Here’s to Bamboom (now Aereo)!

We are very excited today to announce our investment in Bamboom Labs (now Aereo).  This opportunity brings together all things one could ask for in a venture investment – a great team, a big, disruptive idea, a large market, and a cool web site.

Bamboom was started by Chet Kanojia, an entrepreneur I had the great fortune to invest in and get to know for many years at Navic Networks.  Navic was an outstanding company bought by Microsoft in 2008 in a very successful outcome.  They were one of the few positive, large exits in the interactive television space, and Chet’s leadership was a big part of that.  Chet’s last round of capital came just after the bubble burst in 2001, and he managed it brilliantly until our ultimate exit.  Joining Chet at Bamboom as CTO is Joe Lipowski.  Joe is a brilliant technologist and RF engineer we’ve known for a long time as well.  We backed the spin out of Celiant from Lucent, and Joe was the CTO at Celiant (acquired by Andrew for $470MM).  When Chet began to talk to us about his idea, it was a no-brainer to put the two together.  The team around these guys is equally talented and truly best in class.

The idea is quite simple yet technically complex and brilliant.  Bamboom wants to enable customers to experience broadcast TV, over the Internet, to any device, without all of the headaches associated with accessing it today.  They have combined brilliant RF engineering with wonderful software design to create an incredible consumer experience.  More details will emerge as we roll out of closed beta, but suffice to say it looks fantastic.  This is what a next generation television experience should look like.  Fully integrated, portable, native social integration, rich interactivity.  As consumers shift television consumption online, we will see new content, commerce and advertising opportunities that we can only begin to imagine.

We are delighted to partner with Chet and our co-investors on the journey!

Here Comes Android

Certain things are all about timing.  My situation with my smartphone is one of them.  I have grown incredibly frustrated with AT&T’s service on the iPhone, to the point where I am close to a breaking point.  3-4 drops on a stationary 30 minute call with full bars?  As much as I love the iPhone with all its applications, there are definitely a few things I would change about how it handles email support.  I can’t help but think back to the simple but reliable days of my Verizon Blackberry (putting aside of course my VC requirement to have an iPhone).  I am vulnerable, I am questioning, I am searching for how this gets better.  Timing could not be better for some solution to this, as so far, the only answer has been to hope the iPhone continues to innovate and launches on Verizon in 18 months.  As those doubts have come creeping in, I see the promising “iDon’t”, “Droid Does” ads from Verizon, causing me to pause and think.  And I don’t think I’m the only one.

Android itself comes at an impeccable time.  The entire industry is in pain, with the exception of Apple, who is now suffering from the woes of its partner’s network.  The industry is crying out for a viable third party, open solution.  Windows Mobile is currently getting terrible reviews, Linux on the mobile has had fleeting momentum, and Android is benefitting from the major halo surrounding Google.  Motorola is staking the next generation of its franchise around the device.  Verizon’s strong network and user reputation is using Droid as their play against the iPhone until Apple comes to the table with more reasonable terms.  New specific function devices are proliferating, with the launch of e-readers, tablets, slim phones, smartphones, TV/movie devices, etc, all requiring a system to manage resources.  And a whole community of developers is inspired to make Android successful – in and outside of cell phones.

My belief is that Android will become a lasting, successful platform in the mobile device space.  I also believe the ecosystem around it – including an open store, applications, games – all will follow.  Apple has the clear lead, but with no other player having the critical mass to build an alternative (other than Microsoft who seems to losing momentum), Android becomes a real galvanizing alternative.  Whatever the outcome, I hope it leads to reliability and choice for consumers!

Fearing the iPhone Push

With Apple’s 3.0 version of the iPhone quickly approaching, one of the most widely anticipated features is the “Push” functionality.  This allows developers to send alerts, notifications, and other communications to the phone without the application actively being run. 

While one can see the obvious utility in the feature, the part of me that manages my email inbox is dreading the feature.  I am not as bad (or efficient, you pick the term) as those who manage to a “zero inbox“, but I do try and make an effort to have no unread emails every few days.  With this new Push feature, I’m envisioning throngs of app developers desirous of keeping me engaged with their app sending daily, hourly, and minutely notificifations.  I’m imagining paging across the screens in my iPhone and seeing 40+ apps each claiming I have 30+ new notifications.  And I’m thinking the Email manager in me will start to feel very behind….

So what will happen?  I’d bet the following:

  1. I will find exceptional utility from the few apps that I use regularly that provide me with notifications, and will try to stay as current as possible with them.  The Push feature will enhance my productivity.
  2. I will no longer feel comfortable looking at screen after screen of apps I barely recognize indicating I have a bunch of missed messages.  I will start deleting apps that I currently dont use but keep on my phone in the background. 
  3. I would bet my reaction will not be dissimilar to others, and notification “spam” will eventually hit a tipping point.  Apple will step in to regulate the push feature.  They will ensure all notifications are explicitly opt-in and customizable, not simply by virtue of agreeing to download the app.

All of the above is with the caveat that I dont have the details for how Apple will make the feature available to developers.  But I’m hoping I don’t have a new stack of attention draining activities to manage….