Peris Kimeli and Betsy Cheruyot were students at Kenyatta University thinking about launching a business when they applied for their first loans from the mobile lending company, Tala.
Hoping to get a clothing business off the ground and make some money to live on while going to school, the two young Kenyans downloaded the Tala mobile app, and within minutes received loans totaling about $15.
“Between us and poverty, we had about 200 shillings,” Kimeli said of her early days starting their business. “We were like, what are we going to eat? Our parents said, ‘No. We’re not going to send money… You go figure it out’ So we went and we did that.”
Kimeli and Cheruyot took that $15 loan and went to Nairobi’s famous secondhand market, Gikomba, where they bought 15 dresses at 100 shillings each and resold them in dorms and hostels for 200 shillings.
“Two remained, but we had no problem — since we could keep them, we could wear them. By the end of the month, we had 7000 [shillings],” Kimeli said. “We borrowed again — this time we borrowed 3000 [shillings] — we went out and bought some more dresses, and that’s how we’ve been.”
Similar stories are playing out in cities across the world — in countries like India, Mexico, the Philippines and Tanzania — all because of Tala, a young, Santa Monica, Calif.-based, financial services startup.
Now in its fourth year, Tala has already distributed around $300 million in loans to 1.3 million borrowers like Kimeli. The company plans to continue expanding its geographical reach and range of financial services, thanks in part to $65 million in new financing from billionaire backed investment funds like Steve Case’s Revolution Growth fund.
Shivani Siroya, the founder and chief executive officer at Tala, knows just how important — and transformational — outside investment can be for individuals in emerging markets.
Siroya was introduced to the power of financial independence working with the United Nations Population Fund.
“I ended up interviewing 3500 people, in person, across nine different countries,” Siroya says. “What I did was go to their homes with them. Walk with them to work and sit there in the back of their stores and tally how many customers came in and how many products they sold. How much money goes under the mattress and how much oney goes to allowances… These individuals are hard-working and they are credit worthy, but you couldn’t lend to them because they couldn’t be documented.”
Siroya launched Tala in March 2014 to create a mechanism for providing credit scores to financial institutions so that these undocumented women could get the loans they needed to become financially independent and entrepreneurial, she says. What Tala’s founder quickly realized was that the easiest way to create credit scores that other financial institutions would recognize would be for Tala to start issuing loans itself.
The app — available for download on Android devices — works by collecting data on texts and calls, merchant transactions, overall app usage, and personal identifiers on a mobile phone to create an instantaneous profile of its potential borrowers. Customers simply download the app, apply for a loan and receive a decision in seconds. Most Tala borrowers, actually receive their credit in less than 10 minutes.
Tala typically lends around $70 to its borrowers, but loans range from $10 on the low end to $500 at the high end. “The point of credit is leveraging your income to improve your quality of life,” Siroya says. Lower loan sizes could mean a product that’s geared more towards consumption than towards leveraging a product to invest for economic stability, she says.
“We want to start at $10, because we realize that 70% of our customers are using this for working capital. They’re small business owners. That’s really the gap in the market,” says Siroya.
Tala’s borrowers are usually paying back the loans within 30 days and the company charges a 11% to 15% interest on the money it disburses.
The company raised its first capital in 2013 from Lowercase Capital, Google Ventures, and Collaborative Fund. With the new financing, led by Revolution, Siroya now has $50 million in equity to match another $11 million in credit facilities. In all, the company has raised $94 million in equity across three rounds. Steve Murray, a managing partner of Revolution Growth — and former director on the board of business lending startup Kabbage — will be joining Tala’s board of directors with the latest round.
Previous investors, including the growth investment firm IVP, Data Collective, Lowercase Capital, Ribbit Capital, and Female Founders Fund, also participated in Tala’s latest financing.
“We have been fortunate to invest in Twitter and Dropbox and a lot of other companies. but when I think about the companies that we have had the opportunity to back that will have the greatest impact on the world, Tala is certainly one of them,” says IVP general partner, Jules Maltz. “That’s because it has the opportunity to reach the 2 billion people who are unbanked and don’t have access to financial products.”
Those 2 billion include thousands just like Nairobi’s budding new entrepreneurs, Kimeli and Cheruyot.
“I believe in the magic of taking risks and new beginnings,” says Kimeli. “If we hadn’t began on that day, we could have just been desperate now. As in, we might not have a place to eat, maybe. It’s good to take risks, to start something new.”
