Tinder tests ‘Swipe Surge’ in US to connect users during peak times

Tinder today announced the test of a new in-app experience it’s calling “Swipe Surge,” that will send notifications to users when there’s a spike in Tinder usage in their area. The feature is designed to allow Tinder to better capitalize on real-world events that drive increased usage – like music festivals, parties, or spring break holidays, for example.

The company says that it tested out sending push notifications to alert users about surge periods in its app back in 2016, and found that it resulted in users forming 2.5x more matches during a swipe surge.

Users also received nearly 20 percent more right swipes during these events, and they were 2.6x more likely to receive a message, Tinder noted.

Now it’s turning these push notifications into a real product with Swipe Surge.

In addition to the alerts designed to draw Tinder users into the app at the same time, the app will include “Swipe Surge” branding during the event. People who already joined the surge by responding to the push notification will then move to the front of the match queue, and Tinder will show you who’s currently active in the app.

Tinder says that activity during a surge is 15x higher overall, and increases matchmaking potential by 250%.

The company has been working to promote Tinder as a dating app for the younger demographic in recent months, with its marketing campaign focused on the “single lifestyle,” media publication “Swipe Life,” and a test expansion of Tinder U, its college student product.

The Swipe Surge test is underway now in major U.S. markets, says Tinder.

Shyft raises $6.5M to help retail and service workers swap shifts

Anyone that has experience in the service or retail industry knows swapping shifts can be a logistical nightmare that leaves employees in trouble with management or stuck working during a friend’s birthday party. As a former Old Navy “sellebrity” myself, I can confirm there’s a huge need for an efficient tool to solve this problem.

That’s where Shyft, a Seattle-based startup that helps connect shift workers, comes in. Using Shyft, employees can message each other, pick up each other’s shifts and ultimately earn more money by picking up available slots that might have otherwise gone unstaffed.

The startup has raised a fresh round of funding — a $6.5 million Series A co-led by Ignition Partners and Madrona Venture Group — to continue developing its workforce management tool. As part of the financing, Ignition managing partner Bob Kelly and Madrona managing director S. Somasegar will join its board of directors.

Shyft co-founder and chief executive officer Brett Patrontasch got the idea for the web and mobile app for workers from his last company, called Scholars at your Service, which employed 250 students-turned house painters. The students had no way of messaging or communicating with one another aside from their personal phone lines.

“It kind of seemed obvious that enterprise social should extend to shift workers,” Patrontasch told TechCrunch. “We are trying to bring a really consumer-friendly mobile experience to the front lines. [Employees] need products that solve their problems and we are really dedicated to helping that worker.”

So far, Shyft has partnered with Gap Inc. to provide the service to workers at its fleet of retail stores, which include Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta. Patrontasch says Shyft works with a “handful” of other national retailers, too.

Shyft, a Techstars accelerator graduate, has previously raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Madrona, Flying Fish Partners’ co-founder Heather Redman, former Seattle Seahawks offensive lineman Russell Okung and former Major League Baseball player Edgar Martinez.

Nintendo dashes hopes of an N64 Classic

2016 had the NES Classic, 2017 had the SNES Classic, and 2018 has the PlayStation Classic, so a Nintendo 64 Classic can’t be too far away, right? Don’t count on it. In an interview with Kotaku, Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aimé says that while he “would not ever rule something out… what I can tell you is certainly that’s not in our planning horizon.”

“We were clear when we did the first two Classic series that, for us, these were limitedttime opportunities that were a way for us as a business to bridge from the conclusion of Wii U as a hardware system to the launch of Nintendo Switch,” says Fils-Aimé. “That was the very strategic reason we launched the NES Classic system.”

“So while consumers may have been anticipating something, we view these as limited-time opportunities. We’ve also now been very clear that as the consumer looks forward to engaging with our classic content that is going to happen more and more with the subscription service.”

Dreams of reliving the mid-to-late-’90s console wars all over again will have to wait, then. The lack of an N64 Classic would indeed be easier to swallow if you could simply play Ocarina of Time on a Switch through Nintendo’s online subscription. The trouble with that approach, of course, is that Nintendo has been very slow to roll out its offerings.

Currently subscribers to the Switch’s online service have access to around 30 original and tweaked versions of NES games, but no other systems are available, and Nintendo isn’t selling downloadable games through its usual Virtual Console platform either. But Fils-Aimé hints that more content will be on the way. “As we look to the future,” he says, “our subscription service, NSO, Nintendo Switch Online is going to be the place where you can play our classic content,” adding “We’ll see what comes next” when pressed on whether this will go beyond the NES.

Sharp’s new smartphone has double the notch for…double the fun?

As phonemakers try their best to make the notch look less obvious, Sharp is doubling it up.

The Japanese electronics maker has unveiled its AQUOS R2 Compact, featuring the company’s first “double notch” design.

While the top notch houses the front-facing camera, the bottom notch features a fingerprint reader which sits below the 5.2-inch 2280 x 1080 IGZO LCD.

Measuring 64 mm wide, it’s noticeably narrower than the newer iPhones and other higher end Android smartphones. Sharp boasts that its design means the phone can be used easily with one hand, a dream that’s long subsided for us.

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Aside from that, the AQUOS R2 Compact runs on Android 9 Pie, boasting a Snapdragon 845 processor, 64GB of internal storage, 4GB of RAM, a 22.6-megapixel rear camera, and a 2,500mAh battery.

It’s unlikely you’ll see the phone outside of Japan when it releases on SoftBank in January next year, sad news if you’re one of those people who can’t get enough of the notch.

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Misfit Vapor 2 review

After releasing its first touchscreen smartwatch, the Vapor, last year, Misfit is back at it with the next-generation Vapor 2. As with the original Vapor, the new smartwatch starts at an affordable $250, but there are a few new features to accompany the heart-rate monitor, including built-in GPS and an NFC chip for contactless payments. Unfortunately, it’s all powered by Qualcomm’s aging Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor.

While a heart-rate monitor and built-in GPS are features we want in a smartwatch, we’d also like for it to last for more than a day between charges. With a 300mAh battery in the Vapor 2, a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor would have been ideal, since it promises to deliver two days of battery life among other improvements. On the bright side, the Misfit Vapor 2 is one of first watches to include Google’s updated Wear OS interface, which makes the experience far more enjoyable. Let’s take a closer look.

Stunning, modern design

The Misfit Vapor 2 doesn’t look massively different from its predecessor, but there are minor design changes have a noticeable (and necessary) impact. For starters, there are now two sizes — 41mm and 46mm, to accommodate those with smaller wrists. We thought the original Vapor was too big for women’s wrists even though we appreciated the larger screen size to read alerts on.

Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

We tested the 41mm size with the rose gold aluminum case and rose beige sport strap, and it’s the perfect size for our small wrist. The design is a nice change from the bedazzled smartwatches that are usually aimed at women. It not only looks beautiful when paired with any outfit, but it’s lightweight enough that it feels comfortable to work out with as well.

The design is a nice change from bedazzled smartwatches

Other colors for the 41mm case include a black case with a black sport strap, a rose-tone case with a navy sport strap, a stainless steel case with a stainless steel bracelet, and a rose-tone case with a rose-tone stainless steel bracelet.

But the Misfit Vapor 2 has done away with the one feature that truly distinguished it from other smartwatches on the market — the touch-sensitive bezel. Rather than brushing your finger along the black edges to scroll through menus and notifications, there’s now a rotating crown. The touch sensitive bezel was a feature we don’t see often on smartwatches, and we preferred it to the crown because it feels more comfortable to use.

There are also plenty of pre-installed watch faces to choose from on the Vapor 2. They range from subtle to colorful and you can also customize them in terms of color and complication. We preferred the main “Misfit Vapor 2” option which we set to show our steps, heart-rate, and the weather.

