Monthly Archives: April 2014

Koprol – The Inside Story. Part 5

Part 4 :: http://www.nokpis.com/2014/03/25/koprol-the-inside-story-part-4/

Yes – we closed the deal. My hope was to bask in the deal closing success and enjoy the moment but unfortunately there was not a lot of time to do that. All sorts of stuff needed sorting from deciding how to announce the deal, to sorting out the structure of operations and of course just dealing with all the demands placed on the newly acquired team. Koprol was now our emerging markets baby – everyone inside of Yahoo wanted access and people outside of Yahoo wanted to interview the principals. All good. I think Yahoo’s bonus from the deal was the huge amount of positive, organic pr. Something Yahoo was not normally used to.

As far as the event itself – the announcing the deal to the public, we planned for a medium sized private event where all the regional bloggers and media where invited. At this time there was some notion of activity around Koprol and Yahoo but there had not been any leaks and no one had forecasted what had actually happened. I was proud of both the Yahoo and Koprol team for not having leaked anything. I am sure many people suspected something but no one called it. The event allowed the Koprol guys to announce the deal and the APAC management to introduce themselves to the community at large. Corporate stayed out of it and the excitement of the deal took center stage. All in all I was proud of the moment and of Yahoo.

Post deal announcement my friend from the IGTF and I spent some time in Bali hanging and trying to come up with some basic plans. Apart form this celebration and a few post deal parties at some of the regional events the air of celebration was exhausted quick since the need to get down to business was at hand.

Fortunately the IGTF lead for the deal was still at Yahoo and focused on making this work – this along with the APAC team focus allowed us to plan next steps. The goal being to grow the product in the region, learn from it and see what the team could offer Yahoo in ideas for emerging markets. Apart from the this the rest of the details needed to be worked out.

There were lots of open issues:

– what to name or brand it?
– long term reporting structures
– dealing with logins – yahoo users
– scaling points of interest
– platforms to grow into
– how to scale the team in Indonesia
– how to engage the rest of Yahoo
– how to spread in the other Yahoo regions

Post closing the Yahoo APAC marketing team started to discuss the branding and of course wanted it to be called Yahoo Koprol. Part of me resisted this cause I felt that the best way to conduct the experiment in the large would be to not overly influence it. Koprol was tiny and Yahoo was huge and it was assumed everyone knew Yahoo and no one knew Koprol. The idea was call it Yahoo Koprol and everyone would feel better about it. The focus groups mostly alluded to the same answer but for me I was more interested in using the resources of Yahoo but yet trying to not over Yahoo everything.

This was really the entire crux of our new found paradox – how does one take advantage of all that Yahoo has to offer and get shit done but not be saddled with all the bullshit of Yahoo that is notorious for not getting anything done. This is where my Yahoo career probably nosedived as I stated to assume the role of protector as someone wanting to do the right thing for everyone but yet having to piss people off along the way.

There was the local team, the Koprol team, the users, Sunnyvale and the world all watching and everyone wanting a piece. Yahoo wanted to learn from the team, the world wanted to interview them, the users wanted a growing product and the Koprol team wanted to try and please everyone – there was no easy way to do this but my full time gig become trying to make all this happen. I am sure I failed – but I learned a lot along the way and I think everyone else did to.

Decisions were quickly being made – the product would be called Yahoo Koprol, the product would keep the multi login system although would need to make the Yahoo stuff the real login and we would start throwing some marketing dollars at promoting the product in Indonesia. In theory this was all good but there can be too much of a good thing since the product was still really new. The idea of marketing a hong product might make some sense but the offer on the table was to do a TV commercial for Indonesia. At first reaction one thinks hell yeah – let’s do that but then reality sets in and one realizes that the product may just not be ready for something like a TVC. Here is another decision that needed to be made in that we wanted the marketing help but we honestly wanted it to come later however the TVC budget was there and needing to be used ASAP. Looking back I think we should not have done the TVC since it made us put off some product evolutions to prep for the TVC and we were forced to make some decisions around the features or the marketable features so that the TVC would have the message Yahoo wanted for the region.

Essentially it meant accepting more compromises for what the team would be working on and how the product would be presented by Yahoo to the region. It was all too soon really since we wanted to experiment around product features and we wanted to grow it more organically or within the Yahoo ecosystem prior to doing any hardcore marketing. Yes – the TVC was well done and it made a huge difference in users but it was probably also the wrong kind of user and it meant Koprol was getting a huge amount of attention both within the company and around Indonesia. Other groups at Yahoo were slightly peeved at such a young product getting so much money since marketing money had to be shared around the region and the product was having to deal with rampant growth without the time to work on engagement and making it a better product. It was a mass tradeoff that in my mind wasn’t worth the hassles.

