On Grinding

Judas Priest…grinding it out since 1969.

Really enjoyed Fred Wilson‘s latest post “Grinding“. Everyone wants to talk about “hustle” when building a company. In reality it is usually more of a grind day in, day out until you figure it out – or die. I especially appreciated how he addressed the “magic bullet” theory to fixing company issues in this line:

But it is rarely one thing that a business needs to succeed. It is often a little bit of everything.

Lot of truth packed in that quote. Fred references his experience with Twitter’s early struggles with their fail whale and explosive growth and popularity. That is definitely one kind of grinding…managing a rocket ship as tries to reach escape velocity.

What I wouldn’t give for that kind of grinding. There’s another kind of startup grind, and it’s one our company has been doing for the past 3 years. We’ve been searching for product/market fit in Voice User Interfaces (VUI). When we started, we targeted smart speakers with branded services to catch the explosive growth and popularity of smart speakers like Alexa. Having watched how web and mobile changed how consumers interfaced with content and services, it felt inevitable that voice was the next big interface change and smart speakers were the next big wave.

But sometime it takes a while for waves to reach the shore. Here we millions of smart speakers units shipped and five years after the launch of Alexa, and we’ve had no break out VUI brands or companies. The biggest success story in smart speakers is a guy who works at Ford who bought a Tesla with cash with his Alexa skill he built on the side. That’s a nice side hustle that helps one developer and Alexa, not sure it’s a business that continue to grow.

So we stopped focusing on smart speakers and making a transition to mobile voice. We’ve been grinding over the last year to help mobile apps develop their own VUI, including a whole company rebranding. Making this change has definitely been more of a grind than a pivot. That’s because we are refining the value we create for VUI than completely giving up on it.

We’re excited about enabling the mobile voice movement. There are implications for better privacy, brand building and revenue streams that is available in smart speakers alone. Hopefully, our grinding will pay off and our efforts to “change a little bit of everything” about our company will help us find success.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us! And if you app needs a voice, please shoot me an email.

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