Entrepreneurs better be prepared to compete on both mobile and desktop, since the future is not about mobile killing off desktop computing. It's about the blurring between the two categories.
In the run up to the Euro Summit hosted by Microsoft Bizspark on June 7, we asked some of the important investors in Europe what they think about startups in Europe, and what they think are important facets of the startup ecocystem. We start today with Nic Brisbourne, Partner at DFJ. He's one of the judges for the Euro Summit, and he will be assessing if there is any mojo among the 15 startups vying for the People's Choice Awards.
You can vote for your favorite, by the way.
Nic has been in Venture Capital since 2000. In that time, he has worked in London, Europe and Silicon Valley. His main areas of focus have been software and media. Nic’s investment experience includes Zeus Technology (acquired by Riverbed for $140m), buy.at (acquired by AOL for $125m) and UltraDNS (acquired by Neustar – NYSE NSR). He currently sits on the boards of Conversocial, Tribold, and WAYN. Prior to joining DFJ Esprit, Nic was with Reuters Venture Capital, a software and services start-up called Operis; and Cap Gemini.
Bizspark: Let's start with a practical question: Does a company have to have traction in order for it to be a good idea? Or, is a good business model enough? Or just a good idea? In other words, what is the first thing that catches your attention about a company’s business plan?
Nic: Great companies start as good ideas and then become businesses as they get implemented in products and get traction. We like to talk with entrepreneurs at any stage in that journey and we will sometimes invest before there is traction. In these cases the company will have developed a prototype or beta product, they just won't have got anyone to pay for it yet.
BizSpark: Now for a theoretical question: What do you think of apps as being a place where you can develop communities? Do you look for apps that have an ability to create community, or do you just look for apps that get tasks done?
Nic: With some apps the community is a crucial part of the product, but other apps are fine for solo users. Both can make great investments. We are looking at a healthcare application at the moment with a community component and one of the reasons we like it is that the community element makes it harder for would be competitors to enter the market but there are many more successful apps that are task driven e.g. Angry Birds and Kindle.
BizSpark: Mobile has been said to solve the issue of immediacy – wanting something done now. Do you think mobile solutions are creating any pressures on desktop computing? Or does desktop computing just turn into just another thing we do?
Nic: As mobile devices are becoming more powerful we are using them for more and more tasks, and that comes at the expense of the desktop, but the bigger picture is that they are no longer distinct categories. I think we have now reached the point where there is a continuum of computer devices from phones through tablets through laptops to desktops and there is no clear cut off point where mobile ends and desktop starts. So tasks are the things we do and we use the best available computer device to do them.