My article on Tech, Business and Design education published by Business Insider on 04/11/2013. (http://www.businessinsider.in/IsThis-The-New-MBA/articleshow/25207983.cms)
How relevant is the MBA in a world of game-changing startups founded by increasingly younger teams and workplaces where traditional job titles and responsibilities are becoming obsolete? Social media managers, growth hackers and data scientists are positions that have come into demand not just in the newly minted Internet companies, but also in 100-year-old behemoths. How does the MBA, in its current avatar, cope with this dramatic shift in skills from generic to specific? How does it adapt to a climate of self-motivated learners turning to new learning platforms and educators that provide these new skills?
Applications to Wharton's flagship MBA programme declined by 12% over 4 years. GMAC, the body that administers the GMAT, has highlighted a steady decline in full-time MBA applications with the steepest fall of 22% in 2012. A reason attributed to Wharton's slowdown is that the school did not move fast enough with student interests shifting to entrepreneurship and technology courses. While MBA programmes have been the route, albeit an expensive one, to a Wall Street career and many corporate jobs that demand a degree, running or even working in start-ups require specific skills.
Arguments about incubators and accelerators becoming the new alternative to the MBA is narrow, considering that it is still a minority comprising those who have already become entrepreneurs. Technology, Business and Design (TBD) schools, on the other hand, focus on teaching these skills through a structured curriculum - not just to entrepreneurs but to regular people as well.
Take the case of General Assembly's (GA) success in New York. Its stated goal of 'transforming thinkers into creators' has resulted in more than 70,000 people getting trained in TBD courses in less than 2 years. GA's statement perhaps best sums up the ideology of this new generation of schools and their target customers. Whether they are entrepreneurs or employees, people always tinker with one idea or the other. And now, they have the opportunity to give it a shot.
GA, Hyper Island and other similar initiatives coming up around the world help these aspirants acquire skills - be it in coding, digital marketing, raising capital, mobile development, user experience design or product management - for making that shift to become entrepreneurs or take up jobs relevant to the domains they have specialised in. Ranging from weeks to months, these are short-duration, high-intensity courses with specific outcomes resulting in demonstrable projects.
The start looks promising. General Assembly has opened 9 global campuses since its launch in 2011 and has recently shut down its co-working space to make room for its fast-growing education business. Dev Bootcamp, a coding-focused outfit, is sold out till March 2014.
We need more of such schools. We need new retail models that make this kind of training available to people not just in large cities, but in smaller towns as well. Only then this can be a true democratisation of new skills and not one restricted to a small population reaping its benefits.
Coding has become the universal language for creating new business models and changing existing ones. Design has become the very basis on which companies compete. Running a business is no longer about increasing sales and profits alone, but understanding the art of letting go of short-term gains for long-term impact. Are MBA programmes doing enough to include these new skill sets as a part of their core curriculum? It might be worthwhile to re-assess the curriculum, duration and intended outcome of the traditional programmes in light of these changing or rather, changed circumstances.
This is, by no means, taking away the value of a B-school education, nor is it a claim that these new learning systems are replacements for an MBA. But it certainly is an alternative and a real one at that. The success of some of these programmes is the growing proof that learners see value in spending $30,000 a la carte for these skills against $2,00,000 for a generic MBA programme - 15% of the cost. It is especially attractive in an uncertain job environment with student loans crossing the $1 trillion mark and more importantly, in an era where everyone has that fighting chance of being a part of the next big start-up or has the possibility of becoming the next Zuckerberg.
When large corporations are being overturned by upstarts and struggle with the transition to a more social, open and connected world, TBD schools give us a glimpse into what could be a new form of business education.Source: WSJ1, WSJ2, Venture Beat, Forbes
Coursera today announced a network of Learning Hubs in 30 global locations offering free access and support from facilitators. This is welcome in the MOOC and online education world currently plagued by issues surrounding retention and drop-out rates. Through this move, Coursera also seems to have laid the foundation for becoming an end-to-end player in the higher ed value chain.
Felt like a soothsayer reading the news this morning about Coursera's Learning Hubs
. Six months back, I had posted my two cents around this opportunity under Fred Wilson's post on online education.
Of course I am not the only one who saw this coming. Coursera appears to be taking important steps towards solving key issues and creating new opportunities in the online education space:
1. Improving completion rates through the use of facilitators in classes and the impact of a community of like-minded learners coming together, helping and motivating each other. The current completion rate for MOOCs hovers around 10% and is touted as the main reason why some call it a 'fad'. In-person intervention with timely assistance, it's believed, can help learners stay motivated and disciplined.
