Backing into your network

Today, we announced that USV is investing in Hailo.  I am psyched about this for a number of reasons, but primarily because it’s infrastructure that connects people to their city in new ways.

What’s most fascinating is that we almost certainly don’t yet know what those ways are. I want to point out one quote from Fred’s interview in the Wall Street Journal.  He says:

“We think this is a kind of Trojan Horse to get people using a large network on their mobile phones to actually transact and get real stuff,” said Fred Wilson, managing partner at Union Square Ventures. “From there, I think lots of interesting things can happen. Alone in the taxi cab market, there’s a pretty big business to be built, and the fact that there’s potential beyond that gives us a lot of confidence.”

We talk a lot about backing into your network – in other words, starting with a thin edge of the wedge and ultimately finding a secondary purpose that may in fact be more profound than the first.

For instance, we often say “twitter backed into identity” — when Twitter started out, it didn’t start by announcing itself as the de facto identity provider on the web. Instead, it became that after achieving ubiquity in public messaging.

Relatedly: a few weeks ago at the election campaign tech / data postmortem event held at google, Oscar Salazar (co-founder of Uber, now founder of Citivox) had my favorite line of the day.  He said ”I hate the term ‘civic apps’.  All apps are civic.  For example, Waze has submitted more pothole reports than all of the other ‘civic apps’ combined.”  I love that.

A few years ago I wrote about the idea of the Enterprise End-Run, which is related — the idea that we can cause big shifts in enterprise behavior by drawing the change out the back end, rather than pushing it through the front.

I just love the idea that the direct approach is not always (or perhaps is hardly ever) the right one.  It’s so interesting to think of other areas where this is happening or could happen.

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Nick Grossman

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