though India doesn’t have any laws upholding it.

As a result, zero-rating services like Facebook’s Internet.org became the focus of public debate and numerous articles condemned the plan. The backlash was strong enough thatsome Indian tech companies pulled their services from Internet.org altogether.

Critics say that by allowing Facebook to choose which services Indian citizens get for free, the company could end up stifling innovation among Indian entrepreneurs. In other words, there’d be less motivation to create a competing social network in India if everyone else is already on Facebook.

Plus, in India, the telecom operators are a popular enemy. They are widely identified with a history of suppressing innovation and Internet startups. By linking arms with them for the zero-rating plan, Facebook suffers ire by association.

More importantly, the opponents believe Facebook’s mission is self-serving. It provides free segments of the Internet to some of India’s 1.25 billion people, but Facebook is one of those segments that comes as part of the package. It’s seen a way for the company to boost user growth under the guise of philanthropy.

Manu Rekhi, a director at Inventus Capital Partners, called the zero-rating initiatives like Internet.org “wolves in sheeps’ clothing.” Mahesh Murthy, a managing partner at Indian VC firm Seedfund, has also been vocal about Facebook’s intentions. He called the plan “economic racism.”

Murthy pointed to the services Facebook included to make his point. Internet.org used Microsoft’s Bing as the available search engine, even though Murthy says the majority of Indians use Google. Facebook also included a second-tier job search service instead of the industry leader.

“When they finally announced Internet.org, it seemed to us like a bit of a joke,” Murthy told Re/code. “Why don’t you just come out and say this is the Facebook poor people acquisition service? It kind of seems insincere, this entire effort.”

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Zuckerberg: It’s Not Always About the Money

By Kurt Wagner, Jan 14, 2015, 3:31 PM PST

How is Facebook responding?

This backlash in India has likely been troubling for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has publicly defended the program. His message has centered around the benefits of Internet.org, specifically how it can open doors to people who were previously off the grid.

In an op-ed run by the Hindustan Times last month, Zuckerberg wrote that the Internet can bring people opportunities that were previously out of reach.

Facebook believes in an open Internet, he added, and Internet.org is a step in the right direction.

“To give more people access to the Internet, it is useful to offer some services for free,” Zuckerberg wrote. “If you can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access and voice than none at all.”

The company responded to the net neutrality claims from a product standpoint as well: Itopened the Internet.org service to all developers in early May. (You can watch Zuckerberg explain the change in his Facebook post below.) That means any developer can apply to get his app or website included in the free package, and services that are approved will be listed alongside Facebook to Internet.org users later this summer.

There are limitations, of course. Certain kinds of high-bandwidth content like video might be denied. And while the change brings more services to Internet.org, it’s ultimately still a version of the Internet that runs through Facebook’s censors. It’s one step toward opening up the program, but for many it’s just that — one step.

“That makes it slightly more tenable,” Murthy said, “but what it does is it locks out anybody who does not explicitly apply with Internet.org to be included.”

In other words, it’s still Facebook’s Internet, they’re simply letting more people play.

What comes next?

Internet.org is less than a year old — it’s available in just 11 countries so far — which means the program has lots of time to evolve. This newness also heightens the importance of what’s happening in India. It may very well serve as a precedent for other important regions, like Brazil and Indonesia.

It’s possible that Facebook’s issues could dissuade other companies, like Google or Twitter, from moving forward with their own zero-rating offerings. Both tech giants have discussed such initiatives in India. But Facebook, the most aggressive of the bunch, is very much a pioneer, with others looking to it as an example.

“This whole thing is building up to a major crisis,” said one tech veteran in India familiar with Internet.org. For Facebook, the looming concern is that the backlash will spread to the next largest markets on the horizon. “Both Brazil and Indonesia are taking cues from India.”

Facebook’s VP of Internet.org, Chris Daniels, says he expects these net neutrality questions will be prevalent wherever Facebook goes.

