I have been fortunate to spot the Internet at its infancy, when I started Internet Graffiti in 1994. I launched a web document management product in 1996, when the word Intranet was still unknown. I started Funambol ten years ago, when I felt mobile was going to be the next big thing. We built iCloud way before Steve Jobs said it was a good idea. I am a lucky man.
Sadly, you can't spot the next big thing by trying hard. It just hits you.
A year ago, I was hit. Again.
I was not looking for it. It just happened.
I am a huge sports fan. During the weekend, my schedule is CEO-style: soccer, baseball, football, Formula One, MotoGP. I like them all. I spend hours in front of the TV, always watching it alone (actually, my dog Roberto is a silent company, but he gets scared when I yell).
My dad is just like me, although his focus is squarely on soccer. My mom did not like it, but she surely loved my dad, and she would see every game with him. Just for the company.
A few years ago, I gave her an iPad. She loved it. When she passed away, my dad took it.
Thinking about the solitude of watching all those games alone, my brother told him: "Dad, when you watch soccer, turn the iPad on and open Skype. I'll call you, so we can watch the game together".
My brother is a genius. I found myself at home on my dad's couch, with my brother sitting next to me. Virtually. Screaming from the iPad at the referee. It was like having him there. It meant not being alone. That hit me.
Watching TV by yourself is pathetic, I admit it. TV was meant to be social. That's why we invite people over for a big game. Sharing is half of the fun (and even more).
I can't have people over every night (or I would be single, fast), but what if I could share the fun of the game with them, even if they are not physically where I am? I know they are watching the game. We talk about it the day after, always. I know their iPad is next to them.
The iPad mini is the perfect companion to your TV. It is the remote control of the future. At $329, Apple is going to sell a boatloads of them this Christmas.
88% of iPad owners use it in front of the TV. People in the US spend almost five hours a day watching TV (ouch ;-) It is still our favorite pastime, by far. All of a sudden, it is possible to talk with your friends, who are watching TV at the same time. It is called Social TV.
The TV advertising industry is huge, but they have no idea if you are actually watching their commercial, and they definitely cannot have you act on it (e.g. buy). Brand advertising is emotional advertising. It works with a 55" TV. But it does not work on the Internet. There, transactional advertising works. You can act on an ad. Buy.
Imagine how big the TV+Internet ad industry can be. Where you can show an emotional ad on TV and have the viewer act on it on the iPad. It is the Holy Grail of advertising.
There you have it. My next big thing is giving people back the fun of watching their favorite shows on TV together, even if they live far away. It works for sports, and for everything else you want to share (the Presidential debate, the Emmy awards, American Idol, you name it).
Hey, what about Funambol? Like I said two years ago, the company has being placed in good hands. It is growing so well: in the last six months, we have signed almost all the top carriers in the developed markets. In 2013, we'll have half a billion people with access to the Funambol technology (without a carrier in China or India, for now). I will stay involved with my baby indefinitely as Chairman of the Board and watch it thrive.
My next big thing is called TOK.tv.
There is a new app for your iPad on the App Store. It is called TOK Baseball. It is the first voice enabled second screen TV companion app. It will allow you to watch the World Series with your friends, wherever they are (and GO GIANTS!!!).
You can TALK to them, not type (who wants to type after a home run? Not me, I am too busy screaming). If you are in the US, I would love for you to download it from the App Store and share your feedback with me. Actually, we can talk during the games, which would be even better.
For now, we have raised an angel round. If you think you can provide more than just cash, let me know, there is still a bit of room.
The app is just the first step. I would have called it a beta, but Apple does not allow me ;-) We built an MVP for baseball (Posey or Scutaro?), and we have a million features in mind. We are already working on TOK Football and we know the sky is the limit.
This is just the start of the TV revolution. It is called TOK.tv. It is going to be big. Stay tuned.