Yesterday was a rough one for ZTE. A year after pleading guilty to violating sanctions with Iran and North Korea, the U.S. Department of Commerce brought the hammer down and announced a seven-year export restriction on goods sporting U.S. components.
That applies to more than a quarter of the components used in the company’s telecom equipment and mobile devices, according to estimates, including some big names like Qualcomm. The list may well also include Google licenses, a core part of the company’s Android handsets. According to a Bloomberg unnamed source, ZTE is evaluating its mobile operating system options as its lawyers meet with Google officials.
Many of the internal components can be replaced by non-U.S. companies. ZTE can likely lean more heavily on fellow Chinese manufacturers to provide more of the product’s internals, but it’s hard to see precisely where it goes from here with regard to an operating system. There’s an extremely small smattering of alternatives open to the company, but none are great. Each would essentially involve the company working to build things, including app selections, from the ground up — and likely play a much more central role in the OS’s development.
As for Google’s role in all of this, ZTE certainly isn’t make or break for Android’s fortunes. Still, it’s a pretty sizable presence. As of late last year, it commanded 12.2 percent of U.S. market share, putting it in fourth place behind Apple, Samsung and LG. It’s certainly in Google’s best interest to maintain as many prominent hardware partners as possible — though, not if it comes with the added risk of upsetting the DOC in the process.
Skagen is a well-know maker of thin and uniquely Danish watches. Founded in 1989, the company is now part of the Fossil group and, as such, has begin dabbling in both the analog with the Hagen and now Android Wear with the Falster. The Falster is unique in that it stuffs all of the power of a standard Android Wear device into a watch that mimics the chromed aesthetic of Skagen’s austere design while offering just enough features to make you a fashionable smartwatch wearer.
The Falster, which costs $275 and is available now, has a fully round digital OLED face which means you can read the time at all times. When the watch wakes up you can see an ultra bright white on black time-telling color scheme and then tap the crown to jump into the various features including Android Fit and the always clever Translate feature that lets you record a sentence and then show it the person in front of you.
You can buy it with a leather or metal band and the mesh steel model costs $20 extra.
Sadly, in order stuff the electronics into such a small case, Skagen did away with GPS, LTE connectivity, and even a heart-rate monitor. In other words if you were expecting a workout companion then the Falster isn’t the Android you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a bare-bones fashion smartwatch, Skagen ticks all the boxes.
What you get from the Flasterou do get, however, is a low-cost, high-style Android Wear watch with most of the trimmings. I’ve worn this watch off and on few a few weeks now and, although I do definitely miss the heart rate monitor for workouts, the fact that this thing looks and acts like a normal watch 99% of the time makes it quite interesting. If obvious brand recognition nee ostentation are your goal, the Apple Watch or any of the Samsung Gear line are more your style. This watch, made by a company famous for its Danish understatement, offers the opposite of that.
Skagen offers a few very basic watch faces with the Skagen branding at various points on the dial. I particularly like the list face which includes world time or temperature in various spots around the world, offering you an at-a-glance view of timezones. Like most Android Wear systems you can change the display by pressing and holding on the face.
It lasts about a day on one charge although busy days may run down the battery sooner as notifications flood the screen. The notification system – essentially a little icon that appears over the watch face – sometimes fails and instead shows a baffling grey square. This is the single annoyance I noticed, UI-wise, when it came to the Falster. It works with both Android smartphones and iOS.
What this watch boils down to is an improved fitness tracker and notification system. If you’re wearing, say, a Fitbit, something like the Skagen Falster offers a superior experience in a very chic package. Because the watch is fairly compact (at 42mm I won’t say it’s small but it would work on a thinner wrist) it takes away a lot of the bulk of other smartwatches and, more important, doesn’t look like a smartwatch. Those of use who don’t want to look like we’re wearing robotic egg sacs on our wrists will enjoy that aspect of Skagen’s effort, even without all the trimmings we expect from a modern smartwatch.
Skagen, like so many other watch manufacturers, decided if it couldn’t been the digital revolution it would join it. The result is the Falster and, to a lesser degree, their analog collections. Whether or not traditional watchmakers will survive the 21st century is still up in the air but, as evidenced by this handsome and well-made watch, they’re at least giving it the old Danish try.
