Teens are officially over Facebook

(Paul Walsh/Flickr)

By Caitlin Dewey

Since children are the future, and no one over 21 really knows what they find “cool” (do the kids even say cool these days…?), researchers have devoted many, many surveys to the exact quantification of what it is #teens do online.

In May 2013, they were fleeing Facebook’s “drama.” A year later, they flocked back to the network like lil’ lost sheep.

Now, a pretty dramatic new report out from Piper Jaffray — an investment bank with a sizable research arm — rules that the kids are over Facebook once and for all, having fled Mark Zuckerberg’s parent-flooded shores for the more forgiving embraces of Twitter and Instagram. Between fall 2014 and spring 2014, when Piper Jaffray last conducted this survey, Facebook use among teenagers aged 13 to 19 plummeted from 72 percent to 45 percent. In other words, less than half of the teenagers surveyed said “yes” when asked if they use Facebook. (A note: There’s no spring data available for the “no networks” option, which is why that spot is blank.)

Surveys of this type are, of course, a dime a dozen, and teen whims are as volatile as Twitter’s trending hashtags. That said, Piper Jaffray’s research is pretty thorough: It surveyed a national group of 7,200 students and accounted for variables like gender and household income.

Among the survey’s other findings: Kids love Apple products above any other consumer tech brand, though only a sliver — 16 percent — were interested in the iWatch. They overwhelmingly predicted that, by 2019, they’d watch all their movies on Netflix. They’re cooling on Pandora radio, which has seen a host of streaming apps and other competitors crop up in the past five years.

Alas, none of this helps explain why teens like the things they do, a question as old and impenetrable as time. Both research and anecdote would suggest, of course, that it has something to do with the presence of adults on the site, as well as the typically high-school plagues of oversharing and in-fighting. The recent rise of anonymous social apps — things like Whisper and Yik Yak, which is dominated by college students — would also seem to suggest a youthful wish to escape the confines and responsibilities of a fixed online identity. (Facebook certainly seems to worry that’s the case: On Tuesday the New York Times reported that the Web site was working on an anonymous, stand-alone messaging app of its own.)

That should perhaps worry parents, of both the helicopter and cool-Dad variety: You can’t really interact with — or “check up on” — your kids on Whisper the way you do on ye olde FB. (Whisper users don’t have friends and go on under pseudonymous usernames, which, arguably, is the app’s main draw.)

Facebook needn’t panic, though. Even if it’s namesake platform is now totally passe, the kids still love Instagram — so Zuck wins, either way.

Growthink Exhibits at LAEDC 2015 Economic Forecast

On October 8th, LAEDC presented the 2015 Economic Forecast Event.

LAEDC’s twice-yearly economic forecast events provide insight and planning information to our members, partners, LA County leaders, and the general public.  For this event, LAEDC shifted its format to include a five-year planning horizon, and with the help of our guests such as Cal State University Chancellor Timothy White and expert panelists, we discussed the drivers in the economy related to education and skills.

The industry panel discussed how their workforce needs are changing and made recommendations on the skills needed to remain relevant and in-demand

  • Jodie Lesh of Kaiser Permanente
  • Michael Bissonette of AeroVironment, and Steve Nissen of NBC Universal
  • Art Yoon, FilmLA
  • David Rattray of LA Area Chamber of Commerce
Growthinkers Myke Andrews, Luke Brown and Justin Goodkind represented Growthink, below.

The full industry report is available here.

Tips on Negotiating a Termsheet

Last year, OpenTable founder and all-around great guy, Chuck Templeton, asked me to put together a talk on negotiating termsheets for participants in his Impact Engine program. Although Chuck thought he was asking a favor of me, I found the process of organizing my thoughts on negotiating termsheets (and in general) a personally useful exercise. Below is a digest of the talk including some of my tips.

You see, I got a “B” grade in my negotiations class at Chicago Booth. It’s my own fault for not doing a great job on my final paper. The only time I’ve ever tried to discuss a final grade with a professor (in undergrad or grad) was that class, since I figured that a negotiations professor would have no choice but to appreciate a student trying to negotiate a better grade. The professor never responded to my request for a meeting, which branded upon my forehead one of the great tactics in negotiations: don’t negotiate at all. Well that’s why he was the professor and I was the student.


Ever since then, I’ve been trying to make up for my “B” and have given much thought to the many negotiations I’ve been through in the last 13 years (including buying cars). I’ve paid close attention to great negotiators and bad ones.


Sharing these tips may come as a surprise to people– a VC sharing the secrets of negotiating?! But I don’t see it that way. My philosophy is that I want an entrepreneur to understand in detail the deal they are signing up for. Anything different results in disappointment and a bad partnership eventually. A good negotiator on the other side will express the principles behind their goals (not positions) and we can get to a solution (or not) quickly. Bad negotiators hide their true intentions, obfuscate and confuse, which makes it much harder for the other party to fashion an agreement that satisfies the counterparty. It’s like refusing to tell your spouse what types of gifts you would like for the holidays– you are less likely to be happy with the outcome, or worse yet maybe you won’t get a gift at all!


Not all negotiation tactics/strategies are applicable for all situations. And the approach you use will also depend on your personality and style. It will also depend on your business. For example, distressed investors negotiate with the power and asymmetric leverage of certain doom as an alternative to their deal. Yet a different approach is required for the president of the tiny country of Maldives trying to convince world powers to stem global warming (see the film The Island President in my list of documentaries). So this advice below is applicable in situations where there is balanced leverage.


I like to approach negotiating and a problem solving exercise. I find that makes it less confrontational and less uncomfortable for everyone. When I was negotiating the Base CRM investment, Uzi and I sat at a Carribou Coffee on Clark Street with the cap table in front of us on one computer, and we would just change the numbers together to find something that was fair, Excel goal seek be damned.


Here are some of my observations from great negotiators over the years:
Some of these are worth highlighting. Finding “trades” is a great one that you learn playing Monopoly. When two people assign different values to items in a negotiation, there arises a great opportunity to trade. Without Park Place, Boardwalk isn’t as valuable to you as it is to the owner of Park Place. And if that owner has a property you need to complete a monopoly, that they in turn value differently than you do, there’s a good chance for a deal. This is a great example of how negotiation can create net value– both sides gain. This is opposed to value-claiming, when creativity doesn’t result in more total value- it’s just a land-grab for the existing value. Given the endless customization of termsheets, there usually lies opportunity to create value for those who are creative. So when in a negotiation and there is disagreement about what terms are important, that’s generally great news!


Seeking fair deals may also surprise some as a tip. I’ve seen countless examples of deals that were funded with unfair terms in earlier rounds. Regardless of which side “won” the negotiation, it winds up biting in later rounds, especially as one side feels scorned.


And in contrast, here are some of the mistakes I’ve seen lousy negotiators make:


There is one mistake I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs make that ultimately costs them: singular focus on valuation. The truth is that economic value in a termsheet is a function of many terms: pre-money valuation, liquidation preference, size of the option pool, if the option pool is pre or post money, warrants, anti-dilution provisions, dividends, etc. Good negotiators treat all of these as a package. And while each of these economic terms have different magnitude and behavior (some are a function of time, some emphasize downside others upside, likelihood of being negotiated away), they all play a part in the overall economic outcome for a founder. I understand that it’s more impressive to the market to have a big valuation, and no one is going to write a blog post highlighting your small, post-money option pool. It’s just not as exciting. But if all of the PR and personal pride is at the expense of all the other economic terms, that ability to brag has a real cost to it. Per-money valuation is like the MSRP of a car– every educated person knows that’s not what it’s really worth, and that there are a lot of factors that determine the true value.


So good luck on whatever you are negotiating. And here’s to hoping that my former professor reads this post….

Definitive Guide to Crowdfunding Sites (Infographic)

In the last few years, the crowdfunding scene has exploded. Now there are hundreds of platforms to choose from, with more popping up every day. But which crowdfunding site is best for your small business? Or charitable cause? We covered 26 Top Crowdfunding Sites by Niche, and now we've created an infographic with all the essential details. 

Check it out! 

26 top crowdfunding sites to choose from for your next campaign

Melissa Welch

Director of Client Development



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The All-You-Can-Eat Apps Mobile Trend Coming From Asia

Editor’s note: Jay Eum is a co-founder and managing director of Translink Capital.

Although the word “disrupt” has taken a lot of flak recently, there are still innovations that can reorder an entire market – and one has just crossed the Pacific Ocean.

On Tuesday, August 19, Sprint announced the release of App Pass, a subscription service that allows customers to access a curated selection of premium apps and games for $4.99 per month. Subscribers also get a monthly $5 credit to spend on in-app purchases. Essentially, it is Netflix for mobile apps.

This announcement sparked little interest from mainstream media. However, if you look at the rise of app-bundling in East Asia, you’ll understand why this business model could disrupt mobile development and consumption throughout the U.S.

Telecom Operators Strike Back

According to a March press release from KDDI Corporation, Japan’s second-largest cellular service, the company’s app-bundling program called “au Smart Pass” reached 10 million subscribers just two years after launching. For the basic au Smart Pass, subscribers pay ¥372 per month, or roughly $3.50 USD for unlimited use of more than 100 apps. This means that KDDI, now the county’s largest app bundler, is raking in a half billion per year from the app market.

This is significant because up until KDDI and its competitors introduced app-bundling, telecom providers were effectively cut out of the app ecosystem. Back in late 1990s and early 2000s –the days of the Nokia 6110, Motorola RAZR and games like Snake – telecom operators owned the distribution channel for all services and applications, which was appropriately labeled as their “walled garden”. When the Apple App Store launched in 2008, that monopoly ended. App developers, Apple and eventually Google both captured the market for extra services and applications. Through app-bundling, telecom providers finally get piece of the action back.

Considering that Sprint is owned by SoftBank, Japan’s third largest cellular provider and one of KDDI’s bundling competitors, it is no surprise that they are the first carrier in the U.S. market to offer an app-bundled subscription. In fact, App Pass is the first coordinated service launched together by Softbank and Sprint since the completion of their merger in July 2013. Although Sprint now has a lead on Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, I suspect that App Pass may soon face stiff competition. Much the way that NTT DoCoMo launched their own app-bundled service about a year after KDDI, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile may try to launch similar services in the near future.

So Who Wins?

If app-bundling takes off – and I suspect it will – we should consider this a win for app developers, consumers, cellular operators and Apple and Google. Let’s imagine that for a $1 premium app, currently 30 cents goes to the App Store or Google Play, and 70 cents goes to the developer. With a bundler like Sprint in the equation, perhaps the developers takes 35 cents and give the other half to Sprint, which will put the app in front of more than 50 million mobile subscribers.

In terms of customer acquisition and marketing, that is a tremendous win for most app developers. The expanded user base will offset the acquisition cost. App-bundling is also a great deal for any consumers that spend money on apps – especially since the $5 credit each month to spend on in-app purchases offsets the $4.99 monthly subscription fee.

The App Store and Google Play don’t necessarily lose anything in this new dynamic. They still take their cut from downloads and in-app transactions. Interestingly, iOS 8 is actually going to let developers create their own bundles with up to 10 apps, but Apple is not yet facilitating a bundled subscription model like Sprint’s.

So app-bundling appears to be a win-win-win for everyone involved. It is extraordinarily lucrative in East Asia, and it appears likely to succeed here. Device makers like Samsung, HTC and Sony may try to come out with their own app bundles, too. This would create competition among bundlers and exert pressure to curate the best selection of apps.

However, app-bundling services are not as simple as they sound. Somebody has to integrate SDKs and connect everything to a billing system that enables revenue sharing on the back end. This is probably why Sprint outsourced this function to Mobiroo, according to the App Pass press release. Carriers may have the resources to replicate this technology, but how quickly? What will waiting cost in the long run?

Will NFC Arrive Next?

The irony of app-bundling coming to America so quickly is that the U.S. has, for over a decade, withheld from importing one of Asia’s most popular mobile technologies: Near Field Communication (NFC). It undergirds the entire public transportation and point-of-sale (POS) infrastructure in both Japan and Korea. In fact, in Korea you need to use the T-Money NFC payment cards if you want to transfer buses and subways at no extra charge.

With Apple embedding NFC technology into the iPhone 6, this could be a year where we see two major mobile trends spread from Asia to North America. NFC technology would allow your smartphone, smartwatch or other wearable device to store information and complete transactions for public transportation, e-money payments, boarding passes, ID cards, loyalty points and more.

Whereas app-bundling can launch and scale within a year or two, NFC mobile payments will take longer to gain a foothold. The U.S. has been slow to adopt most POS technology because infrastructural upgrades are madly expensive. For example, the total estimated cost of adopting Chip-and-PIN (EMV) card technology in the U.S. ranges from $15 billion to $30 billion, according The New York Times. For NFC, too, every point-of-sale terminal would need to be replaced. In places like Japan and Korea, which have high population densities and small land masses, the costs and speed of transitioning to NFC weren’t as daunting. In U.S., NFC won’t pay off or catch on very quickly. In contrast, app-bundling will produce a quick return on investment.

The Future of U.S.-Asia Mobile Exchange

The U.S. and Asia have a habit of exchanging mobile trends, and the Asian trends often seem ridiculous to Americans technologists. The first camera phones came out in Japan in 2000, but at U.S. tech conferences in 2002 and 2003, panelists were still debating why anyone would want to take photos with their cellphones. Speaker phones, color screens and SMS were once controversial topics in the U.S tech community.

It’s inaccurate to say that the U.S. is always behind Asia in mobile technology. Let’s not forget that Apple created the app ecosystem in the first place. Cross-pollination between markets is one of the keys to sustaining global innovation. Foreign mobile markets can become laboratories for observing what business models and technologies will or will not work. So far, app-bundling is thriving in the markets where it has been introduced.

So here’s the takeaway: based on KDDI’s au Smart Pass’s rapid success in Japan, app-bundling has the potential to disrupt the North American mobile market within a few years. While North America will start following Asia towards NFC, adoption will be significantly slower, even if the iPhone 6 does include a NFC chip. Before you spend too heavily on individual apps or a new wallet, recognize that both are in line for disruption.

Great work by Marci Haire of Growthink's Expert Market Research Team!

Awesome client testimonial for work done by research analyst Marci Haire! Great job!

"I clicked through to the Growthink website with some trepidation - most internet promises are only virtual.

On completing the process - after watching an engaging video (if you like to read!) - I was surprised at how easy it was to acquire (download) the Business Plan. A minor glitch connecting with the Market Research section was quickly resolved as there was a real person monitoring the web stuff. Another surprise. And when the report I asked for came through, it really came through! I had expected something pretty generic, and not australian specifically. Wrong on both counts. Delighted on all other counts.

Thanks Growthink - you made me think I could grow."
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