Startups Unpacked | Chrome Extensions 🚀 & How People Learn Stuff 📚

Last email of 2020!


If you’re an entrepreneur or angel investor, Startups Unpacked is for you! Follow me as I share curated startup advice, industry news, and introduce you to amazing startup founders you should know. While you’re at it, follow me on Twitter (@danhightowerjr).

What’s In This Issue

Inspired by my podcast interview with Toucan’s Founder, @Taylor_Nieman.

  • The Startup 🧑🏽‍💻: Chrome extensions as a differentiated distribution tactic

  • The Startup, Unpacked💡: Edtech that meets people where they already are

  • Startup News 📰

  • Startup-Friendly Tweets 🐤

The Startup 🧑🏽‍💻

Browser Extension as a distribution tactic

Building a browser extension (instead of a web app or mobile app) might be the #1 most underrated startup tactic for getting distribution.

If you aren’t familiar with browser extensions, they’re small software programs which customize your browser (Chrome, Safari, etc) experience. They install on your browser and allow software tools to layer over web pages, and actually make changes to those web pages.

The most well-known browser extension is probably Honey. Their browser extension seamlessly integrates with your online shopping. Once you visit any checkout cart, it automatically tries a bunch of user-submitted discount codes to save you money:

When Honey launched, the venture capital community’s #1 question was, “but what about mobile? Everything’s going mobile today, but browser extensions only work on desktop…”

So, there were a lot of nay-sayers while Honey built up its desktop-only user base of 17M people. And therefore, building browser extensions wasn’t a popular approach for startups.

Well, that all changed in November 2019 when PayPal acquired Honey for $4B in mostly cash!

All the sudden, browser extensions became a validated distribution approach, and today, I think it might just be the #1 most underrated startup tactic for a few reasons:

  1. Cutting through the competition - There are millions of websites and apps, all competing for attention and revenue. It’s crowded and HARD to cut through the noise.

  2. Meeting users where they are- Startup distribution is all about meeting the target customer where they already spend time. And on desktop, that’s mainly in browsers like Chrome and Safari.

Example: Toucan

One of my favorite new browser extensions is Toucan, the free browser (Chrome for now) extension that helps you learn a language without even trying.

After installing Toucan, it magically translates words on web pages into the language you want to learn!

Toucan also gives you control over how and when you want to learn:

Here’s Taylor, the founder, on how it’s going so far:

The Startup, Unpacked💡

E-learning browser extensions that meet people where they already are

Learning in today’s remote world is exploding. And Toucan is just one example of how browser extensions can unlock better learning.

The problem with current state of online learning is that solutions often don’t take advantage of how your brain works. Going to a learning website, say for example, is forcing you into a foreign environment to learn something. A new place to learn new material is “too much new” for your brain.

At the core of this statement are two educational theories:

  1. Contextual immersion- Immersion learning refers to any education approach that teaches a student directly in their normal environment.

  2. Comprehensible inputs- Teaching a student using information they know and even enjoy! If a teacher uses what someone already knows and loves to teach new material, the student is more likely to stick with the training and retain the info.

These two theories can be combined with tech to create some awesome learning techniques. For example, watching Netflix in English audio, with French subtitles! You already watch Netflix, so you’re enjoying it, and you’re learning French words by hearing the English and instantly getting the translation below:

We are in the early days here. There are so many opportunities to help people learn by combining these theories with browser extensions:

Startup News📰

Silicon Valley Moves to Miami - a slew of tech CEO’s and investors have announced they’re moving from SV to Miami, and tons of people are joining the club!

Some people are pretty upset about it- they argue that tech leaders wouldn't have made it without SV, and now they're leaving when things get a little tough instead of staying to support the community. Other people see the obvious tax disadvantages of SV and the promising Miami weather:

Now you can see how bad’s first pitch deck was at @firstpitches! CEO’s of well-known companies tell all as they review their very first pitch decks ever!

These tech rock stars were once sweaty-palmed newbies, and I cannot wait to watch them revisit these early moments all over again:

Substack launched Reader and discovery tools!

Non-accredited people REALLY want better access to investing in startups.

2,200,000 people saw this tweet and that's funny because it's exactly 1,000x smaller than the amount Y-Combinator made off its Airbnb investment. The regulations are rapidly changing, ushering in a new era of consumer-investors.

Startup-Friendly Tweets🐤

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter (@danhightowerjr).

And don’t forget to share Startups Unpacked with your community!


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