Four Steps to the Epiphany:When you have studied engineering and you want to enter the world of entrepreneurship, you would look for a manual. This is a perfect step-by-step guide that changed my mindset and I still refer to once in a while.
Running Lean: When you read Lean Startup (and you read it 1-2 times more), you feel like you have read a blog with experiences. How do you apply it? The missing manual is this book, you may start being Lean with some cost-saving techniques.
Lean Analytics: When you have made it to launch, you need to track everything and improve your solutions. This is the perfect book for (business and technical) engineers to be data-driven, track everything and improve their offering progressively. Lean is not an idea any more, it is a framework.
The Power of Habit: If you want to understand how you can change your own but also your customers’ lifestyle for good, you should start with the Power of Habit. Then you may summarize it with a practical reading (i.e.Hooked).
The Information Design Handbook: When you have to communicate a message, in a presentation or a user interface, you have to understand the basics of information design. This is the ideal book, from developers to entrepreneurs.
The Art of the Start:When you start a venture, you need some practical advices. Even how you choose on your company name, how you become more confident or how you pitch your idea. This blog-post collection from Guy Kawasaki is a handy book for starters (“startupers” and not only). I see there is also an updated version, but I have not read it.
ReWork:You may read many books on how you should change your mindset when you do business. This is a pleasant, extended and useful collection of practical topics an entrepreneur will meet in her venture.
Steve Jobs: You may have seen the movies, you may don’t like Apple, but if you want to read the story of an eccentric revolutionist, to see how his belief and vision changed the digital world, and understand why Pixar & Next were more important than Apple in his career, this is the best reading. Success is not linear, cannot be copied and may not be pleasant to others (or to the reader).
Presentation Zen: Everyone tries to pitch or present an idea. This is the bible of presentations.
Lately I came up with the following book, and I still read it:
Sprint: I was looking for a book to implement design thinking. Even from the prologue I am excited with this book and can’t wait finishing it. It was too close to pick Zero to One, but it is mostly a book of entrepreneurial philosophy for meta-learning.
This is my recommended reading list from my personal book library. These books formed my perception on entrepreneurship and “disrupted” my mindset. I experienced the “aha!” moment while reading them, and you may like them as well.
Feel free to suggest additions or your own reading list with your comments.
During the session “key technology frontiers” in EBN in Brussels last week where I had a presentation, it was mentioned that “3D printing makes complexity no matter“, meaning that 3D printing makes complexity not important on construction phase, only on the design phase (a relative nice article in TechCrunch).
This phrase made me think about complexity in general, and how people are used to hate complexity. Tag lines like “think simple“, “make it simple” or “simplicity matters” has made us think of products and services in a matter of users, where we need a simple UI to achieve our goals (i.e. for a good reason when you design an interface). This simplicity has been present in marketing also for years. When we have to convey a message or some information, we need to be clear and simple, and then allow the recipient to ask for clarification if needed (read this if you want to see the power of a simple message). In this post I will describe why and when complexity matters in business.
When complexity matters
Technically speaking, a solution in many cases needs a complex structure abstracted through simplified interfaces to the users. In hardware:
First Mac computers by Apple put great challenges on engineers to fit a architecture into a small box. And they still do trying to become smaller and decrease need in user input.
iPod made it simple to carry on your digital music, but think how difficult it was for a device to run for hours without two AA batteries… Sync with your media player and have only 2 major buttons (instead of play, stop, forward, backward, power, radio/tape).
Your MacBook has prolonged battery life, but it needed a complex architecture to achieve this.
This simplicity is also important in software, where UX and UI books and courses try to make it a science to build simple interfaces:
The first Google search algorithm took into account connections with referring nodes, thus it used networking properties to improve indexing in search results. Initially such an approach looked impossible to respond in time.
All the image and video analysis systems are based on complex neural networks that have been developed for years.
Even in business, we are accustomed to say that every successful company makes revenues from one offering (i.e. the Pareto principle), but we forget how complex enterprises choose to be in many cases:
Microsoft had both Windows and Office as offerings, and Office helped them penetrate a market where IBM was a leading hardware player. Lately it makes profit mainly from business solutions.
Apple boosted its revenues and rebooted with Steve Jobs when iPod was combined with iTunes and Mac computers.
Google is well-known for its multisegment business model, but it has formed a complex ecosystem of services that drive search to their main search engine, and constantly improve results. And initially it succeeded because it could sell ads effectively.
