This article is part of Tools of the Trade, a weekly series in which a variety of experts share actionable tips for achieving fast and effective results on everything from productivity to fundraising.
This week Shawn Carolan explains the single element that unites all great consumer technology companies. Carolan is the managing director of the venture capital firm Menlo Ventures.
It was September 2011 and I needed to get from my San Francisco office to dinner. I walked to the corner, put my hand up, and waited. And waited some more. Fifteen minutes went by before a cab picked me up. Upon arrival, I looked at the meter, decided on a tip, and thumbed through my wallet for cash, luckily finding enough.
One month later, I found myself in a familiar scenario. But this time was different. I downloaded an app, snapped a picture of my credit card, requested a ride, and by the time I walked outside, a car was waiting. When we got to the venue, I stepped out and thanked the driver while an email receipt silently landed in my inbox. I knew immediately I’d never take another taxi again, effectively shifting $100 per month in taxi expenditures to a new provider overnight.
My firm, Menlo Ventures, was also impressed. That November, we led the app’s $39 million Series B round.
This August, Uber delivered its two-billionth trip.
For consumer technology entrepreneurs looking to create the next big thing, Uber reminds us that it all comes down to speed. Remember, most people are looking to reduce the time and cognitive energy it takes to perform everyday tasks — and they’ll reward companies that help them do it. Google sped up the way we search for information; Amazon sped up the way we make purchases; YouTube sped up the way we share and watch videos.
As an investor, I’m always on the lookout for companies that allow consumers to do what they are already doing, just faster. There are still plenty of important tasks that could be made more efficient — for example, finding a job, learning new skills, commuting, saving money, cleaning clothes, dishes, or living spaces, managing financials, planning and preparing meals, creating good habits, ending bad habits, and diagnosing health issues.
The good news for entrepreneurs is that advances in natural language processing, machine learning, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, and wearables, among other technologies, make it possible to speed up all of the above.
At Menlo Ventures, we’re eager to support teams that are trying to make frequent routines more seamless. Now, if someone would only make it easier and faster for me to find them.