FlipBoard, a neat little app on my brand spankin new iPad 2 is by far the coolest thing ever. For those of you who haven’t experienced this wonderous app, here is a demo. The video is not as awesome as the real experience, but it comes close, sorta.
Those in the technology circle know that FlipBoard is an app that the great Oprah herself loves. And everyone knows that anything she uses, everyone uses – that’s at least how Twitter came to be mainstream at some level.
Just a few days ago, the company raised $50 million at a $200 million valuation. Eyes are rolling. Why is this company, only a year old, with an idea so simple, worth so much? And why didn’t anyone think of this before?
Here are a few insights that we all can learn from FlipBoard:
1) Build to Disrupt
People come up with ideas all the time, but the million-dollar-ideas come from those who establish start big – a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
Founder Evan Doll states that they wanted to “re-imagine a web browser” and “build a superior browsing experience.” It’s not just another app. It’s a game changer.
Think of other successful companies that have started that way. Google’s lofty goal is to “organize the world’s information” while Microsoft wants “a computer on every dek and in every home.”
2) Simplicity in Execution / Product First
The FlipBoard idea itself is so simple that most people think “I could’ve came up with that.” And it’s true. It is a simple idea. But simple ideas don’t win the market.
However complex or simple the idea, there has to be simplicity in execution. That means staying laser-focused on goals. They have no revenue streams right now and could be making money 1000 different ways. Yet, they don’t because they are focused on building a great product first.
Of course they have a big vision of taking over the world or a goal of some sort, but right now they keep it simple. They are hell bent on building a great product. They spend 99% of their energy on it and they are happy to do so.
3) Find Mutually Beneficial Relationships
Especially if that person is the great Oprah. FlipBoard built a mutual relationship with her brand and feature Oprah junk frontpage. This draws Oprah fans (the Oprah moms) to the app. Win-win!
Mutually beneficial (or I think the Whartonites call it “strategic partnerships”) are hard. It’s hard to find that one gem that will help you as much as you will help them. But the key to finding one is making sure you know what you want out of the relationship, and that your goals align with theirs.
In this case, Oprah gets distribution while FlipBoard gets a broader userbase.
4) A Little Luck Goes a Long Way or Piggyback on the Success and Network Effects of Others
FlipBoard was originally supposed to be built for computers and laptops. But that all changed when the iPad launched. FlipBoard founder Mike describes the iPad launch day as a God-send – “a holiday in which we were wishing each other a Happy iPad Day.”
And because it was launched with the iPad hoopla, it made it easier to get noticed. The Whartonites would call this a “complementary good.” It made good use of the marketing dollars of Apple by simply hopping on the bandwagon. After all, Apple is just too awesome to not talk about. In a way, Steve Jobs works for FlipBoard – he is its biggest marketing guy.
So really, it’s not even about luck. It’s about just launching at the right time and making sure there is a need for it. Need means the market has to be ready for it, and the platform has to be there. Yes, the world still spun and people were happy before FlipBoard was conceived, but now, people are a little happier.