Tag Archives: Venture Capital

Tracking My Tech Predictions: The ones that came true!

Over past few years I have been tracking technology trends, analyzing and love predicting things through posts on this blogs, on twitter or through my annual technology trends & predictions. I recently started tracking them in a attempt to see how good is hit ratio. Here are a few of those that really saw the light of day.

Other Tech Predictions mentioned on this Blog:

  • Feb 2010: Social Platform intermediaries in Social Commerce space with no clear value propositions will fail as larger eCommerce players will self-integrate.
    May 2011: Blippy / Swipely pivoted from core proposition – sharing purchases.
  • May 2011: TRPs will be questioned. Future of TRP is digital. Crowdsourced TRPs,
    Aug 2012: NDTV submits a lawsuit against Nielson alleging rigging TRP data.
    Oct 2012: Startup iDubba launches iTRPs
    Dec 2012: Nielson annouces partnership with Twitter for Twitter based ratings.
  • Sept 2011: Google+ will head no where as Social Product
    Today: Its evident! When did you last visit your Google+ profile.

From 2012 Tech Predictions:

  • April 2012: LinkedIn will acquire SlideShare
    May 2012: Yes, LinkedIn acquired SlideShare for $119 Mn
  • April 2012: Indian Ecommerce will see Acqui-hires
    May 2012: Snapdeal acquires eSportsBuy and then shuts it down.
    May 2012: Yebhi acquires StylishYou and shuts it down.
    Aug 2012: Hushbabies acquires MangoStreet and shuts it down.
    Aug 2012: FashionandYou acquires UrbanTouch, UrbanTouch management takes over.
    Related Post by me: Why Ecommerce acquisitions make no sense in early stage.
  • April 2012: Jabong will be aggressive play by Rocket Internet. Will be in Top 5 Ecommerce players in India
    May 2012: NextBigWhat apparently pointed out that they are.
  • April 2012: Series B crunch for players focused on vertical ecommerce.
    Evident: Many ecommerce startups who raised Series A struggling raising a follow on round.

From 2011 Tech Predictions: 

  • Jan 2011: VCs will consolidate Indian Ecommerce plays within own portfolio
    Feb 2012: Flipkart acquires LetsBuy
    Nov 2012: Myntra acquires SherSingh / Exclusively.in
  • Jan 2011: A large player will enter Group Buying / Coupons space
    May 2011: Times Group enters daily deals business with Times Deal
  • Jan 2011: Pubmatic will be acquired
    Nov 2011: Rumors of Pubmatic in acquisition talks by Amazon. Pubmatic turned it down for IPO
  • Jan 2011: AdMax Network
    Feb 2012: Hinted towards AdMax Network in SE Asia which leveraged local inventory and is a leader in these countries. While I expected something like this to happen in India, interestingly Komli acquired AdMax (No direct prediction here).

Why Ecommerce acquisitions make no sense in early / nascent stage

Few (Series B / Series C) funded ecommerce companies in India have started making/announcing acquisitions of smaller players. Recently when I posted about the 2012 Predictions & Trends, I made an comment that in an early ecommerce market, acquisitions of competition or startups really makes no sense. Trying to put few thoughts on that here.

A typical such small ecommerce startup that gets acquired by larger & known ecommerce player is structured as follows –

  • About 2-4 founding team members; 5 to 10 employees; up to 25 or so if the venture has received any institutional stage funding
  • Focused on one vertical – sports; electronics; kids; jewellery – Catalog of 1000 to 10000 product SKUs
  • Order Acquisition Channels – Direct Traffic, SEO, SEM, Social, Affiliates, Email Marketing, Display Advertising.
  • Team Structure: Founders, Product Development & Management Team, Online Marketing, Category Managers, Logistics & Operations Managers, Customer Support
  • Social Media presence – Fans on Facebook; Followers on Twitter
  • Business Partners – Vendors for Procurement, Logistics, Payment Gateway, Customer Support
  • Product, Platform & Technology
  • Warehouses & In-house logistics for Series A funded players
  • Gross Orders – between 50 to 100 per day; few Series A funded players may have from 200 to 500 per day.