2. Bringing real-world classroom effects to a pure virtual environment - right from face-to-face discussions with peers and the social constructs around classrooms leading to debates, knowledge sharing, partnerships and meaningful relationships among learners.
3. Co-opting local stakeholders - educators and institutions, assuaging the alienation some feel about new learning platforms.
4. Experimenting with new models in blended learning, industry-academic partnerships, accreditation structures and customer acquisition. A retail presence offers flexibility to adapt product offerings for geo-specific opportunities.
These hubs have potential to become meeting grounds for future entrepreneurs, artists and thinkers to collaborate on new projects versus working in silos.
The opportunity for Coursera.
Coursera's Learning Hubs open up a new revenue stream and distribution opportunity for the company. Partnering with large institutions/colleges and keeping access free of cost while a good start, sustainability and scale could come from creating a more robust, for-profit services model built on top of the core (free) content. Centres could charge learners and companies an affordable a la carte fee for a range of ancillary services such as supplementary classes by experts, individual/corporate memberships for access to the facility, and placement support - just to name a few. With the model maturing over a period of time, professional educators in the locality will also see value in offering services in these centres on a revenue/profit sharing basis with Coursera.
In the medium to long term, it might not be presumptuous for us to expect the company appointing Learning Hubs run by credible edupreneurs with local market know-how and not just large institutions. This could be based on various licensing models (product/geographic-wise) and corresponding revenue/profit share structures.
So while the naysayers lament MOOCs being another bubble riding on the wave of internet success stories, brick-and-mortar centres lend yet another higher-level of authenticity for education's online evolution making it seem more 'accessible', real and acceptable in the ecosystem - to learners, teachers and corporates.
For an organization that's been around only for over a year now, Coursera seems to be making all the right moves for bringing credibility to online education, akin to what Amazon did for e-commerce in its early days. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Coursera centre in my neighbourhood in the near future.
Test prep, the most ubiquitous thread in the lives of school students in India, is in a flux with changes in the country's examination system. Exploring the impact of these reforms on the Engineering/Medical test prep sector and a new business model that could possibly emerge.
There are three categories of test prep providers: Destination centres:
large-format players primarily focused on national exams like the IIT JEE, AIEEE (now JEE-Main) and the AIPMT. They have a few, but large centres working out of their own premises or in association with schools and colleges through an independent / integrated model. Brands: FIIT-JEE
, Bansal Classes
multi-centre players focused on regional exams like the state Entrance exams and in some cases, national exams as well. They have either large regional networks (in a State or a particular geography) or national networks with centres across the country - either direct or franchisees. Brands: TIME
, Career Launcher
, Pearson Learning Centre
individual tutors/small tutorials primarily focused on regional exams(Board/Entrance) and in rare cases, national exams. They work out of homes or offices depending upon the size of the business.
Together, these stakeholders constitute the USD 7 Bn dollar supplemental education sector in India in a USD 40 Bn market (CLSA 2009 figures). [For comparison, the US supplemental education market is worth USD 5 Bn
Using publicly available data and a rough estimate, the total organized segment is worth around USD 650 Mn or 10% of the total test prep market.
Rounding off to USD 1 Bn, that's just 15% of the market.
The unorganized players - Local stars - constituting 85% of the market, is bound to get most impacted by the impending changes in the examination system.Everything is changing.
There are three important trends in the Indian test prep space:Exams going online -
Entrance exams having been pen-and-paper for decades, tutors shunned technology, cyclostyling
was the norm and computers were only an after-thought. The online move by AIEEE, which used to be the single largest entrance exam in the country with over 1.1 million candidates, sent out a strong signal of the times to come. Exams going national -
For decades, exams have been disaggregated across states requiring students to prepare for different tests with different syllabi. The costs/logistics associated with this process was manifold and stressful for both parents and students alike. This is the reason local coaching providers exist and national players adapt products to each state exam.
But now, entry into IIT, NITs and other national institutions is regulated by one exam - the JEE(Main). [NEET, the equivalent for medical seats is awaiting a court decision].Renewed importance of Board exams and the move to a common syllabus -
Students went through the 'factory model' to prepare for the IIT-JEE/other Entrance exams ignoring the 'Boards'. The result? High ranks in the Entrance exams and poor performance in Board exams. But this has changed now. Entry to IITs, NITs and other institutions using the new JEE (Main) system also takes Board exam marks into consideration. Also, heterogenous syllabi at the Board level had created unequal testing grounds and widened the gap between the Board and Entrance exams preparation making coaching a mandatory requirement for success. Science and Math syllabi at the senior secondary level (Board exams) has now been standardized making it a level-playing field.