Multisegment and Freemium business models are complex business models and have screwed up many entrepreneurs. Many books, including Business Model Generation, state Google and Skype were such great success because of their business models. But few are able to replicate such business models as effectively as they did.
When simplicity matters
Of course, there are cases that a business or people must think simple and act properly:
Personal communication: Everyone hates to find out or think that you may hide something in your collaboration. Colleagues, managers, board of directors etc. The message must be clear and straightforward.
Execution: It is a matter of the product/project manager to make it clear to her team members how they must execute each task, in order to accomplish the team goals. It is a matter of each team member to perform as well as possible, to produce unique, complex, modular components that have simple interfaces with other components and can be easily integrated and reused.
Marketing: The brand, the product, the ad, must be clear what value it adds to the customer. This simplicity allows customers to match needs with solutions and become more loyal to brands.
When simplicity took over everything
Lately unfortunately I see this trend appearing in startups; there are many people that do believe and reproduce the motto “keep it simple”. I have heard pitches like “our idea is simple“, or “choose a problem and bring an MVP fast, you don’t have to build something complex“.
In some cases such statements may be useful and accurate, but in my view they destroy some other very important factors of creativity and success: uniqueness, imagination and vision to make great impact. As you can read in Zero to One, in some cases you should dream big to build a “monopoly” based on some “magical” technology. Unfortunately I miss this magic in many startups I follow lately. Of course you may have to deliver simple tasks up front to test your idea, where human tasks hide AI or technical complexity because humans are still better in some tasks, but at the end think of what you want to deliver should include a level of complexity, otherwise everyone will copy you and you will move into a state of full competition, where you try to define what you “make different” than others.
Why I believe this trend of oversimplifying has taken up so much popularity? I would say because of two main reasons:
The Lean Startup (interpretation): When you are an engineer and you want to predict and control how things work, sometimes if you cannot understand how the business world works, you choose to go simpler in a business level. And modern startups are technically driven mostly, so their business model or structure is quite simplified. Lean talks about testing every hypothesis on the market and the product; it does not refer to oversimplified business models, but it talks about tested and validated business models. MVP is not about a prototype, and it includes price, promotion and channels testing in many cases.
Business Schools: Over-simplification brings up the “one golden rule” that MBA and business students “must” remember to succeed in their life. When a manager does not know the complexity of her business she works in, she cannot handle this complexity. So, business schools prefer to say their graduates to make their business focus on one thing, and they will succeed. No no no. Managers should know how to handle complexity and make everything look like being simple. Just think how many people love to hate Steve Jobs for doing nothing in his life, while they forget how challenging it was for him to change the tech landscape… and he needed to fail miserably once to achieve it.
In brief, when an entrepreneur lacks some capacity, she should choose the right moment to hire someone with this capacity, to make complex things look simple. Neglecting to build the whole business in a proper way upfront, even if this structure is going to change sooner or later, creates an unbalanced venture and thus it is more risky to collapse.
To sum up
In the initial steps of a company, of course, it makes it easier for everyone to focus on a unique offering, narrow down in one problem, and execute. If this is not the perfectly timed idea that meets a need, and builds a community and a customer-base fast, if it is not located in a trend that is not a hype yet and will be soon mature enough to become mainstream, this simplicity in business will not drive a startup for long; Soon, a meaningful business model will be needed to make the business distinct and self-sustainable. And someone that copies the idea but can create the proper business model will have more chances to succeed.
Someone may reply that making something complex increases the risk of failure. Or she may talk about the lifecycle of a business, where complexity comes later in the life of the venture. The answer is “yes, if you don’t know yet how your business works, you go with a simple business model and you test everything“. But lately, cloud computing makes the cost of production much less costly, lean management allows teams to run tests faster and all these references (blogs, books etc.) give a prior knowledge to anyone that starts up; so starting a digital business is more easy than ever before. So, most of us can do simple things easily nowadays, but the ones that can handle complexity (or get lucky) faster will succeed.
Overall, simplicity should hide complexity and make something look magical. My position is this:
If you cannot raise money fast and launch a business based on a simple idea even faster, invest some serious time and start reading books that will allow you to build the proper business complexity that will give you a strategic advantage.
Moodeet has been archived since 2014, after 2.5 years of operations, and this is my epilogue 1.5 year after the end of that venture. I needed some time to be able to share that experience publicly, and I think this is the right time to do it, just before launching my second try in the world of startups.