This began the journey for what ultimately started to cave the entire experiment – Koprol was now expected to be the hero product for the region with the idea that market it enough and it will be big rather than building the best product and figuring out how to make it something the region desires versus flogging it. This is actually a typically Yahoo dilemma since there are ways between marketing dollars, PR and the front page to unleash a firehose on something within or outside of Yahoo that will result in mass traffic but won’t king make something that is not ready or is not a good product. Koprol now had the firehose but it really needed more time to mature first.

JFDI 2014A

I am back to trying to focus my efforts outside of Spuul in one place again this year – which is JFDI batch 2014A.

http://jfdi.asia/portfolio/

Last Thursday I met with with a few from the list but I think some have already changed their names. I will wait to see who I end up spending the most time with since it is usually up to the teams to ping me for follow up.

For now I have had the most conversations with http://storyroll.co/ and http://stylehunt.com/ . Storyroll is fascinating since it is some guys from Lithuania coming to singapore, frying their asses off, to make a go of the program. I figure I can help a bit given my video and consumer product background. For stylehunt I am always partial to the Thais and it turns out I am from the same part of the world as one of the founders which is cool.

We shall see who continues to bug me as the program rolls on and I will see what kind of impact I can have. Exciting stuff!

Before I get to my tiny advice column I will recall the dinner we had with Werner Vogels and some of what we learned from talking to him. The key takeaway I had was that Amazon is still lots of small teams working on lots of projects. As big as Amazon is today the small team ethos is still going strong. I dig that. The other thing Werner mentioned was how the team still writes the marketing one pager, the FAQ and the press release before any code is written. I love this. I should try to do this at Spuul as well.

It’s good advice to focus on what you want the customer to experience and then work backwards to make it happen. I am sure there are tons of ways to do this or to manage the process but the basics are pretty clear. Don’t code or draw pictures first. Take the time to write out what you hope to build before building.

Obviously this may not work for everyone who has already started making something or is in the program however I think for those who are in the JFDI program there is another way to handle this.

This is the advice I was giving out on Thursday to the companies I met individually with. I have seen a few batches go though the system and generally if one can keep themselves organized and productive leading up to investor day then the odds of success, as far as the program is concerned, are much higher. Fall apart, lose track of time, bicker, try to build too much, or lose sight of the product – will lead you to a bad investor day.

One could hope for breakout success, killer metrics, a sick viral loop or a crazy amount of pr – but pinning your success on the things that may not happen is not very smart. If these things happen consider them a bonus but instead focus on the event. The investor day. Imagine yourself or your team up there presenting, have a vision for what you want to say, make a few slides now that will be the boilerplate for that final day and focus on projecting now what you will accomplish on that stage.

Then work backwards to make it happen. Manage each week precisely enough, don’t go crazy about it, to ensure that you are meeting your weekly milestones that will add up to your successful investor day.

As a member of an accelerator program you are in a time compression chamber. Manage it will and you will succeed.

Another tech article written without the tech…

I always find that when someone makes some sort of sweeping statement they should at least be able to support their statement with enough technical reasons to make a convincing argument. Usually TNW gets it right but on this one the writer failed pretty miserably.

http://thenextweb.com/dd/2014/04/19/rip-flash-html5-will-take-video-web-year/

First off let’s admit that flash is doing its job with video pretty well which is why it hasn’t died on the desktop as quick as everyone claimed it would. For reliable, secure and performant desktop streaming video – flash is still alive and well and won’t die in 2014. It will die only when there is a satisfactory replacement for it. At the moment there is not.

With OSMF framework players and all the plugin work going on – flash is still powering most of the world’s steaming video and is doing a fine job of it. Flash is not perfect and many would love to replace it, including me, but there is not a suitable production replacement at this time.

Is 2014 the year for flash to die. Not likely.

All this aside it usually helps to understand the tech more and to correctly understand what is keeping flash from dying and what might take its place? Also it is important not to lump mobile and desktop into the same bucket and pretend it’s all the same thing – cause it is not.

For starters mobile was never going to use flash but at the same time mobile is not using HTML 5 as a replacement for it either. Most premium mobile video apps are using native code and players – not HTML 5 anyway. I still feel native offers the better user experience and better streaming but people can always argue otherwise.

