Founders (and the investors who back them) face the perennial challenge how to build barriers that will keep competitors at bay. Historically, tech VCs have focused on projects solving difficult technology problems that won’t be replicated easily, quickly or cheaply.
While certainly a viable strategy, focusing too rigidly on it will lead investors to miss out on many of the more compelling Consumer Internet opportunities. The biggest Consumer Internet successes typically have offered little or no real technology innovation. Rather, they addressed a real consumer problem with a product that users loved, grew rapidly, and ultimately built barriers either by deeply entrenching themselves in a user’s daily life, and/or by creating network effects. Meanwhile, competitors with more interesting technical innovation but less compelling user experiences failed to get adoption.
The lesson for me is this: the first challenge for consumer facing businesses is to build an awesome product that users love. This is table stakes to winning the market, and, for me the sine qua non to making seed stage consumer investments. As a consequence, at Resolute we typically look for awesome product/user experience founders, and we often pick teams focused on delighting users over teams with more impressive or ambitious technical innovation.
This is especially the case in mobile, where we believe great opportunities exist around the core utilities on the smartphone (think email, instant messaging, calendar, photos, etc) to displace 1.0 incumbents with a massively better user experience. Our first foray here fits the description well. The MessageMe team, whose product and UX chops we knew well from having backed them at Lolapps, is trying to own the messaging icon on our phone by offering a user experience far more compelling than what other very large and well backed teams have mustered. Only time will tell, but we think their intense focus on delighting users is going to win.
Today, I am happy to announce that we are making our next bet along the same theme, and are leading a seed financing for Sunrise. Sunrise launched recently with a beautiful calendaring app, and is rapidly iterating to deliver more and more calendaring joy. As with messaging, we believe the owner of the calendar icon on your phone will build a massive business, and we are betting that the team best able to delight its users is going to win. For our money, that team is Sunrise