free html hit counter November 2015 - John Battelle's Search Blog

Tesla-As-A-Platform

By - November 30, 2015

(Cross posted from the NewCo site).

TesloopOfficeNewCoLA

This is the first in what I hope will become a regular series of posts on new kinds of companies the NewCo team has discovered in our travels to NewCo cities around the world. First up is Tesloop, which I noticed while perusing the schedule for NewCo LA last month. I was already planning on seeing Hyperloop Technologies, another Elon Musk-inspired transportation company, but until NewCo LA’s lineup came out, I had no idea Tesloop even existed.

Perhaps the reason lay – quite literally – in the company’s youth. Tesloop was the brainchild of a 15-year old high schooler named Haydn Sonnad, who came up with the idea while contemplating his summer job options earlier this year. He wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of working at a fast food joint, and was fascinated by his father’s new Tesla. Inspired by Musk’s vision of autonomous driving (and the economic value of Tesla’s free supercharging network), Sonnad came up with the idea of running Tesla cars between LA and Vegas – a Tesloop, if you will. It’s a clever hack on Tesla’s core platform: The fuel is free, the cars are sexy and roomy, and when Sonnad (and his dad) ran the numbers, the cost to consumers was compelling – $85 for a one way ride.

As you might imagine, the media loved the story. Tesloop’s been written up in Vice and featured in the local news. Tesloop has raised a little money (using another LA NewCo, CrowdFunder),  and is busy figuring out how to expand to other high-traffic destinations such as San Diego and San Francisco.

What I love about this NewCo is how it leverages Tesla as a platform. If you take fuel costs out of the equation, all of a sudden it becomes economically viable to compete with traditional transportation options of buses, trains, and even airplanes. Plus, the experience itself is arguably far better: you’re riding in a cool new “car of the future,” you have WiFi and your own music the entire way, and you don’t have the hassle of airport security to deal with.

And of course, in a world of driverless cars, upon which Musk (among many others) are certainly betting, even the fixed costs of paying a driver will fade, adding more inventory (the driver’s seat!), lower prices, and higher margins to the business. Such visions have led some enthusiasts to label Tesloop the “railroad of the future.”

TesloopPresoNewCoLATime will tell if Sonnad’s company will scale (and if the novelty of a teenage founder/CEO will be embraced by big name capitalists), but the idea is solid. I missed this year’s Tesloop session, which was held in Sonnad’s family home in Marina Del Ray (the pictures are from my colleague Tim Nordvedt, who did attend). But I’ll be sure to stop by next year. By then, perhaps Sonnad will have gotten his driver’s license, Tesloop will have raised a Series A, and the business might even have a proper office. Then again, it’d be very NewCo to list home cooking (and a swimming pool) as a workplace perk.

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Google Unveils App Streaming: Is This The Platform That Unifies Apps And The Web?

By - November 27, 2015

app-stream-w-dotsFor years I’ve been predicting that mobile apps were a fad – there’s no way we’d settle for such a crappy, de-linked, “chiclet-ized” approach to information and services management. Instead, I argued that a new model would emerge, one that combined the open values of a link-powered web with the mobility, sensors, and personalization of apps. It wasn’t easy to make this argument, because for years Apple, Facebook, and even Google were steadily proving me wrong. Apps (and the mobile platforms where they lived) marched steadfastly to dominance, surpassing the PC Web in both attention and most certainly investor buzz. I mean, who’d ever invest in a “website” anymore?!

The PC web, it seems, is well and truly dead, just like everyone says it was.

Then last week, Google announced App Streaming. This is the chocolate meeting the peanut butter, folks. If this can scale, we may finally be close to breaking the app’s stranglehold on our collective imagination.

In case you missed the news, Google App Streaming is a clever, brute force hack that allows native mobile apps to be streamed in real time over Google’s core infrastructure – no app download required (for details, read Danny here). In other words, App Streaming makes apps act like websites – instantly available through a link, even if you’ve never installed the app on your phone.

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first time Google has used its massive infrastructure to surmount a seemingly intractable technical challenge. To stand up its original search service, Google successfully put the entire World Wide Web in RAM – creating its own speedy and super-scalable version of what you and I understood to be the Internet.  In essence, to serve us the Web, Google became the Web, along the way creating the fastest growing company in history. It’d be an awful neat hack if Google managed to swallow not just the Web, but also the entire world of apps as well.