“The net neutrality discussion is going to happen in many places around the world, and I think that’s A-okay,” Daniels said in an interview with Re/code. “The principle for us is to design a program that is ultimately good for people, which we are very confident that this is, and that is good for the Internet as a whole.”

Facebook is not alone in this mission. Jana, another company focused on zero-rating services, has an app called mCent that gives users free data to spend on things like watching videos or other app downloads in exchange for trying a new app. For example, a company like Google might let a user download its app for free within mCent, and Jana will credit that user’s account so they have additional data to spend elsewhere.

Mavin, which is just now coming out of stealth mode, does something similar, offering data credits as well. The idea in both cases is to give users data to use in any way they want.

It’s possible Facebook could adopt a similar strategy. Multiple sources we talked to suggested that if Facebook really cares about connecting the world, it will hand out data for free. No strings attached. If people download Facebook with that data, it will be a bonus.

The belief fueling the backlash was summed up by Murthy. “Everybody,” he said, “should have access to the same Internet.”

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Monthly Active Users in Emerging Markets: How to Make It Rain

By the end of the year, there will be 2 billion smartphone users across the globe. Most of the increase is due to rapid uptake of mobile apps in emerging markets —India, China, Southeast Asia, Brazil, and the Middle East. However, as app use starts to grow, we need to have a better understanding of the mobile ecosystem in these parts of the world.  

We have easy ways to estimate things such as monthly active users (MAU) in the U.S. because we more or less have a bipartisan app store marketplace (Apple & Google). In the developing world there can be hundreds of app stores available to smartphone users, which makes calculating MAU much more difficult. Here, we’ll explain in detail the app ecosystem in emerging markets and the developing world.

HOW DO EMERGING MARKETS ACCESS THE MOBILE INTERNET ON THEIR PHONES?

Unlike most of the U.S., emerging markets predominantly offer pre-paid mobile service. The benefits are that you only pay for what you use, not like in most places in America, where unused minutes or data float into the ether. Most emerging market users won’t pay for apps or in-app purchases; they expect such things to be free.

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT APPS IN EMERGING MARKETS

In India, along with Brazil, China, Nigeria, and Vietnam, roughly 80% of people are using their smartphones for social networking, music, and news — similar to how Americans use their phones. What’s different is that those in emerging markets also use their phones much more for educational and health services (41% and 33%, respectively) compared to the U.S. market.

In a survey of 12,000 people from India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, 67% of respondents said that they use their mobile phones as the primary source for video, including watching movies, TV shows, and music videos.

WhatsApp, the messaging app that does not use SMS, but instead uses a data plan to send messages, is consistently in India’s top downloaded apps (at least in the iTunes and Google Play stores). Seventy million people use WhatsApp in-country, which makes up 52% of the mobile messaging market share. Facebook and Facebook Messenger are in the Top 5 apps downloaded from these stores, but they are not in the #1 and #2 spots as they are in the United States.

HOW WILL APPS CHANGE IN EMERGING MARKETS?

Consider just one of the categories above: social networking. Indonesia has the largest user base of Facebook compared to any other country. There, the app boasts 63 million monthly active users. That translates into 92% of Indonesian users accessing the social networking platform from a mobile device, compared to 83% in India and 79% in the U.S.

Since many in emerging countries are stuck with data service bottlenecks and spotty Wi-Fi service, developers are beginning to think about how to best position their product in emerging markets. Not only must developers create apps that are free, and expect no in-app purchases, ideally the download itself must be fast. That means stripping down apps to be smaller in size, just as Facebook did with Facebook Lite. The old app was 32MB in size, while the Lite app is a mere 1MB.

With a smaller app that downloads faster, Facebook is making a play to boost its MAU numbers. To be successful, then, more app developers will more than likely follow suit, creating smaller versions of their apps optimized for the unique mobile ecosystem of emerging markets.

