Venture capitalist Mary Meeker, a partner with Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is widely seen as something of a futurist in the tech industry: she was an early champion of Dell, Microsoft, Intuit, Netscape, Yahoo!, Amazon, and eBay; served as the lead manager for Google Inc.’s initial IPO back in 2004; and since joining KPCB in 2010 has led or participated in more than 20 deals, including investments in Spotify, Twitter, Groupon, and Facebook.
She’s also known for her comprehensive annual reports, and recently delivered her latest at Vox Media’s Code Conference on June 1.
Among the highlights:
- After rapid growth at the turn of the century, new Internet users will continue to be harder to come by because of widespread adoption in developed markets, and significant barriers in developing ones.
- Meeker identified five of the past two decades’ “epic” drivers of growth that she said are “losing mojo”: connectivity growth, which has slowed; emerging country growth, with formerly underdeveloped regions such as China and the Middle East having risen from 43 per cent of global GDP growth to 69 per cent; government spending, which has resulted in rising debt and is now being curbed; personal borrowing, which had been fuelled by low interest rates but is now slowing down; and population growth, which is now shrinking.
- Online advertising effectiveness still has a long way to go, she said: While Google has proven online advertising can work, with $75 billion in revenues last year, 81 per cent of Internet users mute online video, 62 per cent report being annoyed with a the brand when forced to watch a video to access content, and 93 per cent report considering ad blocking software.
- To combat this impression, Meeker offered eight guidelines, saying advertisers need to focus on making content that’s authentic; entertaining; evokes emotion; is relatable; useful; gives the viewer control; that can work with the sound off; and doesn’t interrupt the experience, rather than focusing on selling a product.
- It turns out users are embracing sponsored Snapchat lenses and Facebook filters:
- Social media and chat are by far the best way for businesses to engage millennials, with 48 per cent citing Internet or social media as their first choice for contact. The worst way is by telephone, which remains the top choice by far for baby boomers and the elderly, and for Generation X (though not by much).
- Meeker believes that voice input could eventually replace touchscreens and keyboards alike, noting that the average person can speak 150 words per minute versus typing 40 words per minute, and is ideally suited for the Internet of Things. The barriers, she acknowledged, were accuracy and speed: “As speech recognition accuracy goes from, say, 95 per cent to 99 per cent, all of us in the room will go from barely using it today to using it all the time,” she quoted Andrew Ng, chief scientist of Chinese web services company Baidu, as saying. “Most people underestimate the difference between 95 per cent and 99 per cent accuracy – 99 per cent is a game changer.”
- iPhone sales may have peaked in 2015, Meeker indicated, while sales of Amazon’s Echo device are just beginning to take off: More than 1 million of the latter were sold in the first quarter of 2016, while iOS smartphone unit shipments went from an all-time high of 231 million in 2015 to an estimate of just over 200 million in 2016.
- Consumer data privacy concerns are going up: 45 per cent are more worried about their online privacy than a year ago, Meeker indicated, with 74 per cent limiting their online activity in the past year because of privacy concerns. Ninety-six per cent of users are also “very” or “somewhat” concerned about data privacy and how companies use customer data.
Meeker’s speech was accompanied by a 213-page slideshow, which you can check out below: