Monetizing A Free App

A number of our portfolio companies that have free web/mobile apps that are monetized by advertising have offered a low-priced subscription offering that removes the ads and, often, offers offline sync on the mobile apps.

Here are some examples:

I am sure there are other examples in our portfolio but those are the ones I am most familiar with.

I like this model a lot. As Duolingo said in their Duolingo Plus launch communications, it allows a free service to remain free for those who can’t pay for it.

It also allows those who don’t want the ads to remove them. And other value added features, like offline sync, make the subscription offering compelling for power users.

Pandora’s Plus offering is a good example of this approach and, because it is a public company, we can take a look at the numbers.

In Q4

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The Hashtag

Ten years ago yesterday, August 23, 2007, Chris Messina suggested that using the # sign in a tweet could be used to group tweets about a thing (his example was barcamp).

Here is the tweet in which he made that suggestion.

There is so much I like about this story.

  1. A user suggestion became a feature simply by other users adopting it.
  2. Twitter took it a step further by recognizing the hashtag as a “thing” and making it hyperlinked in the service.
  3. The hashtag feature took off as Twitter users thought it was cool and started using it actively.
  4. Users showed that hashtags could be used for many more things than groups.
  5. The hashtag moved beyond Twitter into most popular social media applications (ie Instagram) and now has become the
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Toxic Comments

We are fortunate here at AVC. We have mostly civil and respectful conversations. People behave themselves here. That is sadly not the case everywhere.

I don’t know what the people who post comments like this are feeling and thinking. It is horrible. Awful. Hateful. Hurtful. Painful. Disgusting. Disturbing. And a lot more.

If you operate a large social media service like Twitter, Facebook, or Disqus, you get to see stuff like this every day, hundreds of times a day. It is a view of humanity that is deeply upsetting.

Disqus, which is a USV portfolio company, where I serve on the Board, and which operates the comment service here at AVC and at millions of other websites around the globe, has been working on scaleable solutions to this problem.

They posted an update yesterday on what they are doing to combat this problem.

Here are some excerpts from that

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Proxy Servers

In reaction to the Trump Administration selling us all out to the big telcos, I am dedicating this blog post to proxy services, which we should all start using.

A proxy server is a computer (in the cloud) that redirects your Internet browsing and other traffic away from your ISP to a specialized service that can do a lot of things for you.

Here is how you configure Chrome to proxy your traffic to something other than your ISP.

Here is how you configure OSX to proxy your traffic.

And you will need to select a proxy service. There are plenty of free ones out there. But you get what you pay for. If you want to have a proxy that is reliable and won’t sell your data, you should consider paying for a proxy service.

Here is a good roundup of some popular proxy services.

I am sure

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Video Of The Week: Mark Cuban At Upfront Summit

I posted the discussion my partner Andy and I did at the Upfront Summit last week. There were other great conversations at the Upfront Summit. This discussion with Mark Cuban was great. I totally agree with Mark that we need more tech companies to go public and have been saying that publicly for several years.

Fun Friday: How To Align A Business Model With A Market Position?

This was a fun twitter exchange yesterday: I can’t help but think that competing with Facebook and Google in the online advertising market is an uphill battle for Twitter. They have done a great job at building a $2bn annual advertising business that pays the bills and generates positive cash flow. I know the people who have built this ad business and they are world class. But given that Twitter’s strength is influence and impact, not page views and clicks, is there a business model that compliments the ad business that Twitter should be leaning into? As always on fun fridays, the action will be in the comments. So let’s get this discussion going.