Our Top 10 Consumer Tech Posts of 2020

Connie Chan, Andrew Chen, Jeff Jordan, D'Arcy Coolican, Bennett Carroccio, Jonathan Lai, Anne Lee Skates, and Li Jin

From gaming to edtech, marketplaces to social+, these were the most-read consumer tech posts of the year.

The a16z Marketplace 100

Most are familiar with the most successful companies in the industry, but for the Marketplace 100 we ranked the largest and fastest-growing marketplace startups and private companies. After all, our focus is the future: What’s next? What are the new, rising marketplace startups that will define the industry landscape in the coming years? What industries are likely to be revolutionized by connecting people through marketplace platforms?

1,000 True Fans? Try 100

More than a decade ago, Wired editor Kevin Kelly wrote an essay called “1,000 True Fans,” predicting that the internet would allow large swaths of people to make a living off their creations, whether an artist, musician, author, or entrepreneur. That idea is as salient as ever—but we propose taking it a step further. The global adoption of social platforms like Facebook and YouTube, the mainstreaming of the influencer model, and the rise of new creator tools have shifted the threshold for success. Today, creators can effectively make more money off fewer fans.

COVID-19 and The Great Rehiring

These are not normal times. So we can’t rely on the “normal” tools we’ve previously used to help people find work: the LinkedIn and Craigslist searches, coffee chats, recruiters, staffing agencies, and so on. Those methods can’t hit the speed, scale, and placement quality that companies or candidates will need coming out of this crisis. But verticalized jobs marketplaces—platforms that focus on one industry, role, candidate type, or demographic—can and will. Now is the time to be building them.

Digital Future of Tabletop Games

Tabletop games like D&D are being dramatically improved by digital tools. While the first attempts at modernizing tabletop games sought to merely replicate games in the digital realm, the next generation of games goes a step further, integrating tools such as livestreaming, user-generated content (UGC), audio products, and community platforms. This digital transformation is reinventing the way we learn, play, and connect with one another over tabletop games.

Community Takes All: The Power of Social+

Social+ companies that take a single category—from gaming to music to ecommerce—and build an integrated social experience around it. But not every product category has had its social moment yet. Just as every industry makes the crucial transition from analog to digital, nearly every category of company will eventually make the fateful transition from single-player to multiplayer, from company-driven to community-driven, from individual to social.

The Stickiest, Most Addictive, Most Engaging, and Fastest-Growing Social Apps—and How to Measure Them

Evaluating the success of a social app is not as straightforward as it seems. What does “good” look like, anyway? How do various categories of social apps stack up in terms of engagement, stickiness, and retention (and which KPIs are most important to track)? Can upstarts compete with the reigning social giants? This post takes a deep dive into the top social apps across a dozen categories.

‘Deep’ Job Platforms and How to Build Them

Deep job platforms not only connect candidates with employers, they also offer additional features designed to create long term success for the candidates, companies, and the platforms themselves. These features range from training to community to—in some cases—financial services. In the wake of COVID-19, these deep job platforms will play a critical role in getting people back to work as soon as possible, in the best jobs possible.

Edtech’s Answer to Remote Learning Burnout

A new wave of edtech companies is taking cues from gaming, entertainment, and abroad to reinvent the experience of online education entirely. If the past was marked by massive onscreen lectures, static, pre-recorded content, and a limited pool of teachers, the future of education technology will be consumer- and product-led: interactive, engaging, and propelled by a global pool of instructors and peers.

The Rise of Lifestyle Streamers

Historically, livestreaming has been synonymous with gaming. More recently, however, a new streaming audience has emerged, one hungry for non-gaming content. Over the past two years, a category on Twitch dubbed “Just Chatting”—in which streamers chat with their viewers in real time—has grown nearly four times as quickly as Twitch overall. Through its unique ability to drive both rabid engagement and instant monetization, livestreaming is becoming the future of live video entertainment.

Live, Social, and Shoppable: The Future of Video

Those who view the present as a harbinger of our future—a purgatory of glitchy video meetings, zoned-out kids, and an onslaught of irrelevant ads—fail to see the true potential of video. We’re about to enter a whole new era of video-first products that extend far beyond entertainment and gaming. Video is evolving from an add-on to a requisite. Through innovative new platforms and integrated tools, video is dramatically reinventing the way we shop, learn, work out, network, even party.

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