What are Valley investors excited about? That was one of the topics discussed in an afternoon session at TechCrunch Disrupt SF today. The group seemed to get stuck on the topic of commerce and transactional businesses, where there were a few differing viewpoints, specially around the new business models seen in this space. Some of the investors on today’s panel, which included Cowboy Ventures’ Aileen Lee, Google Ventures’ Joe Kraus, SV Angel’s David Lee, Sequoia Capital’s Alfred Lin, and Greylock Partners’ James Slavet, seemed to be more excited about the space than others.
Lin said he felt like e-commerce is “one of the more over-invested areas in the Valley” today, saying that there’s now a “Birchbox for everything.” That’s great for the Birchbox brand, but not great for the “everything,” he said. In other words: stop with all the box-of-the-month clubs, guys. It was an interesting comment, especially because that Sequoia isn’t a Birchbox investor. Instead, he said his firm was looking more for “dent-makers” (yes, that’s a thing now). It’s less about what you’re doing, and more about why you’re doing it, said Lin.
Slavet, meanwhile, rattled off a few areas in the commerce space he was interested in, including marketplaces, online to offline commerce (meaning transactions that take place in the physical world), and services that are “mobile-first” ways to find and book things like hotels, taxis, or send gifts and cards.
Lee agreed that the commerce space as a whole had more opportunity to expand. “Commerce is not just about shoes or cosmetics,” she said. “it’s anything that’s transactional.” She said that could include things like how you book a doctor’s appointment, or how you buy a car, for example. There’s tons of real revenue to be generated by transactional companies, Lee said.
Kraus had a broader vision for the future in the mobile and transactional space. “In five to ten years, the smartphone will replace the car,” he said. This is long-term vision, he explained, saying that today it would be hard for a family with kids who lives in the suburbs to give up their car. But more services are arriving which not only help you get things done, and companies like RelayRides also let you share cars with others. The smartphone, he boldly proclaimed, will become your mode of transportation.