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Article by John Backus, Partner New Atlantic Ventures

“Much has been written about the explosive growth of smartphones and tablets, but apps are what make them useful and are driving their adoption. IDC estimates mobile app downloads will reach nearly 182.7 billion in 2015. There are now nearly one million apps, mostly for Apple and Android devices, and Gartner projected app revenue from app stores alone will reach $58 billion by 2014. Apps are big business.

But this sheer volume of apps creates real complexities for app developers and consumers alike. As a developer, how does your app stand apart from the pack? As a consumer, finding the right app is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Conventional wisdom suggests that search is the answer. Chomp, Quixey and even Yahoo! let you discover apps through search. Others are trying to help you search for apps with various algorithms, through social networks and games.

I disagree with this this entire approach.

Search is not the answer for app discovery – finding the top apps is serendipitous.

We find our best apps today by talking to our friends at a restaurant, by reading about them in a blog or an article, or by stumbling upon them on a recommended or top ten list.

Not a month goes by when an entrepreneur I meet, developing a smartphone app, can’t quite answer a simple question: How will you market your app to your customers? All too often the answer lies somewhere between “Apple is going to feature my app,” and “I’m going to advertise it in other apps.” Neither is a compelling answer, nor likely to help developers build a big business.

We’re placing a big bet, alongside VC media giant, Syncom, that serendipity will drive the app discovery process. That’s why we invested in Apptap. Similar to what an ad network does today, serving you ads based on the content of the web page you are viewing, AppTap serves you apps to consider, based on that same content.

A USA Today online reader, browsing an article in the sports section, is likely interested in seeing sports-related apps. A visitor to TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) is likely to be intrigued by cutting edge Apple iPhone or iPad apps, but not by an advertisement on basket weaving. A Pandora iPhone listener, on the other hand, is likely not interested in clicking out of Pandora to check out a flashing app advertisement.

So if you are a developer, quit trying to trick customers into downloading your app via incented downloads. Don’t run random app ads, it is too reminiscent of early run-of-site banner ads. And don’t think that hoping to be featured in someone else’s app store is a good strategy.

Instead, put your app where your customers are likely to discover it, and you will be well on your way to growing your audience with users actually interested in your app.

Originally published on the Huffington Post, January 13, 2012. Follow John on Twitter @jcbackus”

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Article from NYTimes.

“With a huge initial public offering on the runway, Facebook has shown that it pays to have friends. New investors will now have to decide what they are willing to pay to be friends.

The giant social network said in a filing on Wednesday that it was seeking to raise up to $5 billion through its I.P.O. Many close to the company say that Facebook is aiming for a debut that would value it between $75 billion and $100 billion.

At the top end of the range, Facebook would be far bigger than many established American companies, including Amazon, Caterpillar, Kraft Foods, Goldman Sachs and Ford Motor. Only 26 companies in the Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks have a market value north of $100 billion.

Already, Facebook is a formidable moneymaker. The company, which mainly sells advertising and virtual goods, recorded revenue of $3.71 billion in 2011, an 88 percent increase from the previous year. According to its filing, Facebook posted a profit of $1 billion last year.

“Facebook will have more traffic than anyone else, and they’ll have more data than anyone else,” said Kevin Landis, the portfolio manager of Firsthand Technology Value Fund, which owns shares in the privately held company. “So, unless they are impervious to learning how to monetize that data, they should be the most valuable property on the Internet, eventually.”

A lofty valuation for Facebook would evoke the grandiose ambitions of the previous Internet boom in the late 1990s. Back then, dozens of unproven companies went public at sky-high valuations but later imploded.

Investors are eyeing the current generation of Internet companies with a healthy dose of skepticism. Zynga, the online gaming company, and Groupon, the daily deals site, have both struggled to stay above their I.P.O. prices since going public late last year.

“We’ve seen thousands of investors get burned before,” said Andrew Stoltmann, a securities lawyer in Chicago. “It’s a high risk game.”

The potential payoff is also huge.

Consider Google. After its first day of trading in 2004, the search engine giant had at a market value of $27.6 billion. Since then, the stock has jumped by about 580 percent, making Google worth nearly $190 billion today.

