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  • Writer's pictureYannick Oswald

Time to get sober. Let's build a healthy internet.

I think we've all had, at least once during this quarantine, the 'holy s***' reaction when receiving our phone’s weekly screen time report.

Washington Post, 03/2020

Many of you may have heard of the so-called Zoom fatigue, referring to the fact that virtual screen-based interactions are extremely hard on the brain. And, 'Zumping' (Zoom break-ups) is only one of the side effects of the screen madness.

At the same time, the voice-first app Clubouse announced end of last week a staggering seed round at $100M+ valuation range, two months after launch and still in beta... We have been excited about the voice-first space for a while and I am glad to see more investors getting there as well.

So, what's my point here?

We have reached out 'digital' limit.

Concerns about screen addiction are nothing new. Some time ago I wrote about the notification overload. And 'screen time' search queries have been up since summer 2018.

But the lockdown and the never-ending video calls that are synonymous with working from home brought this topic back into the spotlight. Every major publisher is talking now about it on a regular basis.

How will this awareness impact our post COVID world?

The rise of the healthy internet and the less is more approach. 

The center for Humane technology did an interesting survey on a pool of 200k iPhone users, in partnership with Moment, an app that helps people track their screen time. They wanted to figure out how much screen time in apps left people feeling happy, and how much time left them in regret. The results are stunning.

Positive feelings about apps are inversely correlated with the amount of time we spend on them. According to this study, comparing between “Happy” and “Unhappy” amounts of usage of the same apps, their unhappy amount of time is 2.4x the amount of happy time. While this sample has of course a selection bias towards those people who care to install an app like Moment for screen time tracking, I think that directionally these insights are correct. The more satisfaction an app provides, in a short amount of time, the more the app is aligned with my incentives and, the better the product experience. Wouldn't you agree?

This is great news and a key thesis behind the #B2CSaaS trend I am so bullish about. Many popular apps in the future will not have usage time as their north star metric, but a KPI that measures VALUE ADDED to the end consumer. It will be interesting to see if the usage of existing mobile apps, including the most popular ones such as FB/Instagram, will slow down in the long term. They have become media channels for their creators and advertisers with a single purpose, click baits, a far cry from the social aspirations in the early days...

It is time to build a healthy internet where you get what you pay for. If we build digital products with the right incentives, and the subscription model allows us to do so, we have the opportunity to cancel many of the things that seem to be wrong with human nature these days.

The need for new digital interfaces.

Amazon now has more voice-related job openings than all of Google's job openings combined. Think about this. Amazon is already the leader in the space and is doubling down, again. Why so?

What this quarantine has revealed is that people are looking for new, more natural types of digital interfaces. And audio first seems like a great way to build them. Scheduled zoom calls, cameras, and screen commands just don't allow this. They have exhausted you already pre COVID, so there is just no way they can become the center of our increasingly overlapping professional and social lives. Consider these moments. You are in the office and having a random chat with a co-worker before a meeting. At a party, you are just wandering up to chat with a group of people because you know one of them. These casual interactions are the core of being human and we need products that drive them.

'Alexa, play one of our favorite audio shows'. Audio is just often more personal, efficient, and interacts more seamlessly with our lives than any other medium. I would much rather have a voice as my prime digital interface at home than a screen...

Although we can only guess what new consumer needs will outlast this quarantine, one thing is clear: The healthy internet and a more 'screen light' social interactivity are here to stay. Co-listening to your favorite Sybel show with your siblings while playing together is just one example. These types of interactivity can take many forms. I am already seeing some of the best product minds building new models across industries (from dating, story sharing, mental health to entertainment of course). So, if you are building something fresh in the consumer space, please do reach out to us!

Here a picture from my last weekend run. I can't remember a time when the weather has been so amazing in Northern Europe...

Life is awesome,



Other content I have found useful:

- Our company Wix hit a market cap of 10B+ for the first time in its history

- We are hiring a new team member at Mangrove. If this sounds like a job for you, please reach out. We are looking to hearing from YOU!

- We are sitting at an all-time peak of public B2B SaaS valuations in the midst of a global pandemic. Here a brilliant analysis by Meritech Capital on SaaS public valuations based on Q1 Earnings

- A great podcast series (in French) by my friend Jonathan Userovici on what it takes to raise venture money

- Publishers are getting better and better in the B2C SaaS game. This is great news for our society. Hopefully, one day, publishers can focus less on their advertising model and click-through rates, and more on producing good journalism again

- Apple has become one of the biggest B2C SaaS players out there. This trend, and not the new iPhone model, will drive value for Apple shareholders in the coming months and years

- Great thread on some operating principles of Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify


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