Barring any sort of major shakeup at Google’s mobile division, there are two things we know for sure about the next Android’s name: it will start with the letter “P” and it will be a dessert food. That already narrows things down quite a bit — you’ve got pudding, pecan pie, peanut brittle…
Then, of course, there’s Popsicle — a fact the company might well be alluding to in its new Spring Wallpaper Collection. 9to5Google noted a colorful array of frozen confections in amongst the selections. Granted, it’s not thematically too far from the rest of the outdoor, sunshine-themed offerings.
Google’s never shied away from such cheeky suggestions — and it’s certainly teased us before, including in the lead up to Oreo. Though that could just as easily mean it’s a bit of a red herring — remember Android Pocky?
It’s worth noting that Popsicle is, in fact, still a trademarked name — like Kleenex and Xerox and Frisbee. Of course, that hasn’t stopped Google in the past. See such recent examples as Kit-Kat and Oreo. And while Popsicle-owner Unilever has flexed its muscles maintaining its ownership of the name, it’s hard to imagine a better/cheaper promotion than stamping your name across the latest build of the world’s most popular mobile operating system.
There is, of course, the issue of the fact that the Popsicle name isn’t as globally synonymous with the ice pop as it is here in the States. You may know it, perhaps, as an ice lolly, ice block or ice drop, depending on where you happen to be reading this.
Whatever the case, Google’s probably just happy that we’re talking about it at all.
Android Auto — Google’s system for powering your car’s dash display from your phone, and the company’s answer to Apple’s CarPlay — is going wireless. You can leave your phone in your bag, and it’ll still be able to push your apps and content to your in-dash screen.
Alas, there’s a catch: To get it all working wirelessly at this point, you’ll need to have some pretty specific gear.
You’ll need the right phone (Pixel or Pixel XL, Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P) and the right head unit — and for now, that means one of just a handful of units announced by JVC/Kenwood earlier this year.
The list of compatible devices will grow in time (Google says to expect more “this year”) — but if you want wireless right this second, the options are quite limited.
For all the good of Android’s open-source approach, one of the clear and consistent downsides is that the onus to issue software updates falls on the manufacturer. That can mean frustration for those waiting for the latest and greatest feature updates — and in some cases, it can put your phone at risk with delayed or missed security updates.
A pair of researchers at Security Research Labs recently shared a study with Wired highlighting some of these risks. The team’s findings are the result of testing 1,200 Android handsets from all the major manufacturers over the course of two years, examining whether manufacturers had offered the security patches as advertised.
According to SRL, missed security patches were discovered on a wide range of different handsets across manufacturers. Sony and Samsung were both flagged as having missed some security patches — in some cases in spite of reporting that they were up to date. “It’s almost impossible for the user to know which patches are actually installed,” one of the researchers told the site.
Xiaomi, Nokia, HTC, Motorola and LG all made the list, as well, while TCL and ZTE fared the worst in the study, with, on average, not having installed more than four of the patches they claimed to have installed on a given device.
In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Google pointed to the importance of various different means used to secure the Android ecosystem. The company believes that the SRL findings might not tell the full story when it comes to keeping devices secure.
“We would like to thank Karsten Nohl and Jakob Kell for their continued efforts to reinforce the security of the Android ecosystem,” the company writes. “We’re working with them to improve their detection mechanisms to account for situations where a device uses an alternate security update instead of the Google suggested security update. Security updates are one of many layers used to protect Android devices and users. Built-in platform protections, such as application sandboxing, and security services, such as Google Play Protect, are just as important. These layers of security—combined with the tremendous diversity of the Android ecosystem—contribute to the researchers’ conclusions that remote exploitation of Android devices remains challenging.”
The company also pointed us to this year in review post, which sheds a bit more light on the matter.
YouTube today announced several new features designed to improve the live streaming experience for both creators and viewers. The most notable additions include the ability to play back a live chat after the live stream ends, and the launch of live automatic captions on videos.
YouTube began offering automatic captioning back in 2009, and has since added captions to a billion videos, the company says. Live captioning a video in real-time is a bit more complicated, but advancements in speech recognition technology are making features like this possible. (Similarly, a new startup launched an app called Otter today, that live transcribes meeting and conversations – also thanks to advancements in voice technologies.)
YouTube says it’s leveraging its live automatic speech recognition (LASR) technology to serve captions on live streams when professionally provided captions aren’t available. LASR-powered captions won’t be perfect but the error rates and latency are close to industry standards, YouTube claims. The addition makes YouTube one of the first major video platforms to offer live captioning.
The feature will roll out to YouTube Live in the weeks ahead. Following the launch, the company will continue to work on improving the latency and accuracy of the captions.
