“Mobile-first” is an often-empty term — like “viral,” “native” and “social” — that’s thrown around without much thought into what it really means. Mobile is a foundation, not a feature. It may hurt your wallet to even consider, but maybe your product should be reimagined for a mobile environment, not just adapted to fit a small screen.
Even Facebook still faces debate about whether it is truly — and finally — a mobile-first company. The answer is yes — not just because mobile ads now account for a majority of Facebook’s total ad revenue, but, more importantly, because the site’s mobile apps (plural) now offer a first-class user experience (not always the case) that rivals the accessibility of the desktop experience we’ve grown used to.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said, “If 2012 was the year where we turned our core product into a mobile product, then 2013 was the year where we turned our business into a mobile business.” You have to be just as inherently mobile as your consumers are. It’s amazing that this is still a topic of conversation in 2014, but yet …
Chinese Web giant Tencent (think what Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon and Zynga are collectively to the U.S.) has reached a whopping $100 billion valuation today because its management understands how to approach mobile — they get it. It’s no accident that Tencent has become China’s largest listed Internet company (by revenue) — it’s the direct result of the company’s exploitation of the country’s mobile opportunity. (Full disclosure: Tencent shares the same investor — Naspers — as OLX, which I co-founded and lead as CEO.)
Mobile requires a fundamentally different mindset, and a commitment of focus and resources, two things that not everyone is willing to expend in unproven Internet markets like the Middle East and South America. In India, Brazil and elsewhere, the company I founded recognized that rapid mobile adoption was changing the landscape entirely — so much so that it created an entirely new economy between consumers.
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