What happens when a considerably large & deeply funded ecommerce player (say LargeEcom.com) acquires a small startup (SmallEcom.com) with assets as mentioned above –

  • Category Focus:
    SmallEcom.com will be either a horizontal player or vertical focused player. If horizontal, then most of the products will be already present in acquiring company. If vertical then it might be a small ecommerce startup with about 500 to 5000 SKUs, the acquisition further does not make any sense. The acquiring LargeEcom.com could have directly poached category managers or could have developed that category in-house just by hiring few more category managers!
  • Order Acquisition Channels:
    Any online ecommerce venture’s assets are how they are acquiring new customers. The biggest challenge is not acquiring SmallEcom.com, but making the most of these channels. Post acquisition, these channels are ‘unfortunately useless’ to the acquiring company – LargeEcom.com. Here is why –
    .
    • Direct Traffic >
      If website of SmallEcom.com needs to be shut, the direct traffic will be redirected to LargeEcom.com post acquisition, doing that quickly reduces the value to its existing users. If website is shut – value of all other channels die on its own, explained below.
    • Natural Search or SEO >
      SmallEcom.com’s URLs in Google Index no matter how well optimized will lose rankings when the traffic is diverted to another domain. All time and money invested in search optimization over months / years is diminished immediately.
      .
    • Paid Advertising: SEM & Display >
      Search Campaigns are optimized over a period of time to reach lower the cost per clicks. Though the same can copied from SmallEcom.com in to account of LargeEcom.com’s adwords account, the same CPCs will not be maintained. Well, otherwise the acquiring company LargeEcom.com’s has its own online marketing team, it will be a max one week job to create new campaigns for the catalog of SmallEcom.com.
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    • Social >
      Post acquisition, SmallEcom.com’s Facebook Fans & Twitter followers cannot be moved to LargeEcom.com’s brand page or twitter handle. Again – value of the time and money spend behind this channel is reduced to zero on day 1 itself.
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    • Affiliates >
      There are few affiliate marketing companies in India, they work with all ecommerce companies. Most likely LargeEcom.com would have better negotiated rates (cost of acquisition) with the same affiliate partners thats SmallEcom.com has partnered with.
      .
    • Email >
      There might be few duplicate email addresses, but is this a reason for LargeEcom.com to acquire a ecom startup with a small number of email addresses knowing that email marketing has diminishing returns over a period of time.
      .

The conclusion is – to retain the value of the startup’s order acquisition channels, the venture needs to be up and running. The big question for large acquiring company – should be it done at a cost of duplicating every resource available – two marketing teams, two product teams, two tech teams, two customer support teams or two operations teams?

The answer is No in both the cases – that is why acquiring a ecommerce startup is senseless; and most of them happening in India now can be termed as Acqui-hires, hired for talent.

  • Founding Team:
    The founders are retained, most likely to quit post the expiry of retention period. Once entrepreneur is always a entrepreneur by heart.
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  • Team Structure:
    Post acquisition, most roles will be dual and overlapping in both organizations. Unfortunately many cannot be accommodated since the larger entity cannot have – say two Online Marketing Heads or two Operations Head. Only in the case when the acquiring company has open positions, high chances that the team members are accommodated, else asked to quit.
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  • Business Partners:
    Vendors for Procurement – will be added to LargeEcom.com if it was acquiring a vertical ecommerce player and was not present in the same category. Most likely, this will not be more than 100 new vendors; again which could have been easily acquired just by hiring 2-3 new category managers (so why acquire?). If horizontal player was acquired – there would a overlap in vendors too.
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  • Logistics & Payment Gateway:
    LargeEcom.com would already enjoy better pricing for both with its partners, needless to say they both work with similar service providers for logistics. Acquiring a startup will not increase footprint in terms of pin-codes served.
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  • Customer Support:
    In a small startup, customer support is usually handled by a very small team; often by founders. If acquisition is across city – a Delhi based startup is acquired by Bangalore based one, clearly means that the team is either axed or goes on job hunting mode as they would not be open to relocation. This also holds true for other teams as well.
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  • Product, Platform & Technology: 
    The smaller startup that gets acquired will probably be running a ready-to-integrate ecommerce platform. Surprisingly, even the larger acquiring company might be as well running on some ready to use ecommerce platform and struggling to hold it up. There is absolutely no question of seamless integration here, ask your engineering folks! Either ways, since the acquisition is not for technology, the product and platform improvements on the smaller startup’s ecommerce platform will be lost as well.
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  • Warehouse & In-house Logistics:
    Few funded startups today have started with own warehouse & in-house logistics. Post acquisition, the lease on such warehouses expire (for two reasons – acquiring ecom startup already has own warehouse in that location with excess space + managing two warehouses in same city at a distance from each other means doubling operational costs). In-house logistics employees are either temps or contract workforce or on rolls of another company.
    .
  • Gross Orders:
    The SmallEcom.com site that was just acquired was doing about 50 to 200 daily gross orders; The LargeEcom.com site who acquired it will usually claim to do between 10,000 to 25,000 daily transactions. On order to order basis – acquiring an loss making ecommerce startup that will does 0.5% to 1% transactions will add any value to large entity? No.
    .