However lets cut to the chase as to why desktop is still dominated by flash and why mobile is dominated by native video players – it’s for one simple reason and one the author of the article didn’t even talk about which is security. I will delve into this further but for the moment I will use the term security versus DRM cause in my opinion they are not the same thing. Currently HTML 5 has no cross browser standard for implementing secure streams so that whatever is streamed is not easily stolen. Until this is fixed flash won’t die and native code will trump HTML 5.

I think the most promising work is around MPEG-DASH + CENC common encryption scheme. Dash is a new way of doing streaming media – kind of a better form of apple’s HLS and the CENC work is to come up with a cross browser of way of encrypting it. If you talk to folks in the biz – this and the new h265 stuff are getting the most attention but none of them would promise you a 2014 delivery date. Given that, it is ludicrous to purport that flash will die in 2014 since the replacement for it is not ready.

Now that we have covered that flash is not dead yet it is worth spending some time on the whole DRM debate cause I think it is misunderstood at times. DRM to me is usually associated with the notion of buying some content like a cd or a DVD and being prevented by tech from copying it or watching it wherever you want. I think if you have bought something you should be able to copy or watch where you want but you shouldn’t be able to sell it again, stream it for profit or make copies for others who might sell it. So in my opinion if you buy it and you want to put it online for others to pirate it then it is wrong and if tech can help prevent that it should. Problem is that same tech can sometimes prevent the person who bought it from using it the way they want. That is the bad part about DRM but that aside this is different from security.

Security in my opinion is the tech to prevent someone from stealing it who didn’t pay for it. It’s that simple. Meaning if you pay for a streaming service then you should be able to watch it on all the devices that service offers cause you paid to do so. However let’s say you want to make a copy of the movie to store it for later or to give to a friend. If the service does not offer that then in my mind the user doesn’t get that but if the service never purported to offer it then the user has to live with those parameters. Some would say the user should be able to then take the movie to do with it how they please but to me that is the stealing part. Streaming services are not selling movies but selling the ability to watch where the service is offered. Normally this is why subscription services are cheaper per month than buying movies.

Others would argue that anything on a screen can be stolen so why bother trying to protect it but that is an easy one to answer. If you are an independent film maker and you debut something on a streaming service you are hoping that, although it is never 100 percent, that the service is not an easy source for people to steal the content. Otherwise the movie is better off in the theaters versus streaming. Any company who is in the business of streaming doesn’t want to lose this relationship with the content owners so they try to ensure they can offer a safe platform that does not contribute to the overall piracy problem.

So companies in the business of streaming have to take security seriously and in most cases security is not the same as DRM because the goal is to not make it hard on people who pay but to prevent those who don’t want to pay from petty theft. I personally think stealing streams is theft and is no different from stealing a book or a meal. Taking something you don’t want to pay for doesn’t look any different to me for a physical item or a digital item. It’s theft. Pay for it. If you don’t want to pay for it then you can’t have it.

So for the moment flash offers streaming companies a safer place to stream movies than HTML 5 does. Yes it will change but not this year.

The Black Box from the developer perspective

This is a great post :: http://stratechery.com/2014/black-box-strategy/

WHY TV IS SO ATTRACTIVE
As I’ve written multiple times, the scarcest resource for consumer tech companies, especially ad-supported ones, is user attention. There are only so many minutes in the day, and their consumption is zero-sum: a moment spent doing activity A is not spent doing activity B, and then that moment is gone.

Meanwhile, TV continues to monopolize a significant amount of that user attention. Although digital products have overtaken the amount of time spent on TV, primarily due to the accretive time spent on smartphones, the absolute time spent on TV has remained stubbornly persistent at about four-and-a-half hours per day per U.S. adult (source).

That four-and-a-half hours really is the gold at the end of the rainbow for tech companies: just over the next hill/technical hurdle, yet never actually attainable.

TV really is a cool spot to work in – or video to be more blunt. However what really annoys me is that every article from a tech angle is normally very US centric or US content centric. Of course there is a reason for that – America is where the best content is coming from, where the most ad dollars are and where most of the tech companies playing in the space reside. No argument there but the world is not just America and some of us are playing in the video space from other parts of the world with the hopes of attacking the global stage.

I won’t do a Spuul sales job here but just state that we are global and we are doing it from Singapore. Not easy but fun.