Facebook is still a small fraction of the size of rival Google. But many analysts believe Facebook’s fortunes will rapidly multiply as advertisers direct increasingly more capital to the Web’s social hive.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg, a founder of Facebook and its chief executive, even sounded like his Google counterparts in the beginning. In the filing, Mr. Zuckerberg trumpeted the company’s mission to “give everyone a voice and to help transform society for the future” — not unlike Google’s plan: “don’t be evil.”

Investors are often willing to pay up for faster growth. At a market value of $100 billion, Facebook would trade at 100 times last year’s earnings. That would make the stock significantly more expensive than Google, which is currently selling at 19.6 times profits.

Newly public companies with strong growth prospects often garner high multiples. At the end of 2004, the year of its I.P.O., Google was trading at 132 times its earnings.

But investors have less expensive options for fast-growing technology companies. Apple made nearly $1 billion a week in its latest quarter, roughly the same amount Facebook earned in all of 2011. At a recent price of $456, Apple is trading for roughly 16.5 times last year’s profits.

Investors now have to try to ignore the I.P.O. hype and soberly sift through the first batch of Facebook’s financial statements to gauge the company’s potential.

Online advertising is a prime indicator. At Facebook, display ads and the like accounted for $3.15 billion of revenue in 2011, roughly 85 percent of the total. With 845 million monthly active users, advertisers now feel that Facebook has to be part of any campaign they do.

“When you have an audience that large, it’s hard not to make a lot of money from it,” said Andrew Frank, an analyst at Gartner, an industry research firm.

For all the promise of Facebook, the company is still trying to figure out how to properly extract and leverage data, while keeping its system intact and not interfering with users’ experiences. On a per-user basis, Facebook makes a small sum, roughly $1 in profit.

The relationship with Zynga will be especially important. The online game company represented 12 percent of Facebook revenue last year, according to the filing. However, estimated daily active users of Zynga games on Facebook fell in the fourth quarter, from the third quarter, the brokerage firm Sterne Agee said in a recent research note — a trend that could weigh on the social networking company.

Facebook also faces intense competition for advertising dollars, something it acknowledges in the “risk factors” section of its I.P.O. filing. While advertisers will likely choose to be on both Facebook and Google, they will inevitably compare results they get from both. Some analysts think Google may have the edge in such a competition.

Google users tend to be looking for something specific. This makes it easier for advertisers to direct their ads at potential customers, analysts say. “Visually, Facebook ads are eye-catching, but in terms of accuracy of targeting, they are not even close to Google’s ads,” said Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester Research. “A lot of the companies we talk to are finding it very hard to succeed on Facebook.”

However, the high level of interaction on Facebook could prove valuable to advertisers. “At Facebook, you are looking at people’s interests, and what they are sharing,” said Gerry Graf, chief creative officer at Barton F. Graf 9000, an advertising agency in New York that has used Facebook for clients. If Facebook becomes a place where people recommend, share and buy a large share of their music and movies, such a business could generate large amounts of advertising revenue, as well as any user fees.

“Facebook has become the biggest distribution platform on the Web,” said Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, a service that accepts only Facebook users.”

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Article from SFGate.

“Tech jobs are coming back after hitting bottom early this year, according to economy tracker Moody’s Analytics. The U.S. economy has added 47,000 technology jobs so far this year amid resurgent demand for tech products in Asia and Latin America.

That represents 15 percent growth in tech jobs, compared with an 11 percent jobs growth in the economy overall since the beginning of the year, according to Moody’s. Since a peak at the end of 2007, the tech industry had lost 307,000 jobs nationally in the economic downturn.

“It seems like this industry is embarking on a new growth spurt,” says Sophia Koropeckyj, a managing director for Moody’s Analytics. “Tech jobs seem to be accelerating.”

Asia and Latin America’s demand for tech products has resulted in new hiring and is one contributor to the recovery, Koropeckyj says. After slumping in the first half of 2009, global PC shipments – bread and butter of U.S. companies Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Apple – should rise 14.3 percent this year, to 352 million units, according to consultant Gartner.

Billions in government stimulus funds have spurred recent purchases by agencies and businesses, such as those building out broadband networks. Corporate and government information technology spending should rise 8.1 percent this year, to $758 billion, according to consultant Forrester Research. Already, networking gear maker Cisco Systems saw sales for its fiscal first quarter ended Oct. 30 rise 19 percent from a year earlier, to $10.75 billion.