Though it's going to be a while before all state exams are brought under a common test and the NEET issue
(equivalent for single exam for medicine) gets resolved amicably, the writing on the wall is towards a homogenous examination system. What does this imply?
Under these new circumstances, the biggest winners are Destination centres. Having operated at the national exams level, this is a network expansion game for them (to Tier 2/Tier 3 towns) and a never-before opportunity to scale up using the same or an enhanced product mix. Their entry will have a significant impact on the business currently enjoyed by Retail and Local institutions.
On the other hand, Retail networks can make the most of this opportunity from a distribution perspective. With well-entrenched channels in place, they have to focus on ramping up product development capabilities and introducing new courses across centres. However, they will find themselves in constant battle against against the invasion by larger Destination brands that have a much stronger brand-pull and high-profile faculty. Franchisees of these Retail networks could also get severely affected as most Destination centres tend to set up direct centres in new towns.
There would be significant level of consolidation in this segment with Destination centres acquiring regional/national Retail networks for giving them immediate access and reach.
But the ones challenged most in terms of both product and distribution are the Local stars. They need help in riding changes happening in the examination system driven by technology and regulation shifts. Whereas the organized segment has access to in-house technology resources and human capital who can help leverage this situation to their advantage, the smaller players have no support/infrastructure whatsoever to make this transition successfully.
The USD 6 Bn opportunity in the Local stars space:
There is a clear opportunity to 'organize' the Local stars market. They have excellent market know-how, great local credibility and fantastic entrepreneurial drive. But they do not have product development capabilities, a strong marketing engine and the technology know-how, making this an attractive business case.
"Shastri Tutorials (ST) is a 10-year old brand in the 9th – 12th coaching segment. Prof.Ravi Shastri who started the company is a veteran in the coaching field and a well-known Physics teacher. What started as a 1000-students per year entity has now fallen to less than half the size due to increasing competition from breakaway outfits and the entry of organized players vying for the same segment. Prof.Shastri is comfortable with the current level of business, but understands change is critical to survival in the coming years. He knows what needs to be done: a general makeover - new products combining Board and Entrance tests, faculty trained on current exam trends, up-to-date material, better branding, use of digital tools that students are accustomed to these days, value additions such as network-based ranking, SMS+E-mail alerts, etc. But he also realizes that this involves a lot of money. Moreover, at 56, he lacks the know-how and capabilities to move in a whole new direction. There have been offers from the past to merge with fellow tutorials in the city, but then, he did not want to let go of a business he had so carefully nurtured over the years."
'Acme Learning' sees a clear opportunity in creating an umbrella brand and unifying these smaller players while helping them move to Ver 2.0. Their goal is to create a pan-India network bringing smaller players and mom-and-pops under the 'Acme Learning Network'.
Acme Learning Network offers the promise of a big brand combined with the trustworthiness of a local player. 'Shastri Tutorials' will now become 'Shasti Tutorials - A Acme Learning Network member'.
What will Prof.Shastri expect to gain from Acme in exchange for a small percentage of its revenues?
- Centralized product development.
Product know-how, high-quality study materials and tests in sync with the latest exam requirements that helps them compete with the larger players.
- Lower marketing/acquisition costs.
The power of a common brand signals uniform standards of quality to the market. Common pan-India marketing events aimed at brand-building and common admission drives lowering the average cost of acquisition for the members. Expensive media buys negotiated in bulk and common advertisements released bringing in huge cost savings. Exam Results ads and promotions leveraging the combined strength of the network.
- Regular teacher training.
New pedagogy and techniques. Improving teacher hiring practices. Remedial sessions over the internet. Certification systems. Reinforcement programmes. Intervention by top faculty members for specialized subjects/topics over VSAT/terrestrial internet.
- Up-to-date technology and support.
Right from centre management to student/parent communication systems and MIS. Online testing platforms. Mobile and Tablet apps integrated with course offerings. Centralized ranking for exams across the entire network (a huge plus for students in small towns). Digital classrooms.
