From the Porch

by David Levy:

(Fake) astronomer, chess player, politician and all other things that having a relatively common name afford me. (See here.)

(Real) EIR at Comcast Ventures, founder of a few companies (Tigerbow and Philo), and seller of one (to LocalResponse). Now advising, investing in, and playing with new ideas. Prior, spent a decade or so on Wall Street covering, investing in, and advising growth and technology companies.

Email me at dslevy [at] gmail [dot] com.

All opinions/etc. are my own.
Recent Tweets @dslevy
Who I Follow

In 2010 I conceived, built, financed, and launched a social television platform called Philo. It let TV viewers use their mobile phones and laptops to connect and interact with programming and other viewers. Philo and its brethren kicked-off the social TV revolution. Ultimately, the original product failed and I pivoted and sold the company, but not before the television viewing experience was forever changed.

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I waited almost three years to finally put some thoughts down on this experience so forgive me if the facts are a little fuzzy. Sometimes it’s best to get your thoughts down right away. And sometimes it’s better to put some space in between the experience and the post mortem. In the case of both of my first two startups, I needed time to recuperate. Rested, recovered, and reflective… here goes….

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In honor of SXSWedu, which regrettably I am not attending, I thought it would be fun to put down a few thoughts about edtech, which I love - because, well, who wouldn’t? It’s one of the few trillion (with a ’t’) dollar markets (aside from healthcare and financial services?), it’s technology, it’s about education, and I’ve got a kid.

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First, a ‘market’ look at the education sector. These numbers are wrong - as usual - but the orders of magnitude should be sorta right and illustrative….

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Hedge fund managers and startup CEOs may appear to come from opposite worlds - the former numbers-obsessed nutjobs hiding behind dozens of screens, the latter product-obsessed nutjobs hiding behind dozen of bowls of ramen - but having masqueraded as both nutjobs I’ve noticed one unique quality ever present in the best of both: they know how to go all in.

What I mean by knowing how to go all in is that not only do they have the balls to do it, but they are experts about knowing where and when to go all in.

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Alexandra Jordan and Super Fun Kid Time finally got me to put some thoughts down re coding and its impact on youth culture. Who is Alex Jordan? She’s the nine year old fourth grader that dreamed up, designed, and pitched her playdate app at Techcrunch Disrupt the other day. Her (adorable) presentation and an interview are here. According to Techcrunch, she’s learning to code in Ruby and HTML with help from her father and Codecademy.

The bigger takeaway here is, as Mashable put it:

"Coding is 21st century literacy."

And it is permeating youth culture in a profound way. It is mainstream. It is cool. It is hip. And it is a really big deal.

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I’m excited to announce that last month I joined Comcast Ventures for a stint as Entrepreneur-in-Residence. EIR roles have many definitions, but for this one I’ll be sourcing and vetting deals, particularly in early stage digital, social, and mobile media companies in New York City.

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A little bit about Comcast Ventures and Comcast Corporation….

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Google directs traffic to websites and that has made the company the most powerful on the web. In social and mobile, the power will reside with companies that direct traffic to mobile apps.

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Right now, those companies include Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and (well) Google. And right now, the methods of directing traffic to mobile apps are via app stores and native / in-stream advertising (e.g., sponsored posts and promoted tweets) like this one:

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For the past several years I’ve been making comparisons between the dotcom bubble and this current tech cycle. At this point, that we’re in a period of exuberance (be it rational or otherwise) is a given (26 year olds don’t sell companies with little revenue for $1.1 billion in cash unless something awesome is happening - and FWIW I think the Yahoo/Tumblr deal is a win all around). But in July 2011 I said: “The question isn’t are we in a bubble. The question is are we in 1995 or 1999.” The question, therefore, remains: at what point in the cycle are we. The answer: it’s still early. Here’s why….

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I’m saying this for the third time. Facebook will do search. And [more importantly] they’ll do it well. Yes, they announced Graph Search in mid January, but since then the naysayers beat up the product with myopic criticism of the beta release. Some months have passed, but I figured now that everyone is focused on beating up Facebook Home instead, it’d be as good a time as any to answer back….

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The value of a YouTube view will increase by orders of magnitude. Here’s why….

Advertisers will pay ~$100K to get their message in front of 1M basic cable TV viewers in an evening, but only ~$2K to get their message in front of the same number of YouTube viewers. This 50x delta is unsustainable and the most likely result is an increase in total revenue per YouTube view.

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The math. (I made it up again - shhhh….)

If an “ok” basic cable reality show costs around $200K per episode to produce and needs around a million viewers per night to stay on the air, then it needs to generate $100K in advertising revenue to break even (assuming around half of total revenue comes from carriage). An unfair analysis to be sure as it is way oversimplified and excludes tons of other variables, but it also probably costs more than $200K per episode to make - so we’ll stick with it. Bottom line: $100K for 1 million viewers.

By contrast, YouTube will pay content creators a $2 CPM. 1 million views x $2 per thousand views = $2K. Also not a fair analysis because YouTube CPM’s vary, not all content is monetized, not all views are monetized, etc., but the order of magnitude should be close. Bottom line: $2K for 1 million views.

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What do Snapchat, Vine, and foursquare have in common? It’s that damn “Press and Hold” - it’s so hot right now.

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I first noticed the mobile gesture in Snapchat and I can’t help but believe that it’s part of what led to the app’s success (ephemeral weiner shots aside). I fell in like with Vine for a similar reason - not having realized how painfully inconvenient it was to tap my iPhone screen to start recording and tap it again to stop (obligatory Vine of my son here). When foursquare added it as a way to check-in quickly I finally realized how powerful the seemingly simple little twist to the UI made using these apps more seamless (I’ll refer to my foursquare check-in count as proof).

Tapping, flicking, and swiping is to clicking as press and hold is to….

I suspect the next place we’ll see press and hold is in mobile commerce apps. Amazon apparently thought 1-click ordering was so powerful for converting on the desktop that it patented it. I wonder if pressing and holding to buy something on a mobile commerce app would yield comparable results. What say you Amazon, eBay, Fab, Wanelo, Groupon, Gilt, et al?

"Don’t ask questions. Just give in to the power of the press and hold."