It all started with a very common question back in 2011… why couldn’t we build a better social network than Facebook? Being young and naïve might seem the perfect combination to join the world of startups, but then everything else is f***d up…
Finding a friend who accepts the challenge and starts working with you is a bless and a curse; together with Michael Petychakis we started exploring different ideas. After some weeks of brainstorming, we came up with a simple idea: why not expressing simply with emoticons, to say directly what we feel for things around us. Then people will understand what each other means through their social media posts, and there will be no need of special sentiment analysis and NLP systems to understand what people say, like on Twitter. We needed “only” one think: someone to build a nice application, fast; we had the logic, the rules, the scenarios and we could build the backend. But we hadn’t developed an end user application before.
Then I made the first mistake: I just contacted the first guys I had in mind, who I sympathized (I still do) but I hadn’t collaborated with them before to know their skills and their state of mind. They liked the idea, they joined equally in the team, and we started a phase of exploration for the perfect idea, as they did have their own ones too. So we discussed every idea, but we ended up with the more complete and mature idea: Moodit, which would become Moodeet (mood+tweet) because the domain was not available.
So I started reading books about startups (i.e. this was one of the best choices I have ever made). And we started looking for the best technological stack. And we found a designer among various propositions. And we started building our vision: an application where you choose anything around you (place, product, event, other people etc. coming from other services), and you put your mood on it. And I built a mobile application on that idea, ugly, huge in size (20MB) and laggy; I had learned also AppAccelerator in those early months, to build the app “faster”. We applied to some competitions, we won some of them, and we booked some tickets for SV; we knew that we were far away from investing, but we had to start networking and SV was the perfect place for that.
There in SV we started realizing the problems of our idea… They “didn’t get the concept”, it was “too complicated”. They wanted something simpler (I love and hate Americans for that). So we came back in Greece , and we “sacrificed” our summer to change everything, building from scratch. We needed a new idea. But we would also present Moodeet on TEDx Academy 2012 and we had to show an application: the perfect product launch! In the while the designer was part of our team, because “the design must be part of the business and technical team”.
As you may guess, again nothing went according to the plan. One member of our team “couldn’t make it what he promised “, and we voted to outsource it to another developer; thus a new member joined our team before even launch (6 in total). He would do it in one moth (it took him 4 to build an incomplete prototype). So, we created a nice story and we presented it in TEDx. After months of tensions, when a member of the team left because “he couldn’t perform”, we launched the first application on the App Store on February 2013; how anxious it was for me that users might not like it… Then I realized everything I had read about a unwanted product: at the end you don’t care how crappie it is, as nobody likes it or uses it…
Still we didn’t quit, we started collecting feedback. We were lean, even if we didn’t have the required money. We designed a new version with the feedback in mind, and it was fantastic in mockups, so we started implementing it again. But we betted on our skills only, we didn’t have any cash left, and we reached the burnout point sooner: we wanted to be Lean when we didn’t have the financial resources to support ourselves. Soon the team wanted funding to “work for Moodeet exclusively”. And we started seeking for a fund, on a social media application with 2,000 users, in Greece… you can imagine the outcome, nobody wanted to invest in a social application. So, the team continued to burnout, while milestones were even harder to reach. Deeply inside everyone knew that we were tired.
Then a new option came up: we had been selected in the final 10 teams in i-Bank competition by NBG and we had been offered full scholarships for the iMBA of AUEB. Based on theory MBAs are not for startups, but I knew that I lacked some basic knowledge in financial and economics (at least)… so decided to join and follow a dream I always had, to move into business. I haven’t regret it, I still believe that an entrepreneur should have a holistic view of doing business and an MBA program is perfect for that. On the other hand, my sleeping hours were reduced, the day was full. I was tired and anxious, but still it was one of the best periods of my life.
As you may guess again, the team went apart 4 months later. I was too tired to discuss for the third time what went wrong and try to fix it, and I quitted my role of leading the rest of the team. After two months we stopped working on Moodeet; The team couldn’t continue working as it was already tired as well, even nobody else had expressed it openly before. It took me some months to understand that I was trying to continue something that was broken for some time.
To summarize, it was the best period of my life in a professional level. I read some of the most influential books in my life, I met may interesting people, I met investors for the first time and then I realized how they think and how they behave, I travelled a lot, I was the owner of myself and my life, I fought my fears to present publicly, I faced many other fears in general, I inspired people who believed in me, I felt sorry for arguing with people that I previously was friend with. I collected experiences even if I didn’t collect any money. I was close to lose one of my best friends. But I learned each team member expects different things from a startup, that not everyone has the same energy, visions, expectations and risk-ignorance as me.
