The New Real-Time Communications Super Highway - Brought To You By Uber
For over 160 years, the "telecom" industry has been compared to the "transportation" industry. Both industries move things, and move human interactions whether physically or virtually.
We love Uber. Instead of having to stand in the rain waiting for a cab, we simply open the app, and drivers compete to win our business. I need to get from the Chrysler Building to La Guardia Airport, and am willing to pay a premium for a big car because I have my family with me and they have luggage. Within seconds, I am given choices and within minutes, a big, shiny and clean Lincoln Navigator arrives with a friendly and experienced driver. Am I willing to pay twice or even three times what I'd pay for a cab for this kind of ride? Yes.
And we love fring. Instead of having to pay a premium for a long distance call, we simply open the app, and find our friends, and invite them to the fring community so we can not only talk but see each other in real-time, sharing experiences, sharing photos, sharing life - for free. If the WiFi signal is good enough on both sides of the conversation, we enjoy a "high res" experience. If not, we're satisfied with best efforts because - it's free.
We love Google. Instant gratification on steroids. We search, we receive. We give up our personal information, including presence, so we can be guided to the nearest Starbucks, with a one-for-one offer to boot. We love Facebook, because we can connect with our friends and family in our own time, controlling our own experience. We love Open Table, because we can find and get into a restaurant with a guaranteed reservation in seconds. We love AirBNB because we are no longer beholden to the hotel chains and their "rate engines" - we can choose when we wish to stay at a five star hotel for one experience, or a private home on a private island for another experience.
Are we entering a new era of the "Experience Exchange?"
We met last week in Istanbul at our first fring Alliance summit with an elite group of some of the most advanced, creative and innovative thinkers in the real-time communications industry - including representatives from some of the largest mobile operators in the world.
But what may have inspired us the most is the singularity of their insights - that their subscribers are human beings just like the rest of us, and they want their lives to be made better by easier, more intuitive, more human communications. Those subscribers know they don't have to pay for something challengers give away for free, for example WhatsApp and its sibling Facebook messenger.
But what their subscribers do want is a quality experience. High definition. Always available. A video experience that truly is "just like being there". And what are they actually willing to pay for that?
A willingness to appreciate back by allowing themselves, as an "end point" on a network of billions of "end points" - subscribers - to be marketed to. This does not mean these billions of subscribers are willing to put up with in-their-face ads. Quite the contrary.
What they would love is to be served up offers that make their lives easier (the closest Persian restaurant for example) or offers that save them money (buy one, get one free for only their favorite brands), or even offers them an opportunity to make a difference (donate with one touch to a relief effort when a country you care about is struck by a storm, or other tragedy).
So - give me an amazing experience - and I will reward you by thanking the "advertisers" who sponsor those experiences with my business.
It's not that the consumers are consciously thinking this way.
It's that this model is already proven and part of the valuation that is being given social media companies, search companies, and disruptive messaging companies all around the world, including Line, Kakao, Viber and more.
We believe that the power of community and the economics of exchanges - changes - everything. Disrupt or be disrupted? Maybe. But perhaps the biggest disruption of all is possible when real-time communications becomes as organized as Uber and creates a platform where everybody can literally win - the business, the drivers, the passengers and the advertisers whom I'm confident will become a part of Uber's model - just as the NYC taxi cabs I'm less likely to hail now carry content and advertising inside.