Smooth performance, vibrant display

In terms of performance, there aren’t any major issues to be aware of, even with the two-year old Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset. For the most part, apps load quickly and we only experienced lag when accessing the Google Play Store on the smartwatch. There’s also 4GB of storage, so you can store music directly on the device.

misfit vapor 2 review spotify
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

With 328 pixels-per-inch, the display resolution is sharp on the circular 1.2-inch AMOLED display — and we didn’t have trouble viewing content in direct sunlight. With the Misfit Vapor, we found the display scratched easily but thankfully we didn’t run into the same problem with the Vapor 2. Unfortunately, we did see a few scrapes on the case, though.

Track daily activity with built-in GPS

The original Vapor included a heart-rate sensor, but the Vapor 2 adds built-in GPS. We used Google Fit to track distance during our runs, but those who like to see a visual of their runs or bike rides will have to use their smartphones. For now, Google Fit on Wear OS only tracks how far you run and doesn’t show an actual map like it does on the app.

We found the heart-rate sensor to be extremely accurate.

We found the heart-rate sensor to be extremely accurate — our own results compared to the Misfit Vapor 2 were only off by about one beat per minute. In addition, the smartwatch will also track steps, calories burned, distance traveled, and heart-rate through Google Fit and Google Fit workout.

To track your heart-rate throughout the day, you’ll have to opt-in to the feature on the smartwatch. Your beats per minute will be updated every 20 minutes and tracked through the Google Fit app which you can refer to at any time to see your BPM during all hours of the day. To preserve battery life, you can choose to manually measure your heart-rate throughout the day instead.

There are also plenty of watch faces available to choose from that display your heart-rate. That way, you can simply view your BPM at a glance. But for those who like to keep the information private, there are plenty of designs to choose from that don’t list the metric for all to see.

In select countries, the Misfit Vapor 2 can also handle contactless payments. Thanks to the built-in NFC chip, you can make a payment by swiping down on the menu and tapping on the Google Pay tile.

Redesigned Wear OS

As with the Fossil Q Venture HR, the Misfit Vapor 2 comes with the redesigned Wear OS from Google — which was a much needed upgrade. Rather than having to memorize different gestures, simple swipes will bring you where you need to be. The interface not only looks nicer but is much more pleasant to use.

We’ve used it to check upcoming flight and hotel information for trips we’ve gone on.

To get to your settings, simply swipe down to access the different shortcut tiles like airplane mode, Google Pay, and battery saver. A swipe up brings you to your notifications which you can expand individually, and you can swipe left or right to clear each one. By swiping to the left, you’ll have access to Google Fit where you’re able to check on your Heart Points and Move Minutes throughout the day, along with your heart-rate and step count.

Swiping to the right brings you to the Google Assistant-powered feature which offers a personalized overview of your day, covering calendar appointments, traffic alerts, and more. We’ve used it to check upcoming flight and hotel information for trips we’ve gone on. There are also Smart Suggestions which help to make sure you’re taking advantage of all the features available, whether it’s checking your step count or the hourly forecast for the day.

misfit vapor 2 review suggestions
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

It’s important to consider that Wear OS works best with Android phones. Those with an iPhone can still use the Misfit Vapor 2, but there are some limitations. With iOS, the Wear OS app always has to run in the background for the smartwatch to stay connected and receive notifications. If you’re using an iPhone, you also can’t interact with notifications and will only be able to accept or deny phone calls from the smartwatch.

All-day battery life

The Misfit Vapor 2 varies in battery size depending on the case size — the 41mm case has a 300mAh battery while the 46mm case houses a 330mAh battery. We managed to get about a full day’s worth of battery life out of the smartwatch. Despite the addition of built-in GPS, the Vapor 2 lasted us a little over twelve hours, even after tracking a workout.

After taking it off the charger at about 9 a.m., we were at 76 percent by 1:30 p.m. After our workout (where we used Google Fit to track the distance of our run) we were at 37 percent by 8:45 p.m. Before we went to bed at 11 p.m., the Vapor 2 was at 18 percent.