So the article breaks down the TV battle by naming the dominant players who are hacking on the problem. What is telling to me is what or who is not listed – Smart TV’s. I think in theory if you are skating to where the puck is going then possibly you can leave them out but if you are dealing with the video space today you can’t. They exist and users want to see your app there on whatever Smart TV they have but boy, oh boy what a mess. I don’t want to bash here but we know why most of them are not listed as players for the future – they are not going to make it in the future. Their ecosystems are just brutal – they want a cut of payments but they don’t have payment engines. They want a cut of ad revenue but they don’t have ad ecosystems. They have brutally ancient build and deploy systems that look like the early web development days. Frankly – they build shitty software and they are at risk of just going away or being dumb glass. They could fix it but it doesn’t seem like they want to.

Moving down the list we get into Apple TV:

I agree in that this is the one to watch – I don’t say this due to apple fanboyism but mostly cause it works well, they distribute internationally and for developers this stuff really is mostly magic. It just works. The work we go through to get chromecast to work is night and day when it comes to Apple TV which is dead simple. Apple has room for improvement though. They need to get into carrier billing, they need to open up their stuff for the rental market, and they need to open up Apple TV to apps. I don’t see all this happening but it would be awesome.

Amazon:

I don’t have a fire to play with so I can’t say much. Usually with Amazon though their international focus is lacking but when it comes to being open and such they do a good job. Since Amazon has video I find working with them tough because they favor their stuff and then America – but for them to win I think they need more content players on the box. I think if Amazon could make the fire really awesome for developers it would help but that remains to be seen.

Google:

What can I say but keeping up with Google and TV stuff is challenging. There was google tv the web based stack, then the Android 3.2 made for tv stuff, then chromecast and now supposedly a new Android TV. Very hard unless you have insider status to get good info here. They favor America for content and partners and their international stuff is opaque. But the hardest part with Google is they compete with all of us using Youtube, they reward piracy and they make it hard to want to go deep with them but you must go deep with them. There is no choice. On the plus side they have a better ecosystem for developing, they have some carrier payments, they are being open about other payments in android apps and they tend to try and break down the incumbents. We see this with adx, chromecast and the like – so Google is evil but you must work with them on some levels. Android is huge – bottom line. I hope Android TV is killer, truly open and Google courts international developers at some point.

Roku:

Roku is always the one I find interesting in this matrix – first off they are only in America and UK. Of course big markets but it can’t stack up to the other global players in any regard. Worse though is since being invested in by DISH the entire international content library is controlled by DISH. So if someone like Spuul wants to get on Roku we have to go via DISH who usually says no cause they have their own international content packages that they foist onto Roku. So when it comes to Roku being a player – I say not until the DISH deal is done. Roku is one of those funny things that purports to want to give the best experience to users but is really no different than a cable company deciding what you get and what you don’t. Roku claims now to be gaining ground by getting into all the TV’s but I don’t buy it. They should have opened up when they had the chance and gone big – now I think google and amazon will have their way with them.

Microsoft:

Oh what could have been. To me they should have created something akin to the media center PC by creating a cheaper version of the XBOX just for the TV but they wanted TV and Games – both suffered. Now they appear to be tilting back to the gamers which means the TV will suffer. XBOX is cool but MSFT has to step up their game or build a home entertainment to rival the others. I will say this about them though – working with them is getting easier and they are trying hard to build stuff for media companies. If they open up playready DRM more and really cloudify the DRM plumbing then they could become a platform for streaming companies. Time will tell.

All in all the streaming world is booming but to me it is very US centric and I am waiting to see who will change it or maybe it can’t be changed but if so then I will be watching what the international players do more than the US centric ones since the playbook seems pretty well known at this point.

Interesting stuff I learned

Yesterday while hanging out at my kid’s taekwando lesson I started to chat with another parent about what they did in Thailand. Normally I keep to myself, watch the kid and get some reading in but I tried to branch out a bit this time.

So what did I learn.

This gentleman moved from India to Rayong to help with a factory that builds the giant machines that can extrude aluminum into the aerosol cans used for sprays and deodorants. It’s a giant machine that on one end can take the aluminum and at the other end kicks out the painted can. At this point the cans can be shipped to be filled for retail sale.

It takes this factory team 8-9 months to build one machine. They assemble it in Rayong and then test it for production usage. Then they dismantle it into 80-90 crates for shipment by boat to anywhere in the world.

Then they send a team to re assemble it, test it and turn it over to production usage.

This company can only make 2-3 machines per year and it turns out a large Japanese company in Sri Racha owns like 20 of them.

Was fascinating.

I may ask for a tour next time I see him.

Sometimes Thailand does amaze me.