Likewise, another strategy to increase MAU is for app companies to offer what’s called “zero-rating” service, where they underwrite the cost of connectivity for their users by striking a deal with the mobile carriers to foot the bill when people in emerging markets use their apps. This approach is especially powerful for bandwidth hogging services such as video players, which, as we mentioned, are popular in emerging markets.

Facebook and Google are also working to bring the mobile Internet to emerging markets on a much broader scale by providing free access to the Internet for an increasing number of sites people visit and apps people use. Internet.org is a project spearheaded by Facebook to make a number of websites free to use, such as news, weather, transportation, and messaging services. It just became available in India in February, 2015.

Google, on the other hand, is taking a hardware approach to free mobile Internet service. Android One, the company’s flagship cell phone for emerging markets, will broker the data exchange between app developers and mobile carriers. So instead of individual companies having to strike zero-rating deals with cell service providers, Google will handle the charges as an independent third party.

THE FUTURE OF MOBILE

In India, along with a handful of other countries, mobile computing takes center stage. Looking to the future, we are likely to see continued mobile innovation in these areas of the world, from app developers to Internet powerhouses such as Google and Facebook looking to make information free and readily available.

With an increase in access, app developers are bound to see their MAU rise accordingly. But to make a sizeable impact, the players need to take even more risks and embrace experimentation, all in an effort to reduce the barriers to entry for their users. We at Mavin believe the more app developers that sign on to enhance their engagement by providing internet access, the better off users everywhere will be. This is something that can make a rather large dent at scale.

Part 2: The Engagement Conundrum: What to do in Emerging Markets?

This is the second installment in a two part series exploring the notion of consumer engagement: what it means, how it’s defined, and how it can be employed – particularly if you're operating in or entering into emerging markets.

In the last post, we examined what consumer engagement is, and how it can be a complex, often misconstrued metric to navigate. In this installment, we’re going to delve a little deeper and explore how engagement works, with a specific focus on emerging markets.

In the coming years, emerging markets will have a significantly larger addressable customer base than more mature, established markets. Combine that with growing middle classes who have increasing discretionary spending, and you have a massive number of potential new consumers.

Now, that’s all very well and good, but if you don’t understand how to engage consumers in developing economies, then that addressable customer base means nothing.

The general rules of engaging consumers – to understand what value means for your customer, and to let consumers choose how they interact with you – holds true for both mature and developing markets. However, the skills used to achieve successful consumer engagement in mature markets will not necessarily translate over to developing economies. As Khanna, Palepu and Sinha write in their HBR article:

“Successful companies develop strategies for doing business in emerging markets that are different from those they use at home and often find novel ways of implementing them, too”

This is because, quite simply, emerging markets operate in their own way.

For example, a McKinsey survey found 92% of Egyptians sought recommendations from friends or family before purchasing food or beverage products (this is opposed to only 29% in the UK). This is due to a higher mix of initial buyers who have little or no history with the brands, and therefore positive WOM can lead to rapid social and cultural validation.

And because people are more likely to recommend products they feel engaged with, those companies willing to invest early in engagement tools and solutions can expect to gain customers loyalty.

The most effective engagement recognizes that consumers drive the experience, by determining when, how and why they engage. Therefore, businesses have to evaluate their abilities to deliver on the engagement process. Particularly for companies operating in or entering emerging markets, importance lies in understanding the technological trends and capabilities for different regions.

Let's talk about the smartphone revolution occurring in developing countries. This year, the ten largest smartphone markets in the world (all of which are emerging markets) are set to see a combined growth of USD 10 billion, of which nearly half will come from India (USD 4.8 billion).

Over the last 12 months, there has been a 120% increase in web traffic driven from mobile devices to e-commerce sites – and this is only going to grow. In India alone, it’s anticipated that online purchasing is expected to increase to more than USD 30 billion – 16 times the current market – in the next six years.

So, how can your organization capitalize on this?