Misfit Vapor 2 Compared To

It’s important to note the percentage might dip lower for those using an Android device, since it’s capable of doing more. We paired it with an iPhone and we also didn’t use Spotify during our run, which is an option but might deplete the battery quicker.

The Misfit Vapor 2 also charges much faster than its predecessor. It still comes with a puck-shaped charger, but there are now magnetic pins attached that clip into the bottom of the smartwatch. As with the Fossil Q Venture HR, the new charger can power up your smartwatch to least 80 percent in an hour. After placing it on the charger at 16 percent around 8 a.m., it was already at 66 percent by 8:30 a.m.

Price, availability, and warranty information

The price of the Misfit Vapor 2 is dependent on the size — the 41mm case costs $250 while the 46mm option is a little bit more, coming in at $270. It’s available for purchase now from Misfit’s website.

Misfit offers a limited two-year warranty that covers manufacturing defects, but it doesn’t cover accidental damage to the case or watch strap.

Our Take

The Misfit Vapor 2 is a beautiful smartwatch that’s comfortable to wear during workouts. For $250, it packs heart-rate monitoring, GPS, and the redesigned Wear OS into a sleek looking case that can be worn both day and night.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes. If you’re looking for a more stylish smartwatch there’s the Fossil Q Venture HR with built-in heart-rate and GPS. As with the Misfit 2, it comes with a 1.2-inch AMOLED display and Google’s redesigned Wear OS. While it’s a little more expensive, starting at $255, the fourth-generation Fossil smartwatch comes with a lot more color options and styles to choose from.

For a little less, there’s the Fitbit Versa at $200. It features a sleek design, a heart-rate sensor, and can last up to five days on a single charge depending on usage. As Fitbit’s second smartwatch, it’s a little more refined, and it can receive all the same notifications as any other Wear OS watch.

If you’re willing to splurge a little more, there’s the Samsung Galaxy Watch for $330 which comes with a heart-rate sensor, built-in GPS, and tons of fitness tracking features. As with the Vapor 2, it comes in two different case sizes (42mm and 46mm) both of which have stunning designs. It also has impressive battery life — it lasted us between three to four full days even after tracking workouts and receiving notifications.

For iOS users, we recommend the Apple Watch Series 4, which starts at $400. That way, you can take advantage of all the features without having any limitations. The new version also comes with an electrocardiogram app that allows you to keep an eye out for an irregular heart rate.

How long will it last?

The Misfit Vapor 2 will most likely last you beyond the two-year limited warranty. But it’s important to note the battery will deplete over time, and it’s also unclear how long it will receive software updates for, especially since newer smartwatches are likely to include the upgraded Wear 3100 chipset.

While the Vapor 2 is swim-proof, we don’t recommend diving or going deeper than a few feet. You can, however, go for some laps in the pool or shower with it.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The Misfit Vapor 2 is a versatile smartwatch that’s comfortable enough to work out with and has a beautiful design that can be worn both day and night. It also tracks all the necessary health and fitness stats on a daily basis.

Headset legend Astro just made a $200 controller that’s as elite as they come

$200. That’s a heck of a lot for a PS4 / PC gamepad, particularly when Sony’s much-loved official DualShock 4 controller can often be found for just $40 on sale. But because this PS4 / PC gamepad comes from Astro — the acclaimed company behind the you-get-what-you-pay-for Astro A40 and A50 headsets — I immediately knew it would be worth some serious consideration.

Astro has never sold its own gamepads before, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from going all-out today: the new, officially Sony-licensed Astro C40 TR controller is arguably even more elite than Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite, which itself raised the ceiling for gaming controller prices to a then-sky-high $150 back in 2015. (The Verge’s Microsoft expert Tom Warren argued it was worth the cash for discerning gamers, and I’d tend to agree.)

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The key feature that sets Astro apart from the crowd today? The analog sticks and D-pads are totally modular, so you can swap them out whenever you want to switch from a PS4-style symmetrical stick setup to an Xbox-like offset controller configuration.