So why are these acquisitions happening?

  • New Vertical?
    No. It is not right to acquire a company for say $1 Mn or even 1 Crore to add new category to your product portfolio. Hire two category managers and have the new vertical rolling in 3 months.
    .
  • Acqui-hires?
    No. They happen if it was a case of known proven talent who build a super kewl product / technology platform but did not hit a right idea or execute it well. Examples – Oink (by Milk), or Gowalla and so on.
    .
  • Revenues?
    No. A large loss making ecommerce entity acquiring another loss making small ecommerce startup – two negatives don’t add up to positives.
  • Assets? No.
    Clearly no assets are doubled post the acquisition. Nothing on revenue, product, process or technology.

May be signs of desperation. May be lets try out something new. May be even VC / PE signaling – ‘Hey, we guys are growing inorganically, new category, new vertical and so on – we will require more investment capital in next rounds, care to participate?’. They may participate or may not – but is this a right strategy to present or package to existing investors where the net value of acquisition post 12 months (or even on day of acquisition) is zero.

However, some acquisitions do make sense – Homeshop18 acquiring Coinjoos or Flipkart acquiring Mime360. (Sorry – I don’t name bad acquisitions). Venturing into new vertical at times makes sense for acquisition – for verticals like huge catalog driven businesses – Books & Digital Music. It takes months together to build a team and build this massive catalog and then start business operations; acquisition makes more sense than building it grounds up; but not for any other category.
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So Amazon.com acquires? Why can’t we?
Amazon acquires cause it should acquire and own large ecommerce companies to maintain its undisputed lead. It is a listed company, needs to focus on growing is topline revenues and at the massive size that Amazon.com is – it has capacity to absorb losses and yet show some superb green numbers in balance sheet.

My guess is Amazon keeps all acquired ecommerce properties (Zappos, Woot, Diapers, Soap, Audible, etc, etc) live and independent post acquisition not alone for the culture of startups – but for reasons explained above. They need to maintain order acquisition channels for these acquired companies active and generate revenues.

While in India, a Series B / Series C funded ecommerce venture cannot run dual operations or two loss making entities.
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Concluding Notes:
I am not against acquisitions & exits, they are must for startup ecosystem. And they should be in plenty to keep the ecosystem building. But don’t agree with such acquisitions made by Series B / Series C funded ecommerce companies which end up adding no value to the company. They hurt in long run, when multiple investors get involved – burn their hands and then completely give up on the sector or market itself.

Otherwise I will stick to what I wrote earlier on predications for investments made in both horizontal & vertical ecommerce in India.

 

Lets Blame It on Rio (and not the Ecosystem!)

Having read so much on blogs, forums, one on one interactions with entrepreneurs, VCs – I conclude that “Blame It on Ecosystem” is the favorite game for people in Indian startup space (both included – entrepreneurs & the investors). And the blame game continues – Entrepreneur complaining that this VC just “does not get it” when their pitch does not make it; Investors complaining that they are “yet to find a Bn dollar company” from India.

There is a lot of rant already over this topic without much reasoning. Unlike my other posts on this blog – I will not try to express any personal opinion about a business domain here; but just highlight why the Indian Startup scene is about 10 years behind Silicon Valley.

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Indian VCs don’t take risks –
Entrepreneurs have higher appetite for risk than investors. Every investment in any investor portfolio is a risk. There is a calculated risk that every VC takes, be it Indian or US investor. Indian VCs don’t take risk is a incorrect statement, the right way to put this is – risk appetite of Indian VCs is more inclined towards proven business models of west. After all a entrepreneur takes a risk with belief in his idea, VC with his money in entrepreneur’s belief to execute.

