Thursday, October 6, 2011

Four Macros I Would Invest In

Recently I've been much more interested in exploring investment opportunities, more for intellectual curiosity than anything else. As PerBlue develops in its market and among its competitors, evaluating other markets is one of the most important things I can do in my current role as CEO. Investors often think in a very similar fashion.

So let’s get right to the point. I think one of this most important aspects of making a successful business is putting yourself in the right market and industry [this is a macro]. Often the macro is even more important than the product, and in some cases, happens before you even have a team. Macros are critical for investment, especially when there is so little certainly in a particular product or new team. With a good macro selection, even a poorly executed company can thrive and grow by pivoting and finding out who they are and who they should become.

Here are four macros that I think rock.

1. Gamification of Real-World Verticals
This is taking game design, referral marketing, business metrics, user psychology, and emotional attachment and integrating all of them into a vertical non-gaming business segment. FourSquare has already gamified traveling to and trying out new places by incentivizing users with a points and badge system. Here are a few other possibilities:
  • Games and leaderboards at the gym. Who benched the most weight last week?
  • Banks could reward their account holders by applying lottery mechanisms to adding money into a saving accounts each month.
  • Math homework would be so much more fun if completing it earned you achievement points and placement on a leaderboard at school.

2. Customer Acquisition Platforms
One of the hardest problems in every business (product or service) is finding a good source of customers. This is an extremely huge problem, but when improved, is something that can provide a lot of money and capital. When you look at some of the biggest tech companies you'll see on thing in common.
  • What is Google AdWords? A search-based tool for attracting customers.
  • What is Facebook? A viral marketing tool to reach customers.
  • What is Amazon? A platform to drive customers to products.

Each of these companies core product is a platform for customer discovery and acquisition. I would love to see more customer acquisition platforms being developed and implemented.

3. Business Metrics
At PerBlue we use metrics extensively to improve our business. Metrics are an amazingly powerful tool and a huge trend right now. By putting the right measurements in place, any business can quickly discover the current status of their model and improve upon it.

In a lot of ways, the business metrics space is still very underdeveloped. I think the data tracking and question asking/answering business is going to be huge. Why? Because businesses are always trying to improve, and outsourcing to a company to collect data, analyze it and make suggestions to help improve a business will be absolute gold. Here are a few businesses that I think will grow from the Analytics Revolution:
  • Analytical Technology Companies: Provide reporting, querying tools, tracking sensors, and data acquisition systems.
  • Analytic Staffing Companies: Provide staffing resources for measuring, collecting and running analysis, and then using the data to create concrete solutions for the needs of a business.

New businesses could also be a mixture of the two, or even just provide detail metrics systems for different vertical business.

4. Virtual Goods / Currency Connected Businesses
We've learned the power of virtual goods and currencies with Parallel Kingdom. I see a growing segment of businesses and products that can also utilize this business model. Some basic products similar to Tapjoy's product line, with things like branded virtual goods and virtual goods for charities, you could provide analytic tools for monitoring and measuring your goods and currencies. There is also an opportunity to be a middle market for the trading of these virtual currencies, or aggregate currencies for alternative payment sources. Another option is to become the bank for different virtual currencies. You could also be an auction house or a secured trading broker for different goods across markets.

The thing I love most about business is that once you are neck deep in one area, you can see much clearer how to get neck deep in another vertical or market. If you are building a business in one of the spaces I mentioned above, I'd love to hear about it. Please feel free to reach out to me, I'll provide some critical feedback, and would love to help you.

For those who are currently in different macros, I encourage you to ask yourself, “Is this a great macro to be in?”