I do collect all these memories and I continue my ride to the world of entrepreneurship wiser and stronger… for the next step (to be continued).
Note: This blog post is a documentation of facts from my perspective. I have analyzed the situation, I have learned many lessons and I have ended up with my outcomes on what we did right and what we did wrong. Still the reasons that Moodeet did not find the tipping point of success are multiple and complex, so an enumeration of them would still be my personal opinion. The way I highlight parts of a 2.5-years period is quite subjective already; I only want to remind to anyone who wants to start his own venture how difficult such a process is, but still I will call him to accept that challenge definitely!
In CloudTeams we are working on a problem that every startup has: finding early adopters, give them the prototype and get useful, meaningful feedback. The best approach for us is to build trust with customers, give them rewards for participating, but also to secure their privacy.
For these reasons in CloudTeams we though of using “personas”, like many software engineering and marketing teams do, in order to represent similar customer segments and also secure customers’ privacy. Users’ quantitative data will be covered under aggregations and data abstractions, that will let customers match with the proper software team but will not reveal their identity.
We have started releasing some initial prototypes, and more things will be announced soon. For more details on how we do this, go to my relevant CloudTeams blog post.
It is indeed some time since OPENi has finished, and I think it is time to evaluate the results, in a matter of business and technological outcomes.
Before going deeper on the results, a brief description might be needed of what OPENi is all about (or you just didn’t follow the link above). OPENi was an EU funded project in the area of cloud computing, and its goal was to create a personal cloud for each one of us, in order to become masters of our data and then choose who uses them and who doesn’t. In other words, everyone would have his own “personal Facebook“. It is still the ultimate dream for every European officer, in many cases citizen also, to break the chains from the “bad guy who sells our data for ads” and get independent. I am also in favor of such an utopia, we have to see how we can get there; and OPENi was an important lesson in that direction.
Then the difficulties started and the dream of a personal cloude was put into challenge. First of all, users do love their applications and the services they already use, and they won’t stop using them in favor of any new platform. Additionally, it was not possible for the project partners to both experiment on new staff and also build a competitor for every single service coming from Silicon Valley. For that reason, the first decision was to create an interoperable layer that connects the personal cloud with a set of the most popular services; thus users would have access on the services they own and they could orchestrate their data easily, until the personal cloud (aka “Cloudlet”) was quite mature to make them independent from any business solution. We indeed studied how this layer would me as scalable as possible, and how it would be easily extendable. We did work on what Facebook starter (and then stopped), and described what a Graph API should be; and we described it for other services outside social networking as well, like e-commerce or activity tracking applications. We followed API standards that started popping up, and we proposed a collaborative tool to allow developers build and maintain their APIs. This is what my lab and my team worked 100% on. But then the problems started: platforms started changing API versions, like Facebook, and even “destroy” endpoints with desired resources. Other services don’t like to give any API to developers, because they would challenge their business models; for example Amazon loves to rent infrastructure to other developers, but it hates to give any information to developers about their products, prices, shopping lists or purposes. It was a time that everyone wanted to build a platform and build a community of developers, and then suddenly they changed their mind (maybe Microsoft still tries to bring developers in Windows Phone 🙂 ).
But problems didn’t stop there. People in the Internet are spoiled with all these free services, they don’t understand that actually “they are the product” sold to advertisers. Of course their data individually have no meaning, but it is questionable if users would enjoy better or worse services if they paid. So, then it was the other challenge: how can we convince people to pay to host their data, even if they own them? The idea was to build on Raspberry Pi and let users run the Cloudlet as hardware whenever they like. But questions arose: who is willing to pay to buy a Cloudlet? How much technically savvy should they be to setup such an early-stage concept? How could they make it to have the available bandwidth to access information from their mobile devices, for data they have at their home under a common internet line? Who owns this device? How many should they have? Is it power-efficient? The answer to all these questions was that there is no-one who is not hacker or hobbyist that may be interested to run a server at home. Ask Owncloud or Diaspora how they feel about it. For all these reasons we decided to design a decentralized architecture; a service provider would host a farm of Cloudlets, without having any access right on users data, and people would pay for that service. Alternatively, we created a networking service, and the old business model “free for ads” would be enabled, with one big difference: there would be multiple players, and all of them would be operating under the same standards and protocols, thus they can be interconnected across different farms.
