In the three years we’ve been running Mobile Acceleration Week, we’ve interacted closely with hundreds of startups and developers. I’m seeing a strong move toward the “mobile-first” or mobile-only experience.  In my last post, I shared some interesting data on how our MAW startups have fared. In this post, I thought I’d share what really great app developers have shown me about making mobile work.

What is a “mobile first” experience?  Making something for mobile is more than just taking a web page and porting it to the phone. The really great developer teams like Soundtracker, Clever Sense, and  Entetrainer, to name a few, understand that it’s more about what are the mobile experiences and pain points a person using a handheld device goes through. Mobile is a real experience.  Even more, it’s an accelerated experience on a smaller form factor.  The truly great mobile apps know how to use the native sensors on the phone and contextual intelligence to improve the user experience, making apps, games, and tasks simpler and more engaging.  We’ve had many startups come through MAW that have really nailed these pieces, and they have produced with incredible results. Here’s a rundown of some of the facts:

Mobile Acceleration Week companies

  • Have raised Venture Capital funding >$700M
    • Backers include: Sequoia, Benchmark Capital, NEA, Lightspeed Ventures, Intel Capital
  • Have been downloaded over 500M times across mobile platforms
  • Have been acquired by major companies, with an aggregate value of >$500M
    • Clever Sense by Google
    • Flixster by Warner Brothers
    • GroupMe by Skype
    • Loopt by Green Dot
    • Networks in Motion by TCS
  • Have been featured across major media outlets in hundreds of articles, including TechCrunch, WSJ, NY Times, ABC News, Walt Mossberg, and more

What made these app companies attractive is that their developers get something very simple to understand, but hard to execute on – mobile is about creating an interface and a style that helps people experience what they want out of life, and are able to speed it up to happen right now.

This could be listening to music, finding a great restaurant, or getting ready to meet someone and needing to know the latest social update about them.

On mobile, information and device interplay with experiences and expectations in a way that makes each movement finding that information consequential to your next action in meat space.  Information on the mobile screen has to be much more actionable than desktop information, which can be much more like wandering the web.

We’ve seen a lot of MAW developers understand how to make use of the power of the phone.  Take GPS, for example. You have to think about taking advantage of sensors.  It’s a much richer experience when you can pair geo-location with a need, or a moment of execution. When I map something on a PC, I get a map of San Francisco and suggested routes. If I am on mobile, I am here right now, in my car, and I can’t really use my phone. I want the mobile to just take me there with minimal steps and typing.

The phone is a communication device and a social device, first and foremost. A computer can be used for work, but the intent on the handheld is different. A lot of times, using a mobile phone means connecting with people and going to meet people. People are the focus.

I’m thinking of Soundtracker, which has gone after the social radio mobile space. It’s about listening to music on the go, and doing it in context of friends andsharing with people around you. It’s quite different than having a Pandora app, or something on the desktop.

Cleversense is like an intelligent version of Yelp.  They use machine learning to pull in recommendations relevant to you and pinning them to a geolocation fix.

Entetrainer is another interesting company that came out of our MAW Helsinki event.  They are using the microphone on the phone as a virtual radar gun to record speed of hockey shots, tennis serves, and other sports to help you improve your game.  This is something that wasn’t easily done in the pre-smartphone era.

The pain point all of these apps tackle is time. Things are much quicker on mobile, because people are already moving. The tolerance for browsing and finding information is much lower.

The computer doesn’t know what I want to do.  It simply doesn’t have the same integration or available context.

We’ll be doing two more MAWs in May and June, and I’m looking forward to seeing people come through the door that want to tackle this challenge. It really seems like people have accepted the fact that we’re all migrating into the cloud and onto our phones. That’s where many consumers will be around the corner.

You can find out more information on Mobile Acceleration by following us on Twitter or checking out the MAW homepage.