If you work in tech you’ve probably already come across last week’s publication of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends presentation.
Meeker — formerly of Morgan Stanley and now with storied VC firm Kleiner Perkins since 2010 — presents a curated set of data reflecting what she sees as the major trends in internet usage. The annual release may well be the only slide deck that qualifies as an event unto itself, probably already forwarded to you by email from an investor, colleague, or friendly spammer.
Although I try not to get too bogged down in the weeds of the data (I tend to believe the micro matters more than the macro), I do enjoy skimming through Meeker’s deck each year to gain a sense of her view on the broad trends. Meeker, after all, is brilliant at spotting technology shifts before they come into focus for the rest of us.
Here are 10 slides that jumped out at me as potentially relevant for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors in France.
Slide 4: The Rest of World market. The two largest economies in the world, the U.S. and China, represent only 33% of global internet users. The other 2/3 comes from Europe, Asia (excluding China), and LatAm, Africa, Australia, and is bound to grow further as the emerging economies come online. A compelling opportunity for entrepreneurs capable of transcending borders, a trait I would submit befits Europeans.
Slide 8 – On this slide Meeker underscores the opportunity in sectors where the internet hasn’t brought the full thrust of its impact yet and can make a real difference: connected health, government, regulation. Europe — and France in particular — possess some genuine strengths here (pharma, medtech). Cross-reference this with slide 186 about internet innovation in health care. For instance, characterized by its deep talent base and dominant buyer power (i.e. the government), France has more leverage to drive adoption in this sector than, say the fragmented U.S. system with disparate vested interests. In theory, at least.
Slide 30: The approaching wave of innovation in the enterprise. At first blush, this strikes me as challenging news for France because: i) French corporations are shamefully risk-averse to buying products from startups. ii) Solutions for the enterprise often tend to be more country-tailored than general B2C products, and the French market is small. For French startups addressing the enterprise, a takeaway could be to consider looking outward at larger markets earlier and implementing hybrid structures like R&D in France/business development abroad.
Slide 35: One example of innovation in the enterprise Meeker cites is DocuSign. This $3 billion company operating in e-signatures, paperless, and secure management of documents has grown so successfully in staid industries like real estate unexpectedly willing to adopt new methods. With its more voluminous regulations, France offers a multitude of pain points that an ambitious entrepreneur here could see as opportunities.
Slide 21: Buy buttons are increasingly appearing on mobile apps. While this slide is not specific to France, it struck me because surprisingly Instagram does not yet contain buy buttons, despite the intriguing behavior of consumers in Thailand who employ a combination of Instagram and Line to conduct e-commerce.
Slide 55: Emerging users are most likely to onboard via messaging apps. Just like my Thai example above, this insight strikes me as incredibly important to keep in mind for an entrepreneur anywhere who intends to address consumers in emerging geographies.
Slides 57~66: Content is increasingly “user-generated, curated, and surprising.” One thing missing this year that I seem to recall seeing in a past deck was her slide ranking the world’s languages. If Meeker analyzed that today, my guess is that the number one language in the world would be Broken English. European entrepreneurs communicate in English with varying degrees of fluency, but my exhortation here would be to have no fear: this is increasingly becoming the language of innovation.
Slides 74 & 122: On these slides Meeker highlights the rise of just-in-time services and on-demand service marketplaces, while she underscores the dominant players in several segments. Possible takeaway: find a new segment, the right niche, or start in a market which requires specific cultural differentiation (PopUpImmo, BlaBlaCar, LaBelleAssiette, Kang), as it’s probably too late to compete in the established segments.
Slide 141: Workers/consumers are driving innovation. Not incumbents and not regulators. Put another way, the market defines innovation, not an official government label. Savvy French incumbents are acknowledging that innovation occurs externally and are finding ways to cultivate it: (investing in VC funds, launching in-house corporate funds, supporting startup incubators, etc.).
Slide 173: The top 20 internet leaders are in the U.S. or Asia (specifically China, Japan, Korea); none are in Europe. For me the main takeaway is that every European startup needs to think about gaining exposure in one of these primary markets. It may not make sense strategically for everyone, but it should at least be considered..
These are merely my cursory impressions. Don’t just take my word for it; download the full deck here, and feel free to leave your opinions in the comments.
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