Also new is the option to play back a live chat when a video wraps, which will give you the feeling of watching a live stream, even if the stream has ended.
YouTube creators can now add a location tag to their mobile live streams and video uploads, starting today. When clicked, viewers will be able to explore other videos recorded at that same location. The feature seems a response to other live streaming service, like Twitter’s Periscope, as well as social networks like Facebook and Instagram, which allow users to surface videos by location.
A location filter is available on the search results page, too, YouTube says.
The Super Chat feature, which lets fans buy attention by getting their message highlighted in a chat stream, now works with IFTTT. The idea here is to better automate the feature that allows a Super Chat to trigger a real-world event, like lights, a pet feeder, or a confetti cannon. With IFTTT support, there are over 600 internet-connected devices and services that can work with Super Chat.
The Super Chat feature itself is currently available on Android and desktop, and is launching on iOS today.
Google Lens, the company’s visual search engine that can recognize what’s in your images and scan business cards, among other things, is now rolling out to all Google Photos users on Android. This marks Google’s first major expansion for Lens, which was previously only available to those who had access to the latest Pixel phones. On those phones, Lens also is available through the Google Assistant, but that feature isn’t rolling out to all Android users yet.
Google promises that Lens in Google Photos will roll out to iOS users “soon,” but it’s unclear when exactly this will happen.
Lens can be both frustrating and quite useful — though it never feels indispensable. When it works, it works really well. And while you probably don’t need Lens to tell you that you are standing in front of the Eiffel Tower (unless you are really jet lagged), the fact that it can show you more information about sights, including opening hours, is actually quite useful (though you could just as well do a quick search in Google Maps, too).
The ability to scan a business card is pretty useful, though, unless, of course, you’ve done away with business cards a long time ago and just use LinkedIn anyway.
Personally, I haven’t found much use for Lens so far. It’s a nice parlor trick, but it’s easy to forget it exists. Over time, though, it may just get good enough that it’s easier to take a picture of a landmark or restaurant to get more information than searching for it with a keyword.
Just like in the last two years, Google is using the beginning of March to launch the first developer preview of the next version of Android. Android P, as it’s currently called, is still very much a work in progress and Google isn’t releasing it into its public Android beta channel for over-the-air updates just yet. That’ll come later. Developers, however, can now download all the necessary bits to work with the new features and test their existing apps to make sure they are compatible.
As with Google’s previous early releases, we’re mostly talking about under-the-hood updates here. Google isn’t talking about any of the more user-facing design changes in Android P just yet. The new features Google is talking about, though, will definitely make it easier for developers to create interesting new apps for modern Android devices.
So what’s new in Android P? Since people were already excited about this a few weeks ago, let’s get this one new feature out of the way: Android P has built-in support for notches, those display cutouts Apple had the courage to pioneer with the iPhone X. Developers will be able to call a new API to check whether a device has a cutout and its dimensions and then request full-screen content to flow around it.
While Google isn’t talking much about user-facing feature, the company mentions that it is once again making changes to Android notifications. This time around, the company is focusing on notifications from messaging apps and it’s giving developers a couple of new tools for highlighting who is contacting you and giving developers the ability to attach photos, stickers and smart replies to these notifications.
A couple of new additions to the Android Autofill Framework for developers who write password managers will also make life a bit easier for users, though right now, the focus here is on better data set filtering, input sanitization and a compatibility mode that will allow password managers to work with apps that don’t have built-in support for Autofill yet.
While Google isn’t introducing any new power-saving features in Android P (yet), the company does say that it continues to refine existing features like Doze, App Standby and Background Limits, all of which it introduced in the last few major releases.
What Google is adding, though, is new privacy features. Android P will, for example, restrict access to the microphone, camera and sensors from idle apps. In a future build, the company will also introduce the ability to encrypt Android backups with a client-side secret and Google will also introduce per-network randomization of associated MAC address, which will make it harder to track users. This last feature is still experimental for now, though.
One of the most interesting new developer features in Android P is the multi-camera API. Since many modern phones now have dual front or back cameras (with Google’s own Pixel being the exception), Google decided to make it easier for developers to access both of them with the help of a new API to call a fused camera stream that can switch between two or more cameras. Other changes to the camera system are meant to help image stabilization and special effects developers build their tools and to reduce the delays during initial captures. Chances are, then, that we’ll see the more Frontback-style apps with the release of Android P.
