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“You have to be in mobile,” venture capitalists will instruct you.  “We have to be in mobile,” tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo will echo.  Obviously, it’s because we’re living in a mobile-first world.

Yet, becoming the next Instagram or Snapchat is insanely difficult and increasingly so.  A hit app is a rarer unicorn than a hit website.  Why?  Unlike websites, apps aren’t linked to each other; you can’t click on a link to discover a new app, you have to purposefully search and download it from the app store.  Then you have to learn how to use the app before finally getting some value out of it.  Some apps — especially on Android but even from bluebloods like Facebook — behave badly and mistreat your phone’s battery or privacy settings.

The result of the above is that, according to Nielsen, most people use only 30 apps on their phone.  What are the chances your mobile app can make a person’s top 30?  Let’s break down how difficult a threshold that truly is.  What are the 30 apps you’d typically use?

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In yesterday’s post, we casually mentioned Tinder as an example of how a successful app is both great product and great marketing. Nothing just sells itself. There are lots of wonderful products that die a quiet death because nobody knew about them.

“Marketing” might be a misnomer, because technically product is part of marketing. What we mean is a go-to-market strategy: price, single-minded proposition, awareness building and distribution strategy.  Not only do you need product-market fit, you need an effective way for product and market to find each other.

Take Snapchat as an example. Snapchat, despite being the same essential product from inception, puttered along at first without any traction. In fact, Bobby Murphy, one of the co-founders, got a full-time job elsewhere while the other, Evan Spiegel, returned to finish his final year at Stanford. The two had basically given up on Snapchat. Then they got their lucky break: Spiegel’s mom introduced the app to her popular niece who went to a school where Facebook was banned; soon, all the students there used Snapchat. Murphy and Spiegel saw the numbers and realized they had a hit, and that the way of achieving it was through teens and schools. The rest is history.

Note: the big break wasn’t a product change, it was simply marketing.

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Like most entrepreneurs, I started off reading about the tech industry with TechCrunch, and shortly after discovered other big blogs like Engadget and small ones like Fred Wilson’s AVC.  Soon I needed Google Reader to manage all these websites, and my favorite reader was Flipboard.  Google retiring Google Reader was probably the first time I felt genuinely disappointed by tech — it’s not often change feels like a step backwards in this industry.

Its replacement, feedly, has reliability problems and doesn’t have as nice of an interface.  So I continued to use Flipboard but depended on its Technology section to get the bulk of my industry news; and then would go to individual websites Web 1.0 style to fill out the rest.  I was reading less — especially the smaller blogs — but this might have been OK as I had less time for reading.

Then I discovered Techmeme, a website that aggregates what it thinks are the best news and analyses for the tech industry that day into one page.

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