First and foremost, have a mobile first strategy. Consumers in developing economies have jumped right past desktop computers and straight to mobile. In short, your mobile strategy matters more in emerging markets. Avinash Kaushik differentiates the two types of engagement experiences organizations focused on mobile need to get right: Mobile Websites, and Mobile Applications. You can read his full post here, but the gist is simple: Mobile Websites are generally multi-purpose, whereas Mobile Apps are more focused and specific, so make sure you address this when building apps and websites.

Using mobile devices for social media is also going to play a significant role. A recent Accenture survey found that customers in emerging markets prefer to engage through social media, with one-fourth of consumers stating they’d prefer to do business with a company they can interact with on social media. Also, consumers want to see original content directly from companies. Organizations that don’t offer these options through mobile platforms could deprive themselves of valuable touch points.

But there are still challenges facing consumer engagement through mobile technology in emerging markets, with connectivity being a main issue. However, this too can be overcome by optimizing your mobile platform for the circumstances.

For example, when consumers in India started getting frustrated with Snapdeal’s buying process due to dropped connections and delays, the company shortened the process to three clicks. Purchases over the mobile platform grew from 5% to 60% over 14 months.

Because engaging consumers through a mobile platform is going to help define organizational success in emerging markets, getting your mobile strategy to be data cost proof is critical. We here at Mavin are working on even more ways to address this obstacle.

In short – if you want a business with serious growth potential then focus on engaging customers with a mobile first strategy, acknowledge the cost of data, and always make life easier for them with a good user experience and solid offerings designed specifically for mobile.

Mavin Accepted Into Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist Accelerator, described as the venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating startups whose revenue comes from enterprises, has listed its Spring 2014 startup graduates on AngelList. The Venturebeat’s 2013 Accelerator Superstar of the Year backs teams with distinctive technical founders, provides $28K funding, a fellowship of high potential founders, highly sought-after mentors, customer development, and a structured path to fundraising.

Read the full article below.

Alchemist Accelerator, described as the venture-backed initiative focused on accelerating startups whose revenue comes from enterprises, has listed its Spring 2014 startup graduates on AngelList. The Venturebeat’s 2013 Accelerator Superstar of the Year backs teams with distinctive technical founders, provides $28K funding, a fellowship of high potential founders, highly sought-after mentors, customer development, and a structured path to fundraising. Backers of Alchemist Accelerators include Cisco Systems, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures, Salesforce.com, SAP Ventures and US Venture Partners. Alchemist is run by Ravi Belani, the Fenwick & West Lecturer of Entrepreneurship at Stanford University.

The fund recently closed with 43 investors having reserved over $300,000 on AngelList.

Alchemist Accelerator Mentors

This spring Alchemist Accelerator graduating class features six-figure revenue-generating companies, a Fulbright Scholar, and engineers from Microsoft, Google, PayPal and Stanford. The startups include SupplyBetter, Badger Maps, Secured 3D, Mavin, Eventable, Domos Labs, ShoppinPal, waygum.io, Matternet, NeoReach and Oomnitza.

Alchemist Accelerator fund investors

Each startup publicly highlights varying information regarding campaign video, product, founders, funding, team, available jobs and investors. Crowdfund Investor readers will find start-up founders and pitches as well as a link to each of the eleven AngelList campaigns below:

SupplyBetter Co-Founded by BCG and Yale grad CEO Matthew DuPont and CTO James Bond.

The pitch:

“We help people make physical things. Specifically, we perform intelligent matching to help mechanical design engineers find the best contract manufacturers to manufacture custom mechanical parts, with an initial focus on 3D printing in the United States. Hardware companies finding the right supplier to make their custom designs is a huge issue today. A lot of great products end up breaking, over budget, or never produced in the first place because they choose their supplier incorrectly. We can help make sure these problems stop happening. We’re on to something: we have some fanatically happy customers (Frog Design and Anybots are the most notable names we can share), lots of engineers have this problem, and Alibaba and MFG.com have proven the market is huge.”