I believe that’s exactly what the company is trying to do. This may well be the Web killing apps – something I predicted a year ago.  If so, all I can say is good riddance.

Back in 2004 (11 years ago!), I wrote a Thinking Out Loud post about a fanciful idea I called “Google Business Services.” What if Google became a core platform for the creation of all kinds of new third party services?

What if Google becomes an application server cum platform for business innovation? I mean, a service, a platform service, that any business could build upon? In other words, an ecologic potentiality – “Hey guys, over here at Google Business Services Inc. we’ve got the entire web in RAM and the ability to mirror your data across the web to any location in real time. We’ve got plug in services like search, email, social networking, and commerce clearing, not to mention a shitload of bandwidth and storage, cheap. So…what do you want to build today?”

I was wrong about Google dominating social networking as a service – this was in the pre-Facebook days of Orkut, mind you – but if Google gets its way with App Streaming, Facebook will simply be one more service on the Google platform.

Plenty of questions remain about App Streaming, the most interesting being how it will play with Apple and Facebook. But if you are an app developer, one of your most intractable problems is getting folks past the twin obstacles of download and re-engagement. If Google can prove that App Streaming scales, I can’t imagine any developer who wouldn’t want to take advantage of it.

 

Boulder, the World’s Most Creative City: Where I’ll Be Next Week @NewCo

By - November 11, 2015

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Boulder is the world’s most creative city, according to a recent study highlighted in Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class – Revisted, so it makes perfect sense that NewCo Boulder has a plethora of extraordinary companies to visit during NewCo Boulder, coming to town November 18-19.

Boulder is also home to sovrn Holdings, a company I chair (it was spun out of Federated Media last year), so I get to visit regularly – and that’s quite a treat. It’s the home of well known VCs Foundry Group, TechStars, and as you might expect, no shortage of creative cannabis startups.

Choosing is never easy, but here’s where I’ll be during NewCo Boulder:

Wednesday, Nov. 18th

5.00 pm – VIP Kickoff Dinner – Esprit Entrepreneur Awards This year our partners in Boulder are teaming up with the Boulder Chamber to both kick off NewCo and celebrate Boulder’s top innovators. It promises to be a great event!

Thursday, Nov. 19th

8.30 am – Zeal – Food for Enthusiasts. One of the most exciting categories in all NewCo cities is food – and I’m looking forward to hearing about this startups journey to “stability,” as the session description puts it. It’s an early start (they don’t waste daylight in Boulder!), so I’m hoping for some good coffee too! Wish I could have gone: SomaLogic, Google, Foundry Group. 

10.00 am – TechStars. One of the best known names in incubator/accelerators, TechStars is also a major player in the event space, and I’m eager to learn more about their plans to grow beyond their already impressive reach around the world. Wish I could have gone: IdeaForge, Made In Nature, Boulder Public Library. 

11.30 amCanopyBoulder. “The most active investor in the cannabis business.” Enough said, I’m fascinated by the legalization story unfolding in Colorado and elsewhere, and am an investor in the industry myself. So I’ll be looking to learn even more during this session. Wish I could have gone: Rapt, eTown, BlackSquare

1.00 pm – Waste to Energy Partners.  The Colorado “breakout cleantech company of the year” sounds fascinating, and is attacking a huge problem/opportunity in the sustainability ecosystem. Wish I could have gone: Watson University, Pivotal Labs, Surna. 

2.30 pm – Sanitas Brewery. Who doesn’t need a beer at this point in a long NewCo day? This artisanal brewery will include a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting. Yum! Wish I could have gone: Blow Things Up Lab, FlyteDesk, madelife. 

4.00 pm – sovrn. Of course I’ll be at sovrn! sovrn has been a leader in adtech for years, and I’m so proud of the core mission the business holds at its center: To help publishers level the playing field with data. Wish I could have gone: Drizly, Human Design, Anthem

5.30 pm –  After a very full day, it’ll be time for a drink and conversation with my fellow NewCo festival goers. See you there!

Register for NewCo Boulder here!

 

(cross-posted from NewCo site)