Finally – some sensible entrepreneurs. I love it. Viber draws a stark comparison to the owners of SnapChat that turned down $3B not long ago … and they had far fewer users. With $900M for 300M subscribers, perhaps we are now seeing the market price. (Viber brings Rakuten 300M subscribers according to this Reuters article.)
Why did Rakuten want the platform? I'll offer a few ideas:
– Companies need to embrace the mobile mind shift and engage consumers where they are and how they want to be engaged. Today and increasingly so – consumers expect engagement on their mobile devices, whether they are shopping or seeking customer service. Companies need to be present in those moments when consumers reach for their phones.
– Viber isn't simply an app. It may have started as an app, but like so many others with aspirations … it has transformed from an app to a platform. I may not need 200 apps on my phone. I may not want 50. Not every brand will earn a spot or be able to manufacture a mobile moment with me through an app on my phone. Brands are going to have to "borrow mobile moments" by engaging with consumers on third party platforms. Consumers need a messaging or communication app, a mapping app, and what else? The question is: how long will this list be.
– Audience size matters. Everyone says, "oh, we could just go build this ourselves." But it takes a special app to get several hundred million users. I can't even count the number of social media/messaging apps that I have downloaded, used 2-3 times and abandoned because the size of the community was too small. Consider also that these apps draw up to a couple of hundred minutes of usage a week.
– Mobile phones and their usage generate data. If you can turn data into insights that drive a business impact, you'll gain a source of competitive advantage.
We called three of these trends in our 2014 Mobile Trends report:
1) We'll see mind-blowing exit events in mobile as companies look to scoop up mobile talent and audience
2) Asia will be an increasing source of innovation in mobile. In the 90's it was Europe. In the first decade of this century, it was the US. Companies should still be paying attention to what is happening in the US and Europe, but should start paying more attention to Asia – especially China and India.
3) Data + insights are the new source of competitive advantage
If you want to know what the fuss is all about, go download WeChat or WhatsApp or KakaoTalk and then get a bunch of your friends to do the same. You'll be hooked.