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Only Validated Business Ideas get VC invested –
OTAs, Daily Coupon Sites, eCommerce, Finance Lead Generation & similar., these are proven business models with metrics that are well defined.
– X visits result on Y transactions at average value of Z
– X spends result in Y leads and Z conversions from it

This is a low risk appetite investment, where it is not a rocket science to determine how to scale up the business and predict profitability & revenue projections. Knowing these metrics and a good team – the VC is more comfortable & confident with such investments in India.

Compare the same for an Facebook, Foursquare, Quora, Twitter, Dropbox or Evernote. If such businesses are pitched at early stage to VCs here, most of them would have no clue on what metrics to use for basis of their investment. All such platforms raised a angel round or small VC round before the metrics were clear.

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Lack of 2nd/3rd Generation Entrepreneurs –
Now why did I mention initially in this post that India is ten years behind Silicon Valley? – because Silicon Valley today has entrepreneurs & investors who have done 2X/3X exits. Living up a 2X or 3X full company life cycle till exit gives an incomparable experience, the next company they build is ‘better product & platform’ than the earlier and so on.

In India, with notables of Naukri, MakeMyTrip and few others we have started seeing first generation exits now, both Sanjeev Bikhchandani & Deep Kalra are doing the right things with spotting new investments for the next mile. To have more entrepreneurs going 1X, 2X or 3X exits, is anywhere between a 5-10 year game plan.

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Pre-Revenue Investments –
There is a big misconception that in Silicon Valley companies get funded in pre-revenue stage. Yes, they do – but not all; not the ones without strong user engagement, not the ones without a solid team behind the product or platform. And for B2B products, not the ones who have initial set of customers who swear by the product!

This might not be false for India as well. If Sanjeev or Deep Kalra want to start their next entrepreneurial journey – who will not invest?

Pre-Revenue Startups like Facebook, Foursquare and many others did not raise large investments or achieve high valuations in their first round. These companies themselves raised either an angel investment or a very low value Series A investment to start, validate their product, get users/customers and then went for a big round of investment/valuation.

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There are no Early Adopters –
Unless an entrepreneur agrees that his product is bad or not a market-fit or has not tried enough, in my opinion this is the biggest excuse. How can one justify the same in a country of 1 Billion people. In a country which easily figures among the top 10 countries by users for any successful web product in valley – from Orkut, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, Quora and many others!

For B2C products – you have not tried enough!
For B2B or Enterprise SaaS products – did you guys not hear of Wingify or Fusion Charts or InMobi. This is digitally connected world – no one has bounded a company by geographical limits. These are proven models of product driven startups from India.

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Disconnect with Valley –
The kind of companies that are funded in India today are the ones that were funded in US about ten years back. I have no disrespect for the Indian companies – infact they are building the base for the next wave of Internet boom – exactly the same that happened with US.

With a whole lot of first generation entrepreneurs in India – we expect at least the VCs to bring an perspective on whats happening in US & other parts of the world, not the obvious answers that everyone knows. The learning from valley does not come or has not reached to many investors in India.

My point of disconnect with valley here is that many in investment community today are still unaware of Quora, Spotify, Dropbox, Evernote, Airbnb, Rovio, and so many others. In one of my meetings I had to tell a investment analyst about 500startups, Angellist and in another one that Ashton Kutcher is also a technology investor! And in one more, someone explained if a American company like Lenovo can be big in China, others too can (? – OK)! And that people in investor circles are still unaware of Yuri Milner & DST.

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No Product Focus –
There is a buzz within investor circles that the next Google, Facebook, Amazon of the world will come from India. With comfortable investment decisions in validated business models like eCommerce – post my above experiences I sincerely doubt if Indian investors will be able to spot such opportunities when it knocks your doors?

The current series of investments about eCommerce in India are a hunt to find the next Amazon. But, Amazon itself has ceased being an eCommerce company long time back, it is a product/ a platform and much more beyond all that – view Amazon’s Hidden Empire .

In US, investors invest in products & platforms; in India – they invest in companies. Huge Difference! When did you last hear of an eCommerce (leaving aside daily deals and private shopping, though a format of eCommerce itself) or Online Travel company getting funded in Silicon Valley?. If you are building a B2B or B2C product/platform company in India, all investors will be to help you with money & connections, but only handful of investors in India will be help you with product or platform – choose wisely!

