Archive for the ‘launch’ Category

The Proliferation of Verticals

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Over the years, major players have emerged from specific spaces: Google in search; YouTube in video; Amazon in books/e-commerce; eBay in auctions; Facebook in social networks, etc… These giants are very hard to compete against for all kinds of reasons. Firstly, they benefit from economies of scale. Secondly, their resources are vast - not only in terms of financial, but also human. For these reasons, start-ups are refusing to compete head on, but rather choose a smaller vertical or niche to compete for.

We’ve already seen this trend occur in at least two of the biggest spaces: search and social networking. There are now search engines and social networks tailored for nearly every group. These narrow, highly-specific offerings provide huge value to the target audience, as well as lucrative revenue opportunities for the company due to the targeted nature of the group.

My guess is that we will continue to see this process occur over and over again. Once a given niche begins to fill out, we will started to see micro-niches - and the cycle continues… In other words, there will always be opportunities to compete against the big guys. Extracting a small subset of their user base and providing a more tailored offering is the key. If a new company is able to do this, expect satisfied users and financial success for the founders.

So what is next for verticals? Which industries will they invade? What trends and strategies will emerge?

Pownce Isn’t Twitter - It’s a Personalized Digg!

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Pownce logoEveryone is comparing newcomer Pownce to various existing services. Names such as Jaiku, Tumblr, and keep arising. In particular, Twitter has been mentioned the most. Furthermore, comparisons are being made to IM clients, e-mail applications, and P2P programs. None of these seem to fit the bill for me. After some hard thinking and due diligence, it became abundantly clear to me that Pownce is more like Digg than anything else. This should have been obvious from the start, as Kevin Rose is the mastermind behind both operations.

When you think about it, Digg is nothing more than a link-sharing network. Users are encouraged to share links that they think the community and other users will find useful and valuable. Pownce is no different. However it takes the concept a couple steps further.

Firstly, Pownce enables sharing with a select group of people that you have control over. You can share with one individual, a group, or your entire contact list. With Digg, you are forced to share with everyone. Taking this concept one step further, one could say that Pownce is a Digg-like social network - the main difference being that stories (i.e. links) are not voted to the front page, but rather viewed by a select group of individuals.

Secondly, Pownce further expands upon what you can share using Digg. The service allows you to share links like Digg, but also messages, files, and events. These cannot and will not be shared using Digg for several important reasons:

  • Messages often provide little value unless you know the author;
  • Files may be corrupt or copyrighted;
  • Events are only relevant to certain people and regions.

Furthermore, these three categories do not bode as well as stories and links for creating hype and buzz. This is the very basis for Digg.

My guess is that Kevin Rose an his team recognized these downfalls and wanted to create a more personalized method of sharing. Hence, Pownce was born. Instead of sharing a generic link with the world, you are now able to share more meaningful, relevant content with a select group. The core idea of sharing remains the same. However, the target group and item of interest have changed.

Is this a reasonable comparison or are there other services that Pownce is more closely related to that I have overlooked?

Does YouTube Have The Perfect Interface?

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

YouTube logoThis is a question I seem to keep asking myself. Nearly every video site or portal has copied the YouTube interface in some way, shape, or form. The other day, Mashable compared MySpace TV’s new interface to that of YouTube. The verdict: nearly identical. Add to that the fact that foreign YouTube clones are popping up on a daily basis. Again I ask myself, “Does YouTube have the perfect interface?”…

My answer is no. I don’t believe there is such thing as a ‘perfect interface’. There is always room for improvement. Having said that, interfaces should be judged relative or in reference to other players in the space.

I think there are two main reasons why many are copying the YouTube interface:

1. Familiarity - Users are familiar with the YouTube interface. I would wager that 99%+ of regular Internet users have visited YouTube at some point. In other words, people are familiar with the navigation, layout, player, etc… By re-inventing the wheel and designing a completely new experience, users are subject to a learning curve. For this very reason, it can be a huge advantage to copy an interface that is already well-known and mainstream.

2. Budget - Most small start-ups do not possess a huge R&D budget, nor do they have an entire team of interface designers at their disposal. The cost is unjustifiable so early in the process. YouTube, on the other hand, is a large player and has the backing of Google. Simply put, YouTube now has deep pockets and a large talent pool. This allows the company the opportunity to churn out a high quality interface with much testing and tweaking happening behind the scenes.

I guess the conclusion we can pull from all of this is as follows: though it may seem like a questionable, unethical form of business practice to copy such an interface, the subsequent benefits may be appealing to any site looking to enter a given space. I am not vouching for or against this strategy, but rather outlining the perspective from both sides. There is always an opportunity cost to every decision made. By copying a well-known, understood process or system, you are essentially decreasing the learning curve, facilitating the adoption process, and creating a shorter path to critical mass.

Pownce Invitations

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Pownce logoI have a few extra Pownce invitations, but they’re going fast. I may be out soon. Link to my blog or give me a shout-out and I’ll do my best to get you an invite as soon as possible.

PS. The service is pretty darn cool. I’m a big fan.

Is Anyone Else Sick Of Hearing About The iPhone?

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

iPhoneI’m not getting an iPhone and probably never will. Having said that, it looks cool and I can understand the hype and buzz surrounding the launch. But the hysteria and sheer madness have reached levels beyond my wildest imagination. Everyone is talking about the iPhone regardless of whether it’s on topic or not. Case in point: this blog. Even TechCrunch has been swept up in the iPhone fever. I counted 5 stories in a row dedicated to the iPhone. Remember, TechCrunch is a blog that supposedly discusses start-ups. They should leave these stories up to CrunchGear.

It seems that almost every blog, news site, and discussion group is buzzing about the iPhone. I feel like my head is going to explode. iPhone stories have run amok at Digg and Techmeme. Traffic at tech gadget blogs, such as Engadget, Gizmodo, and CrunchGear has spiked in the past few days. Almost every single blog on my feed reader has an iPhone story - some even have multiple.

When is the madness going to end? I hope it’s soon…

With all due respect, I give credit where credit is due. This has obviously been a phenomenal launch for Apple. I can’t think of an event that has garnered such PR attention and exposure in recent memory. But it makes you wonder whether a backlash or recoil is imminent. Sometimes the most successful campaigns spur counteraction and negative sentiment. Only time will tell.

… and I thought Dairy Queen had an incredible launch with their waffle sundae campaign. What do I know?

PS. Is everyone else embracing this iPhone frenzy? Am I the only one who is sick of hearing about this gadget?