Once a week I get hit with one or two pitches for iPhone applications. Most times, I tune the pitches out. There’s a simple reason for my obstinacy when it comes to iPhone apps: I lived through the Dotcom Gold Rush and came away smarter but wiser.
Having survived the Dotcom era and having accepted that I was one of its whores. I want to see “proof of life” after funding runs out” before I’ll write about any iPhone or Android app. I’ve made my position pretty clear on this matter using acerbic posts on Twitter but I felt it was time to dig a little deeper into the matter. Unless there’s a real revenue stream behind a mobile phone app, any claim about such apps is just hot air. Nevertheless, my phone keeps ringing and the emails continue to pile up in my inbox.
I’m not downplaying the commercial potential of smart phone application. In fact, I believe smartphones applications like those being developed for Apple’s iPhone and Google Android platforms will deliver on the promises of mobile applications that were made throughout the 1990s.
The smart phone app pitches I’ve seen and sat through focus more on the gee whiz nature of bringing an application to a phone than they do: “this is how we’re different and why we can survive.” Moreover, I seldom see real market demographics associated with smart phone application pitches. And that’s a shame because the one way to grab my (or any other reporter’s) attention is to show me an underserved market that’s underutilizing a ubiquitous technology.
A specific example: I believe medical applications could be hugely successful on smart phones; The same holds true for Location- based services Both of the foregoing examples have the potential to pull multiple paid content/ advertising partners into partnerships.
What I don’t see when I get pitched is any evidence of a real revenue stream or any hint that a start-up’s management team can deliver on their promises. One of the dangerous aspects of smart phone applications is a simple but potentially fatal problem: Very few management teams include any person that’s ever successfully dealt with a telco or cell network provider; Or, worse yet, include anyone in direct management that has real experience in selling an application to a cellular services provider/
When I listen to a canned pitch on a smart phone application I experience an eerie feeling—I heard the same thing 10 years ago before the big dot com meltdown. I hope I’m wrong but if I’m not, Sand hill Road and the parking lots of VC firms will be littered with the carcasses of smart phone applications start-ups that just don’t understand fundamental marketing.—Jim Forbes on 02/09/2010.