On the media side, Android P also introduces built-in support for HDR VP9 Profile 2 for playing HDR-enabled movies on devices with the right hardware, as well as support for images in the increasingly popular High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), which may just be the JPEG-killer the internet has been searching for for decades (and which Apple also supports). Developers now also get new and more efficient tools for handling bitmap images and drawables thanks to ImageDecode, a replacement for the current BitMapFactory object.
Indoor positioning is also getting a boost in Android P thanks to support for the IEEE 802.11mc protocol, which provides information about Wi-Fi round-trip time, which in turn allows for relatively accurate indoor positioning. Devices that support this protocol will be able to locate a user with an accuracy of one to two meters. That should be more than enough to guide you through a mall or pop up an ad when you are close to a store, but Google also notes that some of the use cases here include disambiguated voice controls.
Once you are in that store in the mall and want to pay, Android P now also supports the GlobalPlatform Open Mobile API. That name may evoke the sense of green meadows and mountain dew, but it’s basically the standard for building secure NFV-based services like payments solutions.
Developers who want to do machine learning on phones are also in luck, because Android P will bring a couple of new features to the Neural Networks API that Google first introduced with Android 8.1. Specifically, Android P will add support for nine operations: Pad, BatchToSpaceND, SpaceToBatchND, Transpose, Strided Slice, Mean, Div, Sub and Squeeze.
But wait, there is more. Now that Kotlin is a first-class language for Android development, Google is obviously optimizing its compiler and for all apps, Google is also promising performance and efficiency improvements in its ART runtime.
Clearly, this is one of the more meaningful Android updates in recent years. It’s no surprise then that Google is only making images available to developers right now and that you won’t be able to get this version over the air just yet. Like with previous releases, though, Google does plan to bring Android P to the Android beta channel (Google I/O is about two months away, so that may be the time for that). As usual, Google will likely introduce a couple of other new features over the course of the beta period and at some point, it’ll even announce the final name for Android P…
Since the dawn of the internet, the titans of this industry have fought to win the “starting point” — the place that users start their online experiences. In other words, the place where they begin “browsing.” The advent of the dial-up era had America Online mailing a CD to every home in America, which passed the baton to Yahoo’s categorical listings, which was swallowed by Google’s indexing of the world’s information — winning the “starting point” was everything.
As the mobile revolution continues to explode across the world, the battle for the starting point has intensified. For a period of time, people believed it would be the hardware, then it became clear that the software mattered most. Then conversation shifted to a debate between operating systems (Android or iOS) and moved on to social properties and messaging apps, where people were spending most of their time. Today, my belief is we’re hovering somewhere between apps and operating systems. That being said, the interface layer will always be evolving.
The starting point, just like a rocket’s launchpad, is only important because of what comes after. The battle to win that coveted position, although often disguised as many other things, is really a battle to become the starting point of commerce.
Google’s philosophy includes a commitment to get users “off their page” as quickly as possible…to get that user to form a habit and come back to their starting point. The real (yet somewhat veiled) goal, in my opinion, is to get users to search and find the things they want to buy.
Of course, Google “does no evil” while aggregating the world’s information, but they pay their bills by sending purchases to Priceline, Expedia, Amazon and the rest of the digital economy.
Facebook, on the other hand, has become a starting point through its monopolization of users’ time, attention and data. Through this effort, it’s developed an advertising business that shatters records quarter after quarter.
Google and Facebook, this famed duopoly, represent 89 percent of new advertising spending in 2017. Their dominance is unrivaled… for now.
Change is urgently being demanded by market forces — shifts in consumer habits, intolerable rising costs to advertisers and through a nearly universal dissatisfaction with the advertising models that have dominated (plagued) the U.S. digital economy. All of which is being accelerated by mobile. Terrible experiences for users still persist in our online experiences, deliver low efficacy for advertisers and fraud is rampant. The march away from the glut of advertising excess may be most symbolically seen in the explosion of ad blockers. Further evidence of the “need for a correction of this broken industry” is Oracle’s willingness to pay $850 million for a company that polices ads (probably the best entrepreneurs I know ran this company, so no surprise).
As an entrepreneur, my job is to predict the future. When reflecting on what I’ve learned thus far in my journey, it’s become clear that two truths can guide us in making smarter decisions about our digital future:
Every day, retailers, advertisers, brands and marketers get smarter. This means that every day, they will push the platforms, their partners and the places they rely on for users to be more “performance driven.” More transactional.