Disclosure: Experience – I reached out to two venture capitalists at some point of time for role as investment analyst with experience in diverse products & platforms – was rejected outright for lack of ‘relevant experience’. No sour grapes, but I could have saved some millions for them :-)

I am of a strong opinion that there is a huge need of in-house product & platform management advisory in many Indian venture capitalists. All ecosystem changes are driven by improvement & innovations in products & platforms, not by revenues. Lastly, it is only the consumer products that will scale up and be a billion dollar company!

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Everyone wants to invest Early Stage / Series A
Everyone wants to invest at early stage, but no one wants to take risk. So investments will happen early – but validated business models only. Some good examples for early stage investments in India are redBus, InMobi – while some good early stage misses are Infibeam (which has grown significantly larger without any outside investment).

Angels and Seed stage funds are well positioned to spot early opportunities than institutional investors.

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Premature Incubation Model
Going for a incubation model – make sure you choose the right one among the ones you are joining. Reason to say this – incubation models in US have mentors who have great experience in building products & platforms at scale. Y Combinator – has Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail & Google Adsense), 500startups has Dave McClure (PayPal, FBfund, Simply Hired and more) and mentors from hottest companies and startups in valley; and so many others.

I have simple belief – Internet & Mobile startups are as good or as bad as the products you build. If you are choosing a incubation model – make sure it compliments your actual requirements. Last reason an entrepreneur should choose a incubation mode is money!

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The Know-It-All Attitude
This goes to Entrepreneurs – if you have, please shed away this attitude and get in a mode to learn, to take advice and asking right questions. Relationship status between an Entrepreneur and Investor is complicated – you can’t live with them or you can’t live without them, so you might as well accept them the way they are.

While closing your meetings / pitch with prospective investors – take feedback on the product, business model and the pitch. They will advice you based on their best strengths and experience, but only if you ask! In my personal experience – I managed to get some key improvements & suggestions on the product I am building.

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Please learn to say No
Entrepreneurs learn to say no to investors who do not see and agree with the vision you hold for the product.
Investors learn to say no, and fast. Entrepreneur’s time is equally important as yours! If the product does not match your investment interest – communicate it as fast as possible. Saying no immediately may not so bad; but keep a hope alive may be frustrating for the entrepreneur.

PS: Please respond faster to emails! I exchanged few notes with some of ‘the investors’ in Silicon Valley – always found a reply within 12 hours in all cases, some of them in less than 30 minutes.

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Quality of Press Releases & Coverage
The state of ecosystem is also reflected by the type of news coverage & press releases one reads on Indian Blogs. People movements – in most cases of those names who we have never heard of before, New sales office in Middle East, Forward looking statements on revenues & projections, Surveys that say the obvious in press releases, Claims & unacceptable figures, and so much more! Damn – we would like to know more about your products & platforms, everything else is just crap!

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Concluding Remarks –

Startup ecosystem is built with entrepreneurs, their companies, their early customers and then the investors. You control 75% of the ecosystem already, investors will follow. In the same context I remember one of Sameer Guglani’s tweet – “Founders r creators / accelerators, angels, VCs r service providers. our business runs because founders start companies & not other way arnd.”

The point I am trying to convey here is that if you think or perceive that ecosystem is not evolved in Indian start up scenario, stop complaining and don’t be an entrepreneur. There is no point in waiting for a right time to build your startup, the time to start is now. Get started!

Ecosystem or no Ecosystem – it did not stop a redBus, Naukri, MakeMyTrip, Flipkart, InMobi or SlideShare* to be what they are from India. Why should it stop you!

The term ecosystem means lot of other components as well. Feel free to add more to the comments based on your experiences.

 

Twitter Business Model – 8th Wonder of the World

Twitter – the microblogging platform that revolutionized social media. Tons of businesses today are revolved around the tweetoconomy (tweet economy) – right from developing applications, social media agencies, and so on.

