Mobile Is “The Great Leveler”

One of the signals I receive that I should blog something is when I start to have the same conversation over and over again with different people, or when I utter the same maxims. Today was one of those times. Someone I’ve known for a few years but haven’t seen in a while pinged me and said, “How are you able to work in and around mobile without so much experience?” That’s a good question, and well, the answer is not exactly intuitive because, frankly, I’m still surprised myself.

My answer, and the subject of this short post: “Mobile Is The Great Leveler.”

What does that mean, exactly? First, it means that mobile leavens many playing fields. I started to notice this about a year ago. I try to help a lot of friends move in and out of jobs. Some of the people I’ve been lucky to work with are at the top of their game in web technologies, but when I started to source them for full stack mobile gigs, teams were hesitant to dig in. That surprised me, and made me realize that mobile has the power to move even some of the best web developers down a few notches. Of course, people of that caliber will always be able to get web jobs, but many of them want to get into mobile. Not yet, says the market. This was the first eye-opener.

Second, because I’ve been a consultant to a good number of bigger Sand Hill firms, I began to notice there was an operational knowledge gap between many investors and what was happening on the ground in mobile. Of course, these folks are smart enough to learn mobile quickly, and have no problem finding products like Instagram, Snapchat, and Uber, among others. Now, over the next few years, more and more operators with tangible mobile experience will enter the investing field, but for now, there is a gap, and with mobile shifting under everyones’ feet (mine included), it creates new opportunities for new investors (like me) to actually jam into deals because we are able to talk mobile product, in the moment.

Third, when it comes to writing, look at some of the writers who have emerged over the last year, all focused on mobile. Old friend Steve Cheney, now with Estimote, wrote the definitive iOS7 and iPhone 5s hardware blogs over the past summer; Benedict Evans from London has emerged as the best mobile analyst, week in and week out; Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies is growing his audience on the back of his daily phone and tablet insights, honed over a decade; Ben Thompson is being read daily all the way from East Asia; and many more. I’m lucky just to have a weekly column to write about mobile every Sunday, but I mainly look to these guys for inspiration.

And, fourth, the biggest “leveler” of them all — mobile renders incumbents either on guard, or obsolete. Big websites that employ data lock-in strategies like Facebook and LinkedIn, for instance, are reduced to silo’d apps on platforms run by Apple or Google. It creates opportunities for apps like Instagram to take the most core feature of Facebook, unbundle it, and then build a new network on top of it in a market like we’ve never seen before. Today, it allows a quiet trivia app like QuizUp to launch from relatively obscurity from Iceland into a Top 10 global app.

This is why mobile is so exciting. It is the GREAT LEVELER. Everyone — including me — should be on notice.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2018 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus