Tag Archives: Peter Drucker

Disruption Daily: Early Thoughts on Facebook Graph Search

Peter Drucker dies at 95

Big tech news today with Facebook announcing its new Facebook Graph Search.  Wall Street apparently didn’t like the news, sending FB down -2.74% on a day the rest of the market was pretty sharply up.  I might need to lean in and pick some up.

I think it is a big tech story for 2013.  I agree with David Weekly’s initial observation that this is a serious ongoing threat to Google.  It’s a pretty obvious step for Facebook and I think its going to pay off for a few basic reasons.

First, it starts to highlight in a very mainstream way how Facebook has, in effect, become the internet for many people.  People are spending so much time on Facebook that it makes sense that FB would invest in convening a “Dream Team” of Google Search engineers to do some semantic forking and NLP stuff to make Facebook the place you go for search.  It makes all the more sense when you consider that Facebook content isn’t really searchable via Google–I can’t go to Google and search for that status update, photo, or meme you posted.  Just doesn’t work.  So an obvious strategic move.

Will it succeed?  I’m bullish.  It’s one of these strategies where Facebook’s chocolate meeting the peanut butter of search seems to fit really nicely.  Certainly it seems a lot smoother of a fit than Google trying to veer into social with G+.  (With Marissa Mayer taking her talents to Yahoo, I think Google’s push into social is perhaps even more at risk, as her fingerprints in terms of user experience and design were so pervasive.)

Second, I think that there are a variety of scenarios where FB search could be quite disruptive in the shorter term–with local in particular.  We are all connected to friends through Facebook, and I’d bet that a lot of accounts have a huge portion of friend connections who are nearby.  The next time you need to know whether that new Chinese place is any good, are you really going to go to Yelp or Google, or would you like to see that 6 of your friends had “Liked” the place on Facebook.  Local is a big kahuna market, and FB has a nice route to going after it.

Third, it’s a winning move in that FB is growing engagement and retention, and search (along with mobile) gives it a new avenue to continue driving this lift.  Surely there’s an opportunity to go for the jugular over time with Google, and this is good for the industry.

A final point on Facebook’s capacity to disrupt Google in a major way… I remember reading an interview of Peter Drucker in 1997 or 1998, around the time that the Department of Justice was lining up to take on Microsoft for anti-trust violations.  The interviewer asked the father of modern management what his opinion was on the anti-trust case. His answer, basically, was that in the case of the technology industry, the market moves too quickly.  When a company becomes as big as Microsoft  the seeds for obsolescence are in a sense already planted.  He forecast that based on Microsoft’s size, some small, disruptive company that no one had yet heard of would step up to take on Microsoft in relatively short order.  Though there’s no reason to think Drucker had ever heard of them in 1998 when the interview happened, it’s pretty clear that he was prophesizing Google.

Now certainly we’ve all heard of Facebook, so this time around is a little different.  But at the same time, it’s not lost on me that in the same week that the Department of Justice announced it would not pursue action on Google after 2 years of investigation–the true sign of being a tech behemoth–Facebook announced its Facebook Graph Search.

 

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I Second That Emotion

Image representing Mixpanel as depicted in Cru...

There’s a management aphorism attributed to Peter Drucker that goes something like this “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”   This was on my mind, as I read Liz Gannes’ great article on AllThingsD today covering Mixpanel founder Suhail Doshi‘s call for an end to Bullsh*t Metrics.  His basic point is that technology companies have not innovated enough on how they think about measuring their businesses.  He’s calling BS.

Pageviews, installs and total installed base are out.  Engagement and retention are in.  This makes a lot of sense.

When I meet with very early stage startups, as I did last week at AppNation for VC Office Hours, I find myself repeating a few of the same points again and again.  Very early stage companies (i.e., pre-product or pre-product-market fit) tend to want a sense for how many installs or pageviews they need to attract an investor.

My answer heads a different direction.  To me, the first thing I want to see is evidence of what I think of as early product market fit.  Rather than showing me installs, show me that any small number of users that truly, with concrete evidence, really want your product.   This is actually more difficult to do than you might think.  It requires that the startup can show engagement and retention over a period of time.  And it requires that the startup is thinking about what how it measures user engagement in a manner that’s specific to that specific company.

This perspective seems aligned with Doshi’s feedback.  One thing that I liked a great deal in his post was his recommendation that startups focus on One Key Metric (OKM).  The idea is that tracking 1 actionable metric that “they can literally bet their business on.” Companies picking OKM have to deeply understand their business and what is driving growth and success in order to do so.  This reminds me of discussions that I’ve read of Facebook and Twitter‘s early growth, where FB started to realize that if a user added 7+ friends, that the likelihood that that user would become a retained user went up dramatically.  Similarly Twitter found some number (I don’t recall what the number was) of followers where, when attained, a user would be much more likely to be retained.

This mode of thinking and focus on OKL is smart–it focuses the leaders of a company on understanding, deeply, what users are doing on their service and what drives value to the user.  Hard to argue with this.

BRV portfolio company, Thumb, where I serve on the board, has been drilling in on it’s on OKM.  (I can’t disclose what the metric is.)  It’s been exciting to watch how the focus is leading to increasing retention and engagement, which as publicly reported is already quite high.

In any case, if you’re a startup in the tech space, I recommend reading Doshi’s post and contemplating what your OKM is.

 

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