Paying for views, bots (Russian or otherwise) or anything other than “dollars” will become less and less popular over time. It’s no secret that Amazon, the world’s most powerful company (imho), relies so heavily on its Associates Program (its home-built partnership and affiliate platform). This channel is the highest performing form of paid acquisition that retailers have, and in fact, it’s rumored that the success of Amazon’s affiliate program led to the development of AWS due to large spikes in partner traffic.
When thinking about our digital future, look down and look east. Look down and admire your phone — this will serve as your portal to the digital world for the next decade, and our dependence will only continue to grow. The explosive adoption of this form factor is continuing to outpace any technological trend in history.
Now, look east and recognize that what happens in China will happen here, in the West, eventually. The Chinese market skipped the PC-driven digital revolution — and adopted the digital era via the smartphone. Some really smart investors have built strategies around this thesis and have quietly been reaping rewards due to their clairvoyance.
China has historically been categorized as a market full of knock-offs and copycats — but times have changed. Some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies have come out of China over the past decade. The entrepreneurial work ethic in China (as praised recently by arguably the world’s greatest investor, Michael Moritz), the speed of innovation and the ability to quickly scale and reach meaningful populations have caused Chinese companies to leapfrog the market cap of many of their U.S. counterparts.
The most interesting component of the Chinese digital economy’s growth is that it is fundamentally more “pure” than the U.S. market’s. I say this because the Chinese market is inherently “transactional.” As Andreessen Horowitz writes, WeChat, China’s most valuable company, has become the “starting point” and hub for all user actions. Their revenue diversity is much more “Amazon” than “Google” or “Facebook” — it’s much more pure. They make money off the transactions driven from their platform, and advertising is far less important in their strategy.
The obsession with replicating WeChat took the tech industry by storm two years ago — and for some misplaced reason, everyone thought we needed to build messaging bots to compete.
What shouldn’t be lost is our obsession with the purity and power of the business models being created in China. The fabric that binds the Chinese digital economy and has fostered its seemingly boundless growth is the magic combination of commerce and mobile. Singles Day, the Chinese version of Black Friday, drove $25 billion in sales on Alibaba — 90 percent of which were on mobile.
The lesson we’ve learned thus far in both the U.S. and in China is that “consumers spending money” creates the most durable consumer businesses. Google, putting aside all its moonshots and heroic mission statements, is a “starting point” powered by a shopping engine. If you disagree, look at where their revenue comes from…
Google’s recent announcement of Shopping Actions and their movement to a “pay per transaction model” signals a turning point that could forever change the landscape of the digital economy.
Google’s multi-front battle against Apple, Facebook and Amazon is weighted. Amazon is the most threatening. It’s the most durable business of the four — and its model is unbounded on two fronts that almost everyone I know would bet their future on, 1) people buying more online, where Amazon makes a disproportionate amount of every dollar spent, and 2) companies needing more cloud computing power (more servers), where Amazon makes a disproportionate amount of every dollar spent.
To add insult to injury, Amazon is threatening Google by becoming a starting point itself — 55 percent of product searches now originate at Amazon, up from 30 percent just a year ago.
Google, recognizing consumer behavior was changing in mobile (less searching) and the inferiority of their model when compared to the durability and growth prospects of Amazon, needed to respond. Google needed a model that supported boundless growth and one that created a “win-win” for its advertising partners — one that resembled Amazon’s relationship with its merchants — not one that continued to increase costs to retailers while capitalizing on their monopolization of search traffic.
Google knows that with its position as the starting point — with Google.com, Google Apps and Android — it has to become a part of the transaction to prevail in the long term. With users in mobile demanding fewer ads and more utility (demanding experiences that look and feel a lot more like what has prevailed in China), Google has every reason in the world to look down and to look east — to become a part of the transaction — to take its piece.
A collision course for Google and the retailers it relies upon for revenue was on the horizon. Search activity per user was declining in mobile and user acquisition costs were growing quarter over quarter. Businesses are repeatedly failing to compete with Amazon, and unless Google could create an economically viable growth model for retailers, no one would stand a chance against the commerce juggernaut — not the retailers nor Google itself.
As I’ve believed for a long time, becoming a part of the transaction is the most favorable business model for all parties; sources of traffic make money when retailers sell things, and, most importantly, this only happens when users find the things they want.
Shopping Actions is Google’s first ambitious step to satisfy all three parties — businesses and business models all over the world will feel this impact.
Good work, Sundar.