At the end, unless new technologies arrive, or a personal cloud is delivered together with the proper hardware (e.g. a hard disk with easy-to-use interfaces and high-end design that would be nice-to-have at home, the decentralized (and not the federated) approach seems more logical. But still someone has to convince the service provider to invest on such a project. Then another question arises: who trusts a telecommunication carrier or a government to become a service provider to host their personal data…?
Lately there is a great battle among social platforms that made Facebook and Google+ integrate new features, like subscribing, friends lists or enhanced places. This crazy run for social innovation can (?) only be for users’ interest (I feel more tired and unaware of features that Facebook launched once and a while, I am curious how casual users feel). Nevertheless, I believe we are moving away from the simplicity of the social web; what users still want to do is communicate easily with friends, even real-time when possible, while they want to control the visibility of their messages. What was the answer from Facebook? A default attachment setting for user location and a choice button to publish your message on public (with berried more “complex” rules!). And these messages that are now public are now available for subscriptions! Facebook is still the king, but it makes decisions that make platform more and more unpopular. Read my opinion why this happens.
“Come on Facebook! You can do it better, certainly simpler!!! Oh, I can now declare who is my best friend with a bookmark star?? Now may I have better and more targeted advertising?”
The user experience
I think the problem is users become lately less skeptical about rules, their messages’ visibility and their profile exposure on the social web. I can see users, who have “locked” every tiny information on the past through their privacy settings, to expose private discussions (like going for a coffee or drink) on their wall publicly!! I do not think that they recently appreciated the value of being “open to your network”…
Personally, just two weeks ago, I started removing some of the available information from my Facebook profile. I removed photos or statuses, even I deleted users (friends) I have not been in contact for more than 3 years. I feel Facebook does not respect me and my privacy, thus I try to narrow down my exposure to the absolutely necessary amount. I was surprised to see that my profile became more functional just the next day! I stopped receiving messages and photos from “partying”, “sunbathing” or “travelling abroad” people I have not contacted with since school graduation. I saw messages on the top of my feed from people who are more “important” to me, messages that I could not see in the past because of the “social noise“. With this term (social noise), I like to describe the “must-behave” rules of Facebook: Facebook is built on bidirectional connections, you have to accept friend requests if you do not want someone to get “mad with you”. Maybe every user in Facebook should own a Facebook Page, for their “fans” and “followers”, and keep only 120 connections (the magic number of social networks) with their real social network (surprisingly, the number of my friends is around 120 at the moment). Facebook was built on that way, it grew up with that feature, but now it is too old to change; you cannot renovate your structure with “subscribers”, “real friends” or “your city” stream categorization.
The developer experience
All these “complex” worries and thoughts made me return on my initial though: “what users want to do is communicate easily with friends, even real-time when possible, while they want to control the visibility of their messages.” Then I noticed that most users start chatting on their status. I noticed Facebook wants to fix their notification system that became a spamming engine. Skype (Beta) is open to Facebook chat and is ready to “embrace” Facebook friends on another platform… I think what users really need is to:
communicate (chat, share photos, videos) with people they want
expose this activity only to a group of people they want
easily access their activities from every device (mobile, computer, web)
do it real time
keep a history of their activities to share with their network
…where Facebook as a platforms is ideal is at keeping a history of your activities. For any other interaction I feel I could naturally use other applications to engage my network (I want people to be free and talk without barriers) and share my deep thoughts; I have Skype, Whats App or Google Talk for that reason. When I want to reach more people, I just set up a group. Even an “old fashioned” email is more real time than Facebook, when using a smartphone, and can reach more people outside that silo.
People do not care any more if they use Facebook or another host, this is my personal feeling. Facebook carries their connections, it does it in a nice way, it is free and does not force them change their habits. Facebook is a software company with nice interface but strong and paramount hardware: users do not care about hardware, developers do not care about that either, as nobody has access on it (like Google App engine or Amazon Cloud).Facebook’s power comes from its subscribed users, the users it “owns” as long as it keeps them happy. But Facebook cannot “imprison” its users and their data, without letting them freely choose where to store their data. Google Search succeeded because users are convinced that it provides better search results than Bing or Yahoo! Search. Facebook cannot keep its users locked and just copy its competitors. At the end this become tiring. It is the easy path for the King, it is a company strategy, but it follows the wrong example of Microsoft: the company may be profitable, it is productive and useful on every-day and business life, but it is considered old-fashioned and “follower” in technological innovations.