In a single move, Shastri Tutorials gets a full makeover in terms of Brand, Product, Technology, Reach, Visibility, and Faculty. And Acme benefits from the entrepreneurial energy and experience of an existent, large tutor base. A win-win for both parties.
These are, but a few of the benefits that this model offers - the power of a large brand in terms of product, network and marketing; and at the same time the continued autonomy of managing a small business - a model of empowerment rather than that of a franchise. In a franchising system, the franchisor 'appoints' a potential partner - a teacher or in most cases, an entrepreneur looking for new opportunities - the churn rate is huge as there are capabilities mismatch or loss of interest in driving business. Customers are wary sometimes in joining franchisees (though many end up performing even better than company centres).
However, in the aforesaid model, the franchisor plays the part of an enabler who co-opts existing tutors/smaller players already operating in the space, consolidating them under one network and providing them resources that are crucial to their sustained success in a new market. In the eyes of the local market, this is the same Prof.Shastri who they have trusted all along offering a better product and service in a new avatar. He is not a stranger.
By building an organic network based on 85% of the test-prep market, a new 1000+ centres across India under a common brand looks like the big opportunity that could spurn the next wave of innovation and growth in a space, otherwise saturated by staid business models.
It's time to re-invent the test prep industry with the help of the neighbourhood tuition master.
LinkedIn's latest announcement about its foray into education was relatively quiet. Allowing High School students to join the network and introducing University Pages might look deceptively simple on the outside. But dig a little deeper and one can see a strategic move by the company towards building a new line of business and a pillar for future growth. For a company whose primary line of business is in helping you find a job, LinkedIn's entry into education could be called backward integration. Or a brilliant move that's been a long time coming. Here's why the brand is well poised to own this space.Create a new ecosystem for education players.
As of 2012, the global education market was worth USD 4.4 Trillion with the US alone constituting around 30%-roughly USD 1.4 Trillion - much larger than LinkedIn's addressable hiring market pegged at USD 27 billion (Source: LinkedIn via Forbes
A small percentage of these figures flowing through LinkedIn could be the best move by the company for its next stream of billion-dollar revenues.
LinkedIn has been connecting job-seekers with companies. And now, it has the opportunity to connect learners with learning providers.
Increase traffic to the site by leveraging the huge growth in edu-search.
Education search has been on a growth not just in the US, but in other markets as well. In 2008, India was at the 8th position in education search on Google. By 2012, it had risen to the second place with the US retaining the top position.
Not only is edu-related search growing by nearly 50% yoy in these markets, a Google-TNS 2012 survey revealed that 40% of the search queries in a market like India is for Higher Education - the segment that LinkedIn is targeting. LinkedIn can drive a large part of this burgeoning edu-search traffic to its site with its latest University Pages feature with over 200 Universities (including leading names such as Carnegie Mellon and Purdue) at launch - a move that creates a destination within LinkedIn for these institutions and their potential customers. Combined with new sign-ups coming from the 13 year + group
for whom the doors have just been opened up, this will have a significant impact on its user-growth in the near term.Ride the current wave of disruption in education.
With the growing popularity of MOOCs and other online learning initiatives, education is at the crux of a potential disruption in delivery and consumption patterns. Online enrollment as a percentage of total Higher Education admissions in the US grew to over 6 million in 2012, around 32% of total enrollment, i.e. one in three college students takes at least one online course today. LinkedIn's new target group (13 years +) will be entering this segment in the next 5 years.
By becoming a repository of learning providers - both offline and online - users can now use LinkedIn to research not just careers or companies, but institutions and courses across the spectrum, see reviews/feedback from people in their network and make informed decisions in tune with their career aspirations.
The other side of the coin.
For LinkedIn, the Education opportunity was in its backyard all the time. Giving users tools to discover the right learning providers, take relevant courses and connect with like-minded learners in order to achieve those career goals was a natural fit.
Connecting people to meaningful careers by mapping skills to appropriate education opportunities will be key to the company's sustained growth. LinkedIn will no longer be just a place that helps people discover careers, but one that helps them maximize opportunities by guiding users through multiple jobs, linking opportunities to skill-sets and thereby relevant education/learning providers.
Also, by expanding the age-bracket for joining the site to 13 years, LinkedIn will acquire users young-at a stage where discussions around college begins-effectively ensuring that it becomes the brand that stays from college to career.
Create another powerful, yet diversified revenue portfolio.
Unlike Facebook which derives majority of its revenues from advertising, LinkedIn generates most of its money from Talent Solutions (>50%) and the balance split almost equally between marketing and premium profile solutions.