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While it might be an billion dollar economy that revolves around twitter and social media today, unfortunately Twitter still is trying to evolve its own business model. My argument here is that although the Twitter ecosystem is valuable, its going to be very challenging to monetize it. Twitter may have some business model (as it now has – promoted tweets, trends and users) but it will not justify the investments made in Twitter and the valuation it has today.
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And discovering that business model which justifies the valuation & investment may be as good as finding the eighth wonder of the world. Here is why:
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Twitter ecosystem consists of three factors:

  • Users – who tweet
  • Tweets – the 140 character messages which users write
  • Applications – all applications that allow users to write these tweets

All other functions of twitter – search, trends, lists, etc are functions of these 3 factors.
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Twitter has 175 million users; 75% of all tweets are outside of Twitter website and about 40% of them from mobile devices. Growth of twitter was propelled by three factors:
– Acceptance by celebrities and big brand names, which lead their followers to come on-board twitter
– Twitter became a pet of mainstream television and offline news
– Widespread development of applications by developers across the world. The twitter API was easy to implement and build quick apps, many innovative applications where built by developers which would have taken twitter ages to come out with.
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As per twitter website, as of Sept 14 2010 – there are a whopping 95 million tweets a day. (Imagine the monetization Google will achieve with 95 million search queries!). However most tweets are irrelevant; according to a research report by Pear Analytics – 40% tweets are Pointless Blabber, 38% are conversational, 9% have pass-along value, 6% are self promotion, 4% are news while rest 4% are spam.
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Tweets get a very little attention span. A study did by Sysomos revealed that – 71% of all tweets generated get no reaction – 23% get replied  – 6% get re-tweeted.
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The life-span of a tweet is another big issue – and every tweet gets a fractional life-span before it gets lost on tweet streams. To put it simply, fractional tweets are seen, more fractional tweets are read and even more small fraction of them are responded.

The life-span depends on factors like
– number of followers you have
– % of followers online at that time
– rate of tweeting of people followed by your followers at that time for them to notice your tweet
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Twitter’s Business Model

Few months back – according to internal documents leaked and published on Techcrunch, Twiiter was expected to reach an revenue of $140 million for 2010. The documents were leaked in 3rd quarter of 2009 – post which Twitter launched its 3 business offerings – Promoted Tweets, Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts.
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Was Twitter referring to these 3 offerings to generate an revenue of $140 Million. In that case assuming 33% contribution towards revenue generated for each of them, they have to generate $46 Mn per year – at rate of $125,000 per day.
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Thats very expensive! Should twitter be charging $125,000 per day for these offerings? The answer to this question may surprising be Yes!
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Reports mentioned on sites like Clickz, Mashable, Wall Street Journal, The Next Web, Read Write Web – and many others have indicated that costing of promoted tweets is upwards of $100,000 per day!
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Such high costs are not justified as the business model is still not proven. Advertisers paying for these should be aware that these features are mostly available on twitter.com, while 75% activity on twitter happens outside of Twitter through applications and mobile devices. While there is no or very little context and relevance in which these promoted tweets, trends or accounts are served.
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Twitter’s ecosystem cannot be monetized!
Twitter’s ecosystem may be valuable, but cannot be monetized! Here is why was we summarize each of its component.
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Tweets:

  • Most tweets are blabbers, pointless
  • Most tweets do not have any intent like search keywords, and even if they have any intent – it will be momentary.
  • Most tweets are meant for others (for followers). Finding intents specific to self may be difficult task.
  • An user’s tweet can be completely different than his previous one – hence establishing relevance or context and validating seriousness of that context is not possible.
  • If Twitter is able to build an killer-product that deciphers user’s intent and in real time shows and advertise to the user, the only relevant format in which advertisement can be displayed to user is by tweeting a reply. This will lead to tweet-spam and users will protest!
  • Is the advertisement will include a link (of say ecommerce website) – chances of users to complete a transaction may be very less. Visitors from Twitter are known to have highest bounce-rates with a huge majority of users not exploring beyond 1-2 pages.
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Trends:

  • Trends are collective tweets of a large set of users. Most of the times trending topics are consequences of large offline news events and big announcements made by brands, companies and individuals (celebrities)
  • Its understood by commonsense that a promoted tweet may not cause same impact amongst users as a natural trend. The viral factor in a natural trending topic will be 1000X of promoted trends.
  • If twitter continues with promoted trends – at a costing of $100,000 per day – this model is not scalable and will not appeal to small segment of advertisers
  • Its not even possible for Twitter to monetize natural trending topics as they are usually related to subjects or topics that cannot be monetized. Twitter cannot predict a trending topic; and for an current trending topic which has potential to be monetized, it might be difficult for them to get find an advertiser before the topic stops trending.