Badger Maps: Co-Founded by Stanford grad Steven Benson who worked at Google and IBM and ASU grad Gady Pitaru.

The pitch:

“Badger Maps provides a mapping, routing and coordination SaaS product to field service and sales teams that allows users to spend more time in front of customers and less time behind the wheel. Badger’s target user is an outside sales or service person that drives 150+ miles a day and covers 50-1000+ distributed accounts. Paid users are in a diverse range of industries including distribution, technology, healthcare, manufacturing, insurance, and business services. Use cases include deliveries, sales, waste management, and couriers. Badger has $70,000 in annual revenue across 40 companies.”

Secured 3D: Founded by John Ulgar Dogru who worked at Dell.

The pitch:

“Enterprise security company that offers cloud 3D printing solutions. To protect copyright of Designers and Enterprises we securely store and stream 3D models directly to 3D printers without exposing originals.”

Mavin: Co-Founded by Harvard grad and Juggernut Founder Raina Kumra, U of Chicago MBA grad and Google alum Shailesh Nalawadi, Bimal Kumar Sahoo, U of Michigan grad and Microsoft alum Alfian Tan, Consultant Sriram Krovvidi.

The pitch:

“Mavin helps prepaid consumers save money on the cost of their prepaid mobile data service plans. We do this by displaying relevant non-intrusive ads and content on the idle screens of your smartphone (lockscreen, chargescreen, etc.) & reward you with geo-targeted offers and deals. We connect advertisers directly with consumers – and this in turn sponsors the cost of the consumer’s data plan. Mavin consists of a suite of content & communication applications downloadable from Google Play Store. It lets you re-skin the idle screens of your smartphone with vibrant content of your favorite brands, relevant offers and discounts, and the latest updates on sports, technology, news and much more.

Mavin is for anyone who is conscious of one’s spend[ing] on mobile internet access including those in the emerging market, tourists and teens.”

Eventable: UC Berkeley grads CEO Sameen Karim and President/COO Akash Malhotra who worked at Socialplex, feedCal, NES Financial and Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch, respectively.

The pitch:

“We are building the event layer for the web. Our tools and APIs enable brands and organizations to send events to any calendar (think twilio for events). Our “smart events” technology is utilizing dynamic updates, location data, and engagement insights to personalize calendar events in real-time.”

Domos Labs: CEO Olav Nedrelid, platform architect and entrepreneur, built several technology startups in Microsoft ecosystem. CTO Bent Erik Skaug, entrepreneur and software architect, formerly founded or co-founded several IT companies.

The pitch:

“Cloud-based software for wi-fi routers that makes connected home technology seamless and invisible. Our wi-fi router software platform download and install virtualized containers from cloud on demand. The typical use case is when a new device is present in the home, a custom device driver is installed on the wi-fi router. The result is that devices always connect seamlessly, and device manufacturers can facilitate remote service and support. The software is open sourced, so early adopters and do-it-yourself crowd can install it themselves on their existing router. Mass market adoption need turnkey solution. We partner with wi-fi router manufacturers to enable retailers and internet service providers to integrate their products and services deeply inside their customers home. The resulting simplicity and convenience give retailers stickiness and upsell potential, while service providers can securely launch new services like home security, automation, smart energy and homecare.”

ShoppinPal: CEO Sriram Subramanian, former Lead Product Manager at PayPal (Checkout & Global Operations), Engineer #1 at Trustgenix — acquired by HP. Subramanian holds MBA and MS degrees from UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon. CTO Pulkit Singhal was Engineer #2 at Trustgenix.

The pitch:

“ShoppinPal helps retail stores convert social media and location-based app users into customers by enabling an optimized mobile storefront for quick transactions. Our integrations with the industry’s leading point-of-sale systems allows for easy product promotions, real-time inventory information, and seamless payments so shoppers can pick up orders from their local store that same day.”

waygum.io: CEO & Founder Sundar Krish, who studied at IIT Madras, has over 15 years enterprise software experience as both a CEO and architect.