Like the Xbox One Elite, you’re also getting a pair of extra, remappable rear buttons around back, switches you can flick to give yourself hair-triggers, and swappable extra-long stick caps for precision aiming.

The Astro C40 TR

Like the DualShock 4, you still get your touchpad and you can still plug in a wired 3.5mm headset into the controller for wireless audio — but because Astro’s using a 2.4GHz USB dongle to connect to the system (with sub-5ms latency), you may not have to worry about that sound taking bandwidth away from your precious Bluetooth connection.

Did I mention there’s a wired mode too, presumably for cautious pro gamers and to keep playing when the batteries are dry? You can just plug in a USB cable.

Astro says the C40 TR has up to 12 hours of battery life, and will ship in early 2019. I’ll wait to praise it until we can actually touch the thing — is it comfortable, and how durable is it? — but it sounds like Logitech (which bought Astro last July) may have raised the bar for gamepads.

By the way, the Astro C40 TR is just the latest in a trend of Sony offering its blessing to third-party controllers. Check out the Scuf Vantage if you want something closer to the Xbox One Elite (tho maybe read our review first), or the Hori Wired Mini Gamepad if you’d rather have a tiny new controller.

An Astro rep says there’s no plans for an Xbox version of the controller yet.

All the Best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

Some may decide to skip out on Thanksgiving dinner this year in order to snap up Target’s best Black Friday deals. The mega-retailer will open its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 22. You’ll have eight hours to grab the best gear before the store closes at 1 a.m. Black Friday, reopening later on Black Friday at 7 a.m. Store hours may vary by state.

Target is the second-largest department store retailer in the United States, just behind Walmart, so it follows that the two are each other’s top competition when it comes to Black Friday sales. While we expect Walmart to outshine Target in the iPhone categories, most everything else is going to be a race. The retailer will likely be offering doorbuster deals on products like 4K TVs (from brands like Samsung, LG, and Philips), gaming consoles, smart vacuums, and smart home hubs like the Google Home Mini — which will not be on Amazon.

But it’s not all about the brick and mortar these days. The retailer is also hosting online-only deals in the days leading up to Black Friday, so if you want to dodge the crowds entirely, you should keep your eyes on the website.

We will be constantly updating this post with new information and deals, so stay tuned for the latest updates on Target’s Black Friday offerings.

Looking for information about the best deals? Find more from our Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals pages.

Best Earbuds and Headphones Deals

Whether you’re looking for some compact earbuds or full size headphones, there will be something for everyone this Black Friday. Keep an eye out for noise cancelling headphones for travelers, sports headphones active athletes, and Bluetooth options for wireless freedom!

Deal starts 11/22

Beats Studio3 Wireless Porcelain Rose

$280 $350

YOU SAVE $70

Expires soon

Premium sound with fine-tuned acoustics, Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones use adaptive noise cancelling to actively block external noise, and real-time audio calibration to preserve clarity, range and emotion.

E3 slouches towards irrelevance again as Sony announces it’s skipping the show

I like E3 . I really do. But it’s also monumentally dumb: game companies spending millions to show off essentially faked content to an increasingly jaded audience. And it’s increasingly out of step with how the gaming industry works. So it should come as no surprise that Sony will be skipping the show more or less altogether this year, joining Nintendo in taking a step back from spectacle.

Sony has been a part of CES for 20 years and this will be the first one it’s ever missed. I’ve gone to their events every time I’ve attended; I was there for their historic putdown of Microsoft after the latter announced some hugely unpopular restrictions on used games. I think you can actually see me near the front in the broadcast of that one. (You can! I’m at 1:29.)

And E3 has been a part of Sony’s yearly cadence as well. Like other companies, for years Sony hoarded information to debut at E3, TGS, and Gamescom, but E3 was generally where you saw new consoles and flagship titles debut. But as even E3’s organizers have admitted over and over again, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Too often we have seen half-finished games on stage at E3 that end up cancelled before the year is out, or commitments made to dates the companies can’t possibly keep. Assigning a complex, creative industry to a yearly schedule of major announcements is a great way to burn them out, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

Variety first noticed Sony’s absence from ESA communications. In a statement issued to multiple outlets, Sony said:

As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community. PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019. We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can’t wait to share our plans with you.