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Users:

  • Most followed Twitter users are celebrities or big brands that have pulled more users to Twitter. Twitter will not have been at this scale without such users.
  • Twitter will continue to offer featured users and verified accounts for free, they may not be a business model here.
  • Promoted Accounts is being offered without much reference to user’s behavior or interest. Hence there may be little value to businesses for ‘promoted accounts’ to gather users to whom their tweets may not be relevant.

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Applications:

  • Twitter has indicated it will not allow applications to monetize tweets
  • Twitter cannot charge application developers. With 75% tweets coming from applications, Twitter is more dependent on them.
  • If Twitter starts monetizing individual tweets, they will also need to credit the applications that completed the monetization action.
  • While there are few benefits associated with applications like Quora to integrate with Twitter; stand-alone twitter applications will also need to have a way to monetize. If they are not able to monetize and generate revenue by themselves or through Twitter – they may start loosing interest in building or maintaining applications for Twitter..

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Twitter’s Speculated New Business Models:
Business model speculation and criticism is not new for Twitter. There were reports that Twitter may be be coming up with an eCommerce or News related business model. Here is my take of them:
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eCommerce:

  • There are few tweets shared between users about product recommendations, purchases and reviews. Tweets work in an open environment and Twitter may not be able to add more value to such conversations that are already happening.
    Example., if Dell continues to generate millions of dollars revenue through Twitter, there is not much Twitter can do to get a share if that.
  • In event if Twitter is forcing upon some business model related to eCommerce on to large brands on-board, there are multiple small accounts that will continue to converse as always. A business model that cannot be expanded to cover all its users equally will not last for long time.
  • Twitter itself is not an eCommerce seller like Amazon and can never be one. Neither can it act as an affiliate

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News:

  • Twitter is used by meaning leading publications and individual users to break stories. Once the story is pushed to twitter – its responded by followers, a huge story ends up becoming a trend and initiating conversations.
  • The process of publishing a twitter, spreading to follows, building conversations over it happens in a very short span of time. Twitter by itself is not a news service, any attempt to be in this domain will mean competition from well known and well followed media organizations. For a user – he is still very happy with the existing news publishers on Twitter.

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Concluding Remarks:
Twitter has always remained in the spotlight and seems like raising more capital is not a problem for them. For the fact that VCs have invested over $360 Million, Twitter is surely bound to give their investors a good exit and their quest of finding an business model will be going on for some time.
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Right now, its not clear if Twitter is or is not under great pressure to show an convincing business model, but some point they will have to. Twitter team is no doubt struggling to find a revenue model that fits its ecosystem – an ecosystem which has value for its users but is extremely difficult to monetize for the company that owns it.
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While Twitter is not ready to accept proven online business models like search and display, Twitter’s discovery for its revenue stream will be as good as finding the eighth wonder of this world!

Predictions – Biggest Exits in Indian Internet Space in coming years

There would be multiple Consolidations, Mergers, Change of Strategies by lot of VC-invested companies by 2015.
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Product based eCommerce companies:
Lot of interest seen in recent times by VCs. LetsBuy, Snapdeal, FashionAndYou, Flipkart, and so on, Infibeam as well (though still not part of any portfolio yet). Future of eCommerce companies will depend completely on two factors:

– Internet penetration in India > 200 Mn by that time
– Improvement in eCommerce transactions (Infrastructure + User Comfort)

The rate at which investments are made are much higher than rate of growth of both the factors mentioned above – which in a way may be good – as all invested companies will act as catalyst in growth and get new set consumers on-board.

If we see an IPO exit for atleast one of product based eCommerce companies that will be awesome;  One or Two VCs in India (without naming any here) have been actively investing in eCommerce space. There may be a very high possibility that they may merge two or more portfolio companies to form an large entity, which may be just a good acquisition target for Amazon or an IPO exit.
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Group Buying companies:
Was surprised (like many others?) with GroupOn‘s decision of acquiring SoSasta. There are established players in Group Buying space, I’m sure GroupOn has seen some merit and synergies. For existing leading players like SnapDeal, Deals and You and Taggle – they will continue to grow and have to.