The nature of the platform and its structure lends the new education business to similar revenue models. I have made a few obvious postulations.
However LinkedIn's larger opportunity in education could come from enabling Application/Enrollment and other related transactions around this activity. This could be the scene in the near future - Learners signed up from the time they are 13 years old with their profile, academic records, online certifications and achievements along the way and Universities on the other side wanting to connect with these learners (most importantly, with those who are the best fit for them). Using data available, LinkedIn can enable transactions between these parties - be it a student applying to a University or a working professional enrolling in an online course; similar to how job-seekers use the platform today for applying to companies.
For instance, there are close to 4000 + Higher Education institutions in the US alone. Over 750,000 students use the Common App
to submit over 3 million applications every year paying USD 60 on an average per application. As a USD 180 Mn dollar business opportunity, that might look chump change to LinkedIn. But when you expand that to multiple segments, multiple providers, multiple countries, the numbers are huge.
If LinkedIn can make applying to a University or just about any course as simple as applying for a job, that's a game changer.Use data to create a Learning/Skills graph for the world.
The jury is still out on Facebook's Graph Search. But this could work very well for LinkedIn in the context of Education + Careers considering the strong linkage between the two.LinkedIn has data on each of its 200 mn members - be it education, skills, certifications, and careers. Apart from having mined this data for creating a (sparingly-used) LinkedIn Skills page, imagine the possibilities of linking this data to education.
By combining the Learner Graph (the graph of learners connected to each other) with the Learning Graph (the graph of courses that are connected to each other), LinkedIn will be able to predict learning patterns, emerging skill-sets and meaningful data that helps the world learn better for gainful employment. A college student who uses LinkedIn search for "Courses required to become a Financial Analyst" should be able to get the right set of courses and a recommended career path as well.
A new 'network within a network' is emerging.
Expect education to take a important two-digit percentage place within LinkedIn's financial reports in the next five years. Some news articles talked about how Facebook should have been the ideal platform for this market considering its history with campuses. But you are on Facebook for different reasons - take BranchOut's
failure as a case in point. LinkedIn on the other hand is organically aligned to succeed with the education market. Finally, success in Ed Tech is not just about the product. It's about having the right sales organization in place. Unless you have millions in the bank to feed feet-on-street, breaking into educational institutions is tough. In the larger context, LinkedIn's ability to succeed in this new market might lie in just the fact that they have a large sales team in place. The company's sales and marketing spend at 33% of revenues is already the highest in its category (Facebook ~15%). Also, quarter on quarter, its offline sales shadows online sales (Source: LinkedIn annual report). Selling into education would now become an additional task in the hands of an experienced sales team with additional products contributing to their portfolio and incentives.
The question is whether the company will be able to pull it off? Education as a play is different considering the socio-cultural issues around it, be it reducing costs (can they make some part of the value-chain less expensive?) or offering higher quality of information (can they ensure unbiased recommendations?).
If LinkedIn is able to position itself as a dependable brand for learners and educators offering relevant tools that address their needs meaningfully, the largest professional network could become the largest education network soon.
Last update: 16th September 2013.
Doing a short survey on the captioned subject. If you are an Educator/Learning Provider, much appreciated if you can take a few minutes to complete this survey. Thanks in advance!
PS: Shouldn't take more than 3 to 4 mins in my estimation.
Amidst the Ed Tech debates on what's real and what's not, here are some examples and observations on what's working. Edmodo
A social network primarily used in k-12 by 18 million people as of March 2013, here's a quick look at their growth stats:
- End of 2012: 15 million
- End of 2011: 5 million
- End of 2010: 1 million (Sept 2010: 0.5 million)Source: Edmodo blog.TES
A destination for teachers to share resources and find jobs. Used by 52 Million and bringing in over USD 100 Mn in revenue in 2012 (reportedly half of that in profits
).Teachers Pay Teachers
A site for Teachers to sell resources (lesson plans et al) to each other. Has facilitated USD 30 million
worth of transactions so far.
What's the common thread running across these three Ed Tech stars?
1. Focus on the right stakeholder.
Edmodo does this by putting power in the hands of the teacher who 'creates' a group for her class and invites her students to 'join' the group. And the magic starts from that simple action. The teacher is the 'primary driver' in this case and the other stakeholders (students, parents, administrators) follow.
On the other hand, if you are working in the test prep market, the learner may becomes your 'primary driver'.
