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"Social is no longer social": Lightspeed's Mignano on consumer apps

Nov 23, 2022

Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photo: Lightspeed Venture Partners

Lightspeed Venture Partners' Michael Mignano invested in Circle Labs, a startup building AI-powered virtual characters, earlier this month. The product offers a fun application of generative AI, a sector he's been closely tracking.

Why he matters: Mignano joined Lightspeed earlier this year to help lead consumer investments. Prior, he co-founded podcasting platform Anchor, which Spotify acquired in 2019, and then ran Spotify's podcast, live audio and video teams.

  • Mignano discussed the year's media trends with Axios. The interview has been lightly edited for length.

What are three trends that you've found most fascinating this year?

1. Recommendation media: Social platforms did content distribution through friend graphs for the past 15 years or whatever, and now, led mainly by TikTok, we're seeing that all the major platforms are shifting to be algorithmic in terms of content distribution.

  • Machine-learning-based algorithms have just [been] found to be way more efficient in terms of matching the right content with the right person at the right time. ... Plus, social graphs have created all sorts of abuse problems. ... It feels like social is no longer social for the major platforms.

2. Emergence of new social apps: Whereas the past 15 years, if you wanted to start a new social network, you never really stood a chance because you were going to go up against Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat.

  • Now that these platforms are moving away from social graphs, it feels like there's an opportunity for a challenger to emerge because, at the end of the day, people are still going to want to socialize and interact with each other on the internet. I think that's why we have seen a platform like BeReal break through. ... This other app called Unfiltered brings people together based on throwback photos.

3. Video taking over: What we saw as I was leaving [Spotify] and what Spotify is now leaning pretty heavily into is the notion of video podcasts. I think pretty much every creator in every type of format is realizing that video just opens up a window of new possibilities to whatever type of content you're creating.

  • Today if you publish just an audio podcast, you're effectively at a disadvantage to everyone who's now adding video to the podcast because you can't upload it to YouTube, where there's a ton of potential distribution. You can't easily cut it up into clips that you can now upload to TikTok or Instagram Reels.

What are you watching in 2023?

1. Applications of generative AI: The value of this new breakthrough in artificial intelligence will be in that it'll enable people to be far more instantaneously creative, despite levels of talent or skill or prior experience.

  • In 2022, we were all getting educated about the potential of AI and the new origin language models. Now, we're going to see, like, the application layer.

2. Reframing creator economy as creativity supply chain: If you zoom out and you think about everything that goes into creativity on the internet today, it's much, much bigger than just monetization tools. There are creation tools. There are distribution channels. There's also a number of other ways that creators could be incentivized to create content.

  • I think in 2023, there's going to be a return to being excited about creativity more broadly, as the friction to create and distribute and build an audience is just going to become much easier.
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