Innovation at GroupMe and Skype

Posted on: August 22, 2011
Posted in Career


In November of 2010, just 9 months ago, I wrote a post on TechCrunch about application layer disruption in telecom and messaging, called Why the Carriers Are Losing Their Voice. At the end of the post I wrote:

There is simply no doubt that the future of voice and messaging is with companies innovating at the application layer, and my guess is there is going to be a ton of investment activity and M&A in this space as new realtime communication tools are developed over the next few years.

Less than a year later, a lot of the observations I made have become realities. Traditional carriers like AT&T continue to languish, doing weird things like cutting messaging plans to boost ARPU, and Skype is the fastest growing telecom network in the world.

Of course during that time, innovation at the application layer has accelerated what feels like ten-fold. Competitors in voice and messaging have launched at a blistering pace, Facebook made an M&A play in groups / messaging, Google+ launched, and Skype was sold for $8.5B.

I also made the decision to join GroupMe (I absolutely knew there was something special here), and have helped drive our business development and brand / user acquisition strategies. And now we’re part of Skype.

Wow… that’s a hell of a lot of disruption and M&A in 9 months.

All of this is exactly the type of innovation that I’d envisioned back last year, but it’s important to remember we’re still in the beginning throes of a revolution here. The traditional concept of “telecom” is being disrupted at the application layer in ways that we have not yet seen. The things we’re building at GroupMe blow my mind when I look at the traditional telecom stack, and Skype is going to enable us to move even faster.

There is simply no doubt that the peer to peer economy and group-based social communication are massively disruptive forces within the tech and social ecosystem. But one thing that people aren’t yet talking about — even smart people like Om, who miss the larger opportunity — is how these amazing communication and social layers in mobile are going to drive new use-cases for commerce.

The peer to peer economy is driving unprecedented intelligence to the edge of the network, and messaging is just the first wedge in helping individuals and groups make decisions and take actions instantaneously. When I talked about Groupon closing the redemption loop a few months ago, I was adamant that a mobile commerce layer and a social / communication layer are being built out that will have unprecedented impacts on how we interact and consume things with friends in our physical environments.

At our core, humans are social, and friends drive a lot of our decision-making and actions. Where traditional telecom allowed fairly static connections between people, the mobile internet is driving a new peer to peer economy where people not only instantaneously connect with each other, but take actions to consume, share and enrich their real-world lives.

This is just part of our opportunity at GroupMe, and now Skype. And I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities that lay in front of us. #)

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