They won’t be alone. Nintendo hasn’t had a real proper E3 press conference in years. Instead, they host a live stream around the event and have a big booth where people mainly just play games. Their Nintendo Direct videos come out throughout the year, when the titles and developers are good and ready.

Microsoft is still there, and still puts on quite a show. I remember the original announcement of the Kinect, probably one of the weirdest and dumbest things I’ve ever taken part in. It was memorable, at least.

But Microsoft is also doing its own thing, announcing throughout the year and on its own terms. The Xbox One X was only hinted at during E3, and announced in full much later. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft also announced they were taking it easy this year at E3 — though this might also be a good opportunity for them to double down. With the schedules these huge shows go on, they might already be committed to one course or another.

Sony actually has its own PlayStation Experience event where it announces things and lets gamers and press play the latest, but even that was cancelled ahead of its expected December date. Is Sony just getting shy?

More likely they are leveraging their dominance in the console market to be a market leader and “decider,” as they say. They have no shortage of amazing games coming out, including lots of hot-looking exclusives. What have they got to prove? Although Sony itself is not participating in E3, the developers it backs will almost certainly be there. What better way to school the competition than to not show up and still have everyone talking about you?

With the PS4 Pro out there and a solid line-up already confirmed, Sony is sitting pretty for 2019, and the company probably feels this is a safe time to experiment with “inventive opportunities to engage the community,” as the statement put it. E3 will still be big, and it will still be fun. But the trend is clear: it just won’t be necessary.

Cassette decks from Crosley take aim at tape-hoarding nostalgia-seekers

Crosley, makers of the “good enough” record players you see in Urban Outfitters and Target, have turned their retro novelty eye on the next obvious format: cassettes. These two new decks from the company have all the latest features from 1985, but also a handful of modern conveniences.

Let’s get one thing clear at the outset: these are certainly ridiculous. And yes, you can buy a boom box with a cassette deck right now, new, for $30 or so. But having browsed the stock I can tell you that most of them are pretty ugly. There are vintage ones too, but not all have aged well and may have unfixable issues like corrosion or motor problems.

And believe it or not, tapes are still around. People are manufacturing and recording on them because they’re fun and retro and analog. I’ve bought a few myself at shows in the last year.

So there is actually a market for a new, decent-looking, portable cassette player and radio.

The Crosley devices are pretty straightforward. There are two models; Each has a big mono speaker, a single-direction deck (meaning you’ll have to flip the tape), an AM/FM radio, and a built-in mic. The $60 CT100 model (top) has shortwave radio bands as well, and the capability to play music from an SD card or USB drive, while the $70 CT200 has treble and bass dials and a VU meter for easier recording of cassette-based podcasts. Both have handles.

Of the two I’d definitely go with the CT100, since presumably you can use the SD/USB player to record mixtapes of stuff you’ve downloaded. Record a little intro with the mic or pretend you’re the DJ between songs, and boom, it’s like you’re me in 1994. Plus you never know when shortwave will come in handy.

It’s silly, but it’s a silly world we live in. Silly and horrible. Maybe bringing back cassettes will help. Keep an eye out for these players wherever

Overnight success now requires a little more time

Ten years ago the iOS App Store launched — and the mobile revolution was off. Entrepreneurs everywhere rallied to take advantage, building category-defining consumer companies like Twitter, Uber, Lyft and Square, among many others.

There’s no better time for an entrepreneur to start a company than when a new platform like mobile emerges. The rising tide in these moments becomes a tsunami: Eager customers descend on services through word of mouth and new acquisition channels; there’s outsized press interest; and sales take off in part due to growth of the platform itself.

