Mark, Meeker, MOD and motorcycles

MIKE O'DONNELL
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2012

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OPINION: Wellington is blessed with some great motorcycle mechanics. If you're a BMW owner there's few people as knowledgeable as Michael Dobson. Amongst Harley riders Bruce Lewis is the authority, while Wayne Tweedie really knows his way around Ducatis.

But if you have an old school bike, something that doesn't need a laptop to decipher a gremlin or still uses carburettors, there's one bod that's renowned for being able to sort out problems: Mark Boyle.

Dad Don operated a motorcycle shop in Wellington for decades before it passed on to Mark and his brother John in the 90s.

Mark is one of the few remaining mechanics that can work on any brand of motorcycle, the older the better. Legend has it he can set the tappets on a Moto-Guzzi blindfolded. I hope to high heavens he hasn't done that to mine, but his blunt honesty and skill with a spanner have earned him the title of guru amongst the seasoned biker set.

Less bearded but better presented, Mary Meeker is one of the gurus of the web world. Originally a digital analyst with investment bank Morgan Stanley, at the height of the dotcom boom she was dubbed "Queen of the Net". Today she's a partner at web VC firm Kleiner Perkins.

Every year she delivers a high-speed snapshot of the web and where it's going which is religiously followed by Wall Street.

Last week at Stanford University the "Queen of the Net" focused her guru vision on the likely flavour of 2013.

Mobile was a big focus. She noted Apple's iPad was growing at triple the rate of the iPhone, and had left its Apple siblings in dust. She even suggested that the tablet device would likely become the primary way consumers connect to the web. She noted that in some countries (like India) mobile web had already passed desktop web.

She also noted that Android-based phones were being embraced at six times the rate of the iPhone.

Another big focus was "re-imagining" human life as a result of new mobile devices, unlimited connectivity, and the breathless changes to user interfaces. Examples were varied and ranged from the predictable like magazines and photography, to cash registers and door locks.

She also honed in on "asset light" lifestyles. This is all about only needing a live mobile device and access to the cloud, to live and prosper. This will see consumers living in smaller physical spaces, and freeing up both time and money (for now at least).

If newspaper companies and manufacturers weren't already scared enough, Meeker also noticed that the current cycle of disruption was faster and broader than all previous cycles of the digital economy.

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While not in the league, or even the same neighbourhood, as Meeker or Boyle, it's the end of the year and as I'm about to go bush in Northern Montana for a month I'm feeling foolish enough to give my own best guesses about the digital year ahead of us here in Godzone.

The most obvious thing that's going to happen is that ecommerce will continue to eat into High Street sales, particularly high margin pure commodity plays like spectacles, pet food and car parts.

Given the huge disparity between offshore and local prices for items like these, entrepreneurs will be drawn to the idea of delivering a correction (probably while holding no stock themselves). Think of it as a Strawberry.net for brake pads. I think you will also increasingly see consumers price-checking inside stores with their smartphones.

Talking of local entrepreneurs, there's a great opportunity for harnessing crowd-sourcing with the sustainability concerns that have moved from the margins to the mainstream. An obvious contender here is car-pooling, where most people with predictable hours would be happy to band together to pay less and burn less fossil fuels.

Slightly less mainstream applications could include peer-to-peer personal loans and peer-to-peer shipping. While potentially these could be websites in their own right, the natural play is as a Facebook application, harnessing a network of trusted contacts to deliver benefits.

The last prediction is for the recruitment industry. Just as DIY Google AdSense and retargeting has made many client companies question the value they get from advertising agencies, the rise of YouTube recruitment videos and leveraging on LinkedIn will see some recruitment firms go to the wall. Check out Ruapehu Alpine Lifts if you want an example of how low budget can deliver decent results on YouTube.

Meanwhile even I'm not fool enough to try to guess the next Xero or Endace. However, I reckon it's unlikely to be some new killer technology, it will probably be making better use of existing technology, like Rod Drury did with Aftermail and what Vaughan Rowsell is doing right now with Vend.

Ask Mark Boyle the secret to good motorcycle design, and he'll tell you it's proven technologies, applied excellently. The same is likely true of successful web companies in 2013.

Mike "MOD" O'Donnell is an eCommerce manager and professional director. His Twitter handle is @modsta and he's currently holed up in the Beartooth Mountains until 2013.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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