“The first wave of growth is going through,” says Andrew Bartels, a vice-president at Forrester.

But the recovery may be uneven: During Cisco’s quarterly earnings call in November, Chief Executive Officer John Chambers mentioned several challenges the company faces, such as slower-than-expected pickup in orders from government agencies in the United States and Japan.

Recovery among Detroit’s automakers, helped by a government bailout, is driving a resurrection of related tech-sector jobs. Last year, Detroit experienced a 15 percent drop in high-tech jobs from a year earlier, according to a new study from technology industry association TechAmerica Foundation, which studied jobs and wages data for the 60 U.S. cities with the highest proportions of tech jobs.

Detroit’s was the worst drop in high-tech jobs among any of the 60 cities last year. But in a Dec. 1 blog, carmaker Chrysler announced it will hire 1,000 more engineers and other high-tech workers by the end of the first quarter of 2011. The company has hired 5,000 workers overall since emerging from bankruptcy in June 2009. In November, rival General Motors said it will hire 1,000 engineers and researchers in Michigan in the coming months to help expand its lineup of electric cars, whose sales are expected to climb.

In some technology industries, salaries are starting to inch back up again.

Information, media, and telecommunications professionals have seen their wages rally slightly this year, according to survey data from PayScale, which tracks global compensation. In 2009, high-tech salaries nationwide slipped 0.8 percent, which was less than the decline in the private sector overall, where the average salary dropped 1.4 percent, according to the TechAmerica report.

“The gap has widened. It’s significant,” says Josh James, vice president of research and industry analysis at TechAmerica. “Especially in hard times, companies are trying to cut costs, and one way to do that is to implement technology solutions.””

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What goes up must stall and… Here is an interesting article on Facebook´s growthfigures from SF Gate.

“The number of new Facebook users in the United States dropped dramatically in June, with the popular social networking site losing more than a quarter of a million regular users between ages 18 and 44, according to figures collected by a market research website.

Inside Facebook, which analyzes user data that the social network provides to advertisers, noted that in the last 31 days Facebook registered 320,800 new active members – first-time users and those who logged into Facebook for the first time in over a month. The figure is notably low compared with the astronomical 7.8 million new active users registered in May, which represented a 6.7 percent monthly growth.

According to the latest company figures, Facebook has 500 million registered users.

“In terms of the overall trends in Facebook’s U.S. growth, this was a flatter month than usual for Facebook, which has seen about 3 to 4 percent monthly growth in the U.S. on average over the last year,” said Inside Facebook founder Justin Smith.

In contrast, June’s monthly growth was only 0.3 percent.

What’s more, 253,840 American members ages 18 to 44 didn’t even log on to Facebook in the same 31-day period. The largest group – more than 100,000 – was women ages 26 through 34.

Analysts believe it’s too early to say exactly what these numbers mean because a month’s data is not enough to detect patterns. The decline might be something as simple as a glitch, a reporting mistake from Facebook or a seasonal fluctuation.

Ray Valdes, an analyst with market research firm Gartner, said many people travel, graduate and get married during the summer, which may keep them away from their social networks.

“Less excitingly, the negative growth could simply be a blip. But in the years we’ve been tracking the demographic data, we’ve rarely seen a dip like this, so we would tend to favor the idea of a root cause,” Inside Facebook’s Chris Morrison wrote on Tuesday.

The data could also be a reflection of the saturation of the U.S. market, which Smith said they have been anticipating for some time. According to Inside Facebook, the social network giant had achieved a 41.1 percent market penetration as of the end of last month.

And there’s even less room to grow among young adults in the United States, said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with technology research firm Forrester.

“It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if we have seen growth among users between ages 18 to 34 reach its maximum,” he said. “Of course, once you do that, the only way to go is down.”

Bernoff said the decline in new active users might be a calculated consequence of a shift in Facebook’s growth strategy. For one, given the saturation of the young adult market, Facebook has been focusing on attracting users in older demographics.

“Growth among people 35 years old and up is always accompanied by a decline among people 18 to 34,” he said. “The reason is quite simple: Once your dad is in there, it’s not cool anymore.””

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