Now is not one of these periods. Mobile appears mature, and the next great enabling platform is still just past the horizon. That’s why many early-stage VCs have shifted their focus away from consumer and to other new enabling technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, blockchain and AI/ML.

I have a different view. I think now is a great time to build consumer companies, even without a new platform. There are three reasons for this. First, the internet has created big problems for humans, organizations and society, which entrepreneurs can attack at scale. Second, the first wave of mobile-enabled companies have laid a foundation — including processes, seasoned executives and business models — that new entrepreneurs can borrow. And third, mobile technology is still changing and evolving.

Let’s take a closer look at all three.

Solving big problems

The last wave of breakout companies created interactive platforms (Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.) that have entertained many. They didn’t solve big societal problems. There’s now a big need — and big opportunity — for companies that can help people save time, money and sanity, even as they build great businesses.

Most of us now realize the major problems that a connected, mobile, always-on world has wrought. These include:

  • Income inequality. Lower-income Americans are struggling more than ever. Entrepreneurs should be thinking of ways to help folks where they need it the most: the pocketbook. That might mean unlocking found money, ensuring that available financial resources are being used wisely or saving consumers from the growing number of “gotchas” imposed by financial institutions.
  • Too many choices. When you can buy or choose anything, it’s hard to pick what you actually want. There are wide-open opportunities for concierges, curation and trusted guides.
  • A lack of intimacy. With everything online and available at the touch of a keypad, genuine human interaction has become more rare. There’s a need for companies that can provide real care and curation for matters that affect our daily lives.

Newly available resources

After a decade of building companies for mobile, there are now untold stories, battle scars and people available for future companies to learn from. This makes it easier for startups to assemble playbooks and experienced teams. It also reduces the downside risk for investors, opening new paths to capital for companies that need it.

For instance, it’s now clear that consumer brands must define, own and curate an end-to-end experience. A great new example is GOAT, the online sneakerhead marketplace. Faced with a sneaker market full of rampant knock-offs, the founders invested in a capital- and time-intensive process to manually inspect every shoe for authenticity. The result is an experience that every sneakerhead loves and a breakthrough consumer brand.

Building a breakout consumer platform will be more complex, more challenging and often more capital-intensive than it was for the prior generation.

There are also lots of executives and teams that know how to lead and manage complex operations, especially on the ground. This is crucial to scale logistically complex ideas like Opendoor, Instacart and others.

The other thing needed to help scale these companies is capital. And right now, there are two particularly relevant new kinds of investors: 1) mega equity funds like SoftBank Vision Fund, and 2) alternative lending funds that provide non-dilutive capital to companies to finance the acquisition of traditional assets. Those capital sources enable companies like Opendoor (disclosure: I’m a personal investor) to own and manage a truly delightful end-to-end experience.

Mobile today is not mobile tomorrow

Mobile devices have come a long way over the last decade. And there will be many more meaningful improvements in the near future, allowing for new uses and new companies.

I anticipate breakthroughs that will boost the ability of the chips and subsystems on a phone to perform optimally for far longer. Right now, these are throttled due to heating issues and other problems. As companies solve these issues, they’ll create order of magnitude improvements on what our phones are capable of, bringing technologies like VR and AR, to take two examples, far forward into everyday use.

On the network side, 5G and subsequent buildouts will meaningfully change what kinds of bandwidth we can handle, enabling even more data and compute to be in the cloud.

Mobile today is about one-to-many broadcast platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Tomorrow’s great consumer companies will leverage a better vector: one-to-one customer intimacy. Companies like Grove Collaborative (disclosure: Mayfield is an investor) are experiencing hypergrowth in part by using real people connecting with consumers over text to bring a curated, personalized experience to shopping for household staples. I expect this to be a major trend, with the companies that earn the right to communicate more with customers the ones that win.

Building a breakout consumer platform will be more complex, more challenging and often more capital-intensive than it was for certain titans of the prior generation. But for those with the vision and substance to bring a valuable service to the world that solves real problems, the resources and emerging technologies will be there to help create the next groundbreaking consumer brand.