Possible exit for them will be Google (since they are starting with Google Offers) or an acquisition by eBay; or maybe GroupOn India may now want to expand presence with one more acquisition. Not to forget that LivingSocial will also come knocking. Now that eBay has ventured into Group Buying space – it has much higher accountability as deals are now served by eBay and not marketplace. eBay India may acquire someone if they decide to have an experienced them to execute this business vertical.

Expect one very large player to enter Group Buying space in next 1-2 months, if well executed – in all probability it may give tough challenge to current market leaders.

Unfortunately many small players will hit the dead pool (few of them have already) due to execution challenges, expansion costs, and lack of operating revenues to keep going as the model is very easy to replicate, but not easy to scale with thin-margins and high acquisition cost.
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Online Travel Companies:
Clear IPOs for Yatra & Cleartrip. Will be great exit for all invested players. GoIbibo and ezeego1 are also leading players in travel domain – Goibibo’s exit may depend on ibibo’s overall plans, ezeego1 may raise capital through markets directly bypassing VC route.

Redbus is promising, they are very high on number of transactions – ticket size may be lower compared to Airline tickets, but % margins will be definitely higher. In all probabilities – Redbus may too hit an IPO or will be an acquisition target for Yatra or Cleartrip (listed travel companies by then as MakeMyTrip has acquired Ticketvala)

I hope someone in Indian Government thinks of the opportunity of listing IRCTC on stock markets.
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Ticketing eCommerce:
BookMyShow will expand to more geographies – they have presence in Malaysia & New Zealand. To get to more such markets, they will require more capital – further investment and definite IPO candidate. Reliance ADAG is trying to make it big in entertainment through BIG – they might knock doors.
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Technology Companies:
Pubmatic (industry’s first yield optimization player) may get acquired in few years. It faces good competition from AdMeld & Rubicon Project, however none of these yield companies are focusing on small publishers (the long tail) which may be the key to larger success.

iYogi by all speculation is IPO bound. Slideshare is leading in its segment and may be a great exit story. Fusion Charts is another one that may be acquired for technology and customers; and so is Martjack.
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Advertising Networks:
Existing players – Tyroo, Komli, Ozone Media, AdMagnet and others. Do not forecast a immediate exit for these players – the number of players in this segment has been same for long time (no new entrants) – and otherwise too existing players seem to looking outside of India, are they hinting saturation of market? The frequency of acquisitions of pure advt-networks has decreased outside India (no big news in so many months?).

There is no distinct advantage over each other and offerings (if Vizisense is treated as product outside of Advt-Network). Would have been great to see an situation like AdMax Network (owns up majority market share in countries they operate – very tough competition to Google as they have leveraged on local language audience which is majority).

Google has played a flattener by opening up its unlimited inventory on Doubleclick exchange through Google Certified AdNetworks program. Post which the publisher development story may have taken some hit, but wondering why have not the Indian Advt Networks integrated on Google’s Doubleclick exchange yet – expand you publisher network!

InMobi which is now the largest mobile advt network (outside of Google/AdMob) – maybe one of the biggest exits through Nasdaq IPO. There is no immediate need for Google to buy another mobile advt network – that leaves IPO as only logical exit unless AOL, Yahoo or Microsoft realize that they haven’t looked at the mobile monetization business seriously.
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Matrimony Portals:
BharatMatrimony (Consim Group) would be going for IPO in coming times. Not aware of any investors in Shaadi.com (although there are in Mauj & Fropper), if business is profitable and there are no investor pressures – unlikely to see an IPO from them (at least before BharatMatrimony).

Read somewhere that Jeevansathi has abandoned markets in South India (not sure of this), however its already a part of listed InfoEdge group, spin-off very unlikely as numbers are reported as part of InfoEdge.
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No Clear Exits:
SMS GupShup, Guruji, mCommerce companies (PayMate, mChek and others) are few companies I am not convinced of having an clear exit strategy. (Someone do throw light on this)
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Promising Startups:
The next wave of promising startups in India will be product-driven companies. Although the eco-system to fast acceptance of technology products is not so strong right now – it will be in coming years. Emergence of interesting start-ups like Practo, Zaakpay, Grexit, emo2, Workasaur are first steps in that direction.
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Hoping to see many success in next 5 years! Best Wishes

This opinion was posted originally as an answer on Quora at: http://www.quora.com/Which-Indian-internet-company-will-have-the-biggest-exit-by-2015