It's not about alienating either. It's about who you start with and who will drive that market for you.
2. Focus on creating superlative value
for that stakeholder.
Apart from helping manage classes, assignments and grades, Edmodo helps teachers connect with each other in a meaningful way and share resources within the network.
On the other hand, TES helps teachers find better jobs, besides giving them access to resources.
TPT helps teachers generate a second line of income from the resources they create. Some teachers have made more than USD 300 k from TPT sales.
How is your Ed Tech tool helping the aspirations of stakeholders - be it becoming a better teacher, finding a job or making additional income?
Or as a tool for the learner, how does it improve performance in a class; an exam; a project in a tangible,demonstrable manner?
Ed Tech is not about 'cool'. It's about making something that finds time in a busy teacher's (or student's) calendar of school work and assignments. And buying time from a learner/educator is not possible unless it organically fits into the scheme of things. Make your tool a natural extension.
3. Focus on reducing transaction friction
Selling to schools is tough. There are far too many stakeholders involved and it's a solid feet-on-the-street effort with a long sales cycle. And selling, like any other business, is the most difficult part of running an Ed Tech startup too. How does one find mind-space among hundreds of others jostling for the same attention?
Edmodo's move is brilliant and the right step in the direction of selling education tools by reducing this friction involved in the sales process. Their marketplace allows third-party developers to sell free/paid apps to the Edmodo community.
What's different? The way they went about it. By keeping the site free, adding features consistently and connecting with the community meaningfully through events such as EdmodoCon, Edmodo has become a way of life with teachers and students. And with 18 million + users, it's no longer an alien name to the administrators.
So when a teacher wants to buy an app from the Edmodo marketplace, the friction is minimal because:
- the administrator knows Edmodo
- the administrator knows that it's trustworthy
- the administrator knows that buying has become more of a transactional activity (on account of the two points above) and not about listening to a sales guy
- the administrator still has the power to sanction purchasing credit for buying apps
The trust has come from the community and buying a tool has become sort of a 'one-click' affair.
Edmodo has made the whole aspect of buying not a 'violent', but a pleasant seamless experience.
In fact, I would peg Edmodo as one of the few Ed Tech start-ups on its way to cracking the sell/distribution piece. Imagine a AppStore for education with a majority of the k-12 (and potentially the Higher Ed) market using it and thousands of developers riding on it. That's one solid supply chain in place.
Focusing on the right stakeholder + Creating superlative value + Enabling frictionless transaction = a potentially successful Ed Tech company. That's my take.
Do you agree? What do you think? I would love to hear your feedback.
1. TES was acquired by TPG in a deal worth USD 600 Mn this year.
This is a short post. I read this morning that the Google Latitude service has been pronounced dead.
Though we don't use it often (or rather,at all), the point is when you get something free, there are always strings attached. And the biggest one of them all is the 'we might just shut down this service if we want to' risk.
I used Google Bookmarks for a while now. Yesterday I moved to bit.ly. Chances are Google might find bookmarking not to be a business core to their strategy and decide to shut the service. However chances of that happening to bit.ly looks remote since that's what they do (apart from link-shortening) and even if they get acquired, there is a higher probability of the service continuing for its core business.
I don't want to use Google Takeout again to transfer my bookmarks. But I might be willing to pay bit.ly a bit (pun intended) to make sure the bookmarks that I have accumulated over the years stay in a single place and something more (analytics, tracking etc).
And think about the impact of such shutdown decisions on much more emotional and sensitive stuff like photos? What if Flickr decides to flip it one day? Unlikely, but did we really expect Posterous to die? Or for that matter, a harmless-doesn't-cost-much-to-Google (in a relative sense) service like the Google Reader to go away?
As a consumer, paying for peace-of-mind and convenience is good sometimes. So when you are asked to do so, think about the shutdown/loss/inconvenience impact before you cringe. At least you know the business makes money and will not wind up or die at the hands of a large conglomerate that does not find it important anymore.
And as an entrepreneur, running a business that gives peace of mind to consumers and charges for it is good. Next time you are busy ideating the next Facebook (free for life et al), step back and see if it makes sense to attack the biggies by promising to staying true to consumers and asking them to pay for something that means a lot to them.
Great talk by Fred Wilson
of Union Square Ventures.
2. Instant utility.
3. Voice (personality).
4. Less is more.
And this is golden: MARKETING has to be IN the product.
Mobile is an obvious one to Fred's list (he mentions it outside the 10 above).