Even if I did not realize the power and value of this article from the beginning, after a while it triggered a series of thoughts that made me work on a technology stack supported by W3C Federated Social Web. I feel that Facebook could innovate with technology, and start using protocols that enable real-time communication. “Innovation is coming from Standards” is a common motto, and Facebook tries to reinvent the wheel with its own API, technology stack and protocols. While they participate on ActivityStreams working group, they launch their Graph API. While there is XMPP for real time communication, or Websockets, they describe their own API. At least they are convinced that XMPP is perfect for chatting apps and embraced this protocol (a post describing the need of a “natively social” protocol for social applications – like XMPP- will follow). They seem to experiment with new interfaces and easily adapted technologies, but when everyone is talking about XMPP and how powerful can be, they do not seem to contribute with a Facebook project running on the sideway. They keep using HTTP, or they limit XMPP interfaces on Facebook Chat. Why did they hire then Lars Rasmussen from Google Wave project? The FSW community needs collaboration and clear thoughts towards an open social web.
Facebook is certainly not dying, but it raises protests and worries about its strategy. A German State banned Facebook Like button recently, France does not allow advertising Facebook or Twitter pages on TV or Radio broadcasts. Facebook has to reach perfection to be the king of Social Web and stop being another “social bully” that buys or copies its competitors. It has the “social capital” to survive from an open-data war and it definitely has the engineering capabilities to constantly innovate on new services and products for its customers. Facebook has to innovate by being open. It is one of the first platforms that raised the power of an application ecosystem with its API. I wait to see if Facebook is going to adapt on a new reality…
Last Saturday I got an invitation for Google+ and I spent some of my time to explore and evaluate this new social network. In this post I will try to highlight what I like (+1) and what I miss (-1) from Google+ just before launched.
What I liked (+1) most:
User’s +1’s tab is my favourite!! It is one of the best ways to recommend links to your network. It is there, on your Search Engine, it is simple and it is very very powerful!! I like it!
You don’t spam others’ walls (or applications won’t do that for you),at least I hope it will not
You can control completely the visibility of your status, at the moment you post it
You can edit a comment after you have published them
You can mention people that exist on your Google Contacts, even if they are outside the platform (they get notified). This makes it very powerful for Android users (or iPhone users who sync their contacts with Google, like me)
You can follow people without needed to confirm a connection; a Twitter approach on a social network might not be so clear and easily acceptable by Facebook users, but allows people to state their connections semantically correctly and I believe it might be a winning point
You can format your messages (bold, italics etc.)
I liked the albums outline
During the “share” process, the initial source of the message is mentioned (credits to the right person)
Hangout may look useless at the moment (small community), but it is something more than just a video call. It looks like Chatroullete , but it is definitely more social than just a Skype call. “People that may be bored, have opened their camera to volunteers” I would say in one phrase
I liked the relative and useful Chrome plugins that started to pop out from the community!!! Like +PhotoZoom
What I missed (-1) most:
The anticipated “-1” itself!! Maybe it is not socially wise to allow a negative marking, maybe it is not good for marketing reasons and definitely I believe Google has considered to use it here, but I think users are going to use it more and more on this platform rather than on Facebook, maybe because it is more clear, short and less powerful than a “dislike”. “-1” will be here even if Google wants it or not!
Pages!! Of course it is on a testing phase, but Pages is one of the fundamental features of Facebook’s success. Companies spend a lot of money to attract fans, and they want to know how they will find Google+ Users at the moment of platform’s launch! Is it going to be Places? If so, I want to see Places integrated to the platform soon.
Easy datatransition! Facebook allows to download your data, so does Google+. But why a vast, mainstream user would leave his/her albums, friends or even likes behind and start from scratch?!? At the extend a user can export his data, I expect from Google to allow data uploading ! I consider this a critical issue.
BUT Google has a hidden Ace: they have access to mobile devices (the new Personal Computers) with Android and to netbooks with the upcoming Chromebook. Google is going to be the Apple of Social Networking, with solid product packages and vertical user experience. At least for the technical community, this is going to be appreciated.
Despite all these new features, and many others to anticipate from such an innovative company (especially on Android), the winning point will be to build a big and passionate Community. I like Google+ a lot, most of my friends like it too, but Google+ must focus on non tech-savvy users. Google must make transition simple and the innovation more bold! Only then they have chances to challenge Facebook. Otherwise they are going to be just a “Bing” engine of the social networks…