The pitch:

“Waygum offers the first end-to-end Mobile-App-Platform uniquely focused on the “Internet of Industrial Things” – IOIT. We partner with different IOIT platform providers (IOT/M2M/HMI/SCADA) and provide the currently missing mobile layer for their platforms. Our existing partners and potential targets include both big players like GE, Siemens etc as well as upper middle players like Axeda, Telit etc. The demand for the mobile layer is actually coming all the way down from the existing massive customer base of these platform players, and so we get most of our checks directly from the customers (machine tool makers like Caterpillar etc), in the form of both recurring subscription as well as metered services. We also get NRE money from our partners. We have already booked about $100K with Siemens and are in NRE/Customer deals with three other M2M platform ecosystem.”

Matternet: Co-Founders CEOAndreas Raptopoulos and Fulbright Scholar CRO Paola Santana helm the team.

The pitch:

“Matternet is a 21st century transportation system that will transform the way we move goods locally. Matternet is creating an automated delivery network for goods, built on a network of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) operating autonomously (without human intervention) coordinated with a proprietary software platform. Matternet’s initial vertical is the $1 Billion pharmaceutical delivery market in areas inaccessible by traditional infrastructure.”

NeoReach: Co-Founded by COO P.J. Leimgruber, Stanford grad VP Marketing Misha Talavera and Stanford grad CEO Jesse Leimgruber. The Leimgrubers also cofounded Rage Hats and Rank Executives.

The pitch:

“NeoReach enables companies to buy traffic from online influencers in the same way that they can buy traffic from Google AdWords. Advertisers can now purchase endorsements from targeted influencers using a scalable, cost-per-click (CPC) model. We are seeing: app installs 10x cheaper than industry averages, CPA’s 3x cheaper than any alternative, above average conversion rates, and consistently viral posts.”

Oomnitza: SAP alums and Co-Founders Arthur Lozinski and Ramin Ettehad join Co-Founder Trent Seed at the helm.

The pitch:

“Oomnitza helps IT teams track, service and manage their company’s IT assets. We do this better than anybody else because we give IT Pros apps to do their jobs from anywhere.

Our customers love us because:

– We are usable, open and mobile 
- We have visual workflows 
- We offer extension into 3rd party systems (eg: Finance and Helpdesk).
- We have powerful reporting tools.”

Alchemist Accelerator

Interested in applying to Alchemist Accelerator? The next application deadline is 21 June; the next accelerator program begins August 21. Alchemists, stay tuned to AngelList for further campaign details for this Alchemist Accelerator’s spring alums.

Part 1: The Engagement Conundrum

This is the first in a two part series exploring the notion of consumer engagement: what it means, how it’s defined, and how it can be employed – particularly by organizations operating in or entering into emerging markets. 

Consumer engagement.

This is a term that is broadly defined and loosely applied.

In fact, you’ve probably heard these, or similar aphorisms, dozens of times over the last few years: “Consumer engagement is the definitive predictor of business growth”, “Customers who are engaged with a brand are more loyal and profitable” , “Organizations can no longer expect to survive on their product alone”,  “Engaging consumers through meaningful experiences should be a priority for all organizations…”

And so on, and so forth.

But, what does the nebulous concept of successfully engaging consumers really mean?

At its core, engagement makes reference to how a consumer interacts with a brand or product. It refers to the level or intensity of a customer’s participation with, and connection to, an organization’s products or activities. These interactions are offered by the company and then chosen by the consumer.

Consumer engagement is important because it can shape experiences that lead to brand affinity. It can also help forge an emotional connection between a consumer and a brand, leading to increased customer lifetime value. And these all lead to a positive impact on your bottom line.

In short, engagement means your product has been accepted into a person’s daily life. Engagement means your product works (and that your business is healthy).

