When to Streamline Your Product and a Tale of Two Earnings Calls – Techdoxx

Deepak Gupta February 19, 2022
Updated 2022/02/19 at 7:00 PM

Welcome to Ploonge Exchange, a weekly newsletter about startups and markets. It is inspired by the Ploonge+ daily column, where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign here.

Oh yeah folks, it’s the weekend and it’s a long one here in the States as we have Monday off. As you read this, I am – I hope – napping on the couch with three decked out dogs around me, the four of us drooling as we nap.

But! First! There’s a lot to do, so let’s dive into a startup pivot from earlier in the week and, yes, talk a little about money.

jukes, pivots

The esports world is a very fragmented place. Built on different games, forums, tournament series, platforms, chat apps and websites, it can be a legitimate effort to find out what the heck is going on even in your favorite game. So, Juked.gg started building a centralized news hub for all things esports in 2020.

The company had some early success, raising a seven-figure round that we topped in early 2021. But according to the co-founder Ben Goldhaberthe service had a period of rapid growth, which he described as “up and to the right” in chart form, before seeing its active user count plateau last year.

What happened? According to Goldhaber, who also goes by the “FishStix” gamertag, Juked ended up serving the 1% of esports fans, but wasn’t reaching a wider audience. So, the nascent company did the smart thing to ask its users about their service and what they thought of it. From those conversations, Goldhaber said users have brought esports-endemic issues such as community toxicity, spam, and hot takes.

So Juked decided to turn it around a bit and build the social network its users were effectively asking for – a less toxic place to be an esports fan.

The product launched on Thursday after a period in closed alpha after testing it with around 750 users before making it more available.

According to information from AppAnnie (now Data.ai, apparently), the service charted among iOS users in the US this week, albeit only in the social networking category. We’ll check back in with the company in a few months to see how the downloads perform.

Big questions remain, including how the service intends to combat toxicity at scale – I had to agree to a pretty strong set of terms to apply. Juked intends to use human moderation with AI in the future and requires users to sign up with a phone number. All good ideas, but untested for the large-scale enterprise.

I like what Juked is working on because I’m a fan of esports. But I’m not precisely in the market for a new social network either. Let’s see how the startup’s in-market juke can help it score more. (And probably raising money, since it’s been a year since the equity crowdfunding round, so we wouldn’t be shocked if the company worked to raise more money in the coming quarters.)

A tale of two earnings calls

This week brought another wad of earnings calls from tech companies. And, as always, we’re keeping an eye on the market for tips on what’s to come for startups.

Most of our work is here, in our dive into how important forward-looking is for tech companies today. The end results seem to be far less important to investors than what they see ahead. So when Amplitude was attacked by public market investors, we took notes. There have been other companies that have taken similar scams, including Meta, so don’t think we’re pointing the finger at the just-published Amplitude. (He was listed directly last year, mind you.)

But there was another side of the coin, namely, Appian earnings. The low-code automation company has been a quieter public market story than most tech debuts. That’s not a diss, mind; your CEO Matt Calkins told me this this week when discussing the company’s results.

As well? It all comes down to Calkins’ definition of what innovation is, and not just building something. Telling Ploonge that his company has been an engineering-led organization, he told us that it’s not enough to do something cool. If the company doesn’t market a new resource, sell it and use it, so it didn’t really innovate. Innovation, he said, is an experience, not a product. The end result of innovation, he added, is a customer testimonial about a new feature – when someone registers and says a new thing is really good. Which requires people to, well, know something exists so they can take a walk.

I like his perspective. This helps explain why much of the so-called innovation in the blockchain world seems less like real innovation than creating a collection of hypotheses; yes, some of the more esoteric web3 products that are on the market today will have a real impact, but most are more coding tricks than useful tools.

A little longer before I let you go. The staff shortage that companies are experiencing in the United States isn’t just driving up the cost of hiring, it’s helping companies like Appian. The company is seeing customer demand to automate more of its work because employees don’t want to do it. And disgruntled employees jump.

Finally, Appian’s growth has been accelerating for some time. And it had an earnings report that didn’t lead to a stock price crash, but a gain. Coming back to our entry point for this conversation, this is the barrier that companies need to overcome today to get a few hundred basic points of market value extension. It’s a much tougher market than it was a few quarters ago. That’s why, I think, the IPO window is closed for some time yet.

Hugs, and I hope your weekend is restful!

Alex

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