In India, where internet penetration is growing rapidly but is still only at 19%, engaging consumers is still done primarily through offline sources. Last year, Indian companies spent, on average, only one-fifth of their marketing budget on digital advertising.

However, this is likely to change swiftly. It’s expected that the number of Indians using smartphones will exceed 200 million by the end of this year. Already, 67% of current urban internet users have internet access on their phone, and this is only going to increase. The Chief Revenue Officer for Indian online shopping store Myntra recognizes, “The growth in internet usage in India, largely on mobile devices, is the key driver for e-commerce growth.”Organizations who do not engage with their consumers on mobile will be left in the cold.

The most successful brands moving forward are going to be those who engage with customers by pre-empting what they want, and do this with data informed strategy.

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Already many businesses are investing considerable amounts of time and money on collecting data in an attempt to better understand and capitalize on interactions with customers. Indian telcos, for example, collate data on customers and use predictive models in order to tailor customer service so that consumer engagement is higher, and therefore customer churn lower.

Data can be a powerful tool to customize user experiences, and – in theory – the more data you have access to, the more personal you can make your customers’ experiences, and the better engagement you will have across the board.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that having access to data means you know how to use it in order to understand consumer engagement. So many organizations fall down at this point and are not equipped to make data into something applicable.

There are multiple services out there now to help collect and analyze your data. Many large Indian businesses have moved away from using generic data tools, such as Google analytics, and are investing heavily in custom paid tools because they realize actually understanding if you’re making a tangible impact to your organization is tricky.

In fact, globally, most people are still having a hard time getting their heads around how to interpret the data being collected for the purposes of understanding customer engagement. Hence the sexiness of the job title “data scientist” as it contains a holy grail for most organizations: someone who can make data actionable.

Twitter cofounder Ev Williams claims that the discourse used to describe engagement success need to be more rigorously examined because what success means for one organization is probably very different from what it means to another.

For example, if we look at the single metric of unique visitors as a measure for engagement success, then BuzzFeed would be considered more successful than the New York Times. Or, if we use the single metric of shares on Facebook, then a relatively unknown site called PlayBuzz is more successful than not only BuzzFeed, but also the New York Times and US Fox News.

When Instagram announced it had 300 million users, the internet exploded with claims that Instagram was now bigger than Twitter – but does that mean it has a more significant impact than Twitter? We also see news of startups claiming they have ‘billions of interactions’ with no definition of what these interactions actually are – are they a significant communication or just an accidental swipe on their app?

Basically, these numbers are giving us an embellished story.

The examples above show that often a very one-dimensional view of how we define consumer engagement success is used. Evaluating different organizations using only one metric will not give you the whole story. Will Oremus sums it up nicely in his Slate article when he says:

“So is Instagram larger than Twitter? No – it’s different to Twitter. One is largely private, the other largely public. One focuses on photos, the other on ideas. They’re both very large, and they’re both growing.”

His point is that engagement means different things to different organizations and the importance of specific engagement metrics differs vastly between companies. An online news service – such as the Indian newspaper Dainik Jagran – values the information garnered from consumers’ TTR (total time reading) ahead of the number of unique views it receives. FlipKart on the other hand, values data such as purchase behavior and product browsing history.

But don’t be scared off by the fact engagement is a tricky beast.

Sure, successful engagement does not have an easy ‘one size fits all’ solution. Nor should it be simply a small component of your product or business strategy.

But engagement should be a part of your DNA – like it is at Mavin, where we’re working toward being a data led organization from the get go – working to increase engagement for all of our customers. Because we know that understanding your organization’s definition of, and benchmarks for, engagement is critical in order for results to matter.

Engagement is a worthy objective to invest in and pursue, because if you can grow awareness of your brand, product, app or experience and encourage a feedback loop between you and your users, then you can hope to see what we consider a truly healthy business – one that is a pleasure to interact with and improves the daily life of your consumers.

The question remains, HOW?

Find out next time, on the Mavin blog.