A Night a VLAB: The Social Networking Widget Money Tree –a Green Sapling with Fruit to Bear

(Me, giving opening remarks, pic from Julio of Oracle)

The VLAB event last night was a success. What’s VLAB? A non-profit group that sponsors ongoing panels and talks around the subject of business and technology at Stanford and co-sponsored with MIT. I met many of the volunteers and organizers, a good group of folks. Thanks for joining the Shaking the Money Tree of Multi-Platform Social Networks hosted by VLAB.

I kicked off the event as the moderator last night, I gave a very short ‘industry level’ discussion about the social networking space and lead with these high level slides. It was followed by a presentation from RockYou, an applications developer network, then Social Media, a “meta” network for developers, then the panel which included, Sourabh Niyogi, Co-Founder & Vice President of Engineering, SocialMedia, Kevin Marks, Developer Advocate, OpenSocial, Jia Shen, Co-Founder & CTO, RockYou, Steve Cohen, Head of Platform, Bebo, and Ken Gullicksen, Managing Partner, Morgenthaler Ventures.

The topic of the evening? Finding monetization in the next phase of widgets being spread on multiple social networks. We were “shaking the money tree” the tree being the social networking space. At the end of the evening, I came to the conclusion the money tree is small, a sapling really, yet on this tree we’re seeing small buds of potential growth. In most cases, the successful applications are self-expression or entertainment, and we’re just starting to see some applications around utility spring forth.

One rule, the money in the social networking space can’t be from acquisitions, it needed to be long term revenues generated from creating value. The event was sold out, (over 350 registered) and folks came out despite the rainstorm and the heavy traffic from the Bill Gates speech next door. The event was video taped, so I’ll point to it once it’s live, hang tight.

In the meantime read what Kevin Marks from Google wrote, he observed that the key take away was to be Organic, not Viral. Shannon expands upon the conversation, and even discusses some of his upcoming projects. Ken Kaplan shares his notes.

For a detailed blow by blow on the event, Lawrence went out of his way (bus trip and all) to attend the event, read his detailed notes. Foldier blogged their thoughts about the event, and think their product will align nicely.

Despite this industry being young and green, spring is right around the corner, expect growth, innovation, and some real business utility to come out of this blossoming tree –we all hope to soon taste some fruit.

(Tagged vlabfeb08. If you blog about the event, leave a comment and I’ll include your link)

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  • Hi Jeremiah,

    I’m looking forward to the video. I think that the way that money is going to be generated by social networks is a really important consideration, and my own experience has led me to believe that this is going to be in a very similar way to that put forward by Peter Kim and Mary Beth Kemp in the ‘The Connected Agency’.

    I was prompted to write an article on this: The Future of Applications” because I believe very strongly that the technique of many application developers (and social networks themselves) of attempting to simply get clicks on ads isn’t, in most cases, the correct way to go about it.

    Josh

  • When I read this statement, “One rule, the money in the social networking space can’t be from acquisitions, it needed to be long term revenues generated from creating value.” I immediately thought of every business plan that explains that they will make money through advertisers. To me that’s not a value proposition. That’s just not thinking creatively, or not wanting to be in it for the long-haul. What fun is that? Though back to the initial statement, Just as it was back in 2000, everyone “built to be bought”. So I agree. A firm foundation needs to be established in which a)your idea is monetized through the delivery of an actual good or service and b) your goal is not to be bought and to cash out.

  • Thanks Marc

    Its true, just because a company gets bought out, whoever acquired them will be stuck with trying to monetize the site. This is why it’s not a valid long term strategy, and we shouldn’t measure directly against it.

  • Jia Shen had a great line: “Social networks are the portals for this generation”

    I remember how loyal I was with Yahoo 10 years ago. I don’t have a “portal” anymore, just a bunch of feeds and people I follow via Twitter and Seesmic.

    Hope to see you at a future event!

  • Jeremiah. It was a great event with great presentations and panel discussion. The audience was fully engaged. Thanks to the hosts and volunteers at VLAB!

    My Intel Open Port IT community pal Bob Duffy and I talked outside for about an hour after the event ended! What a fascinating evening.

    This is way beyond my realm (I’m a story lover, not a tech wizard), but I wonder if there are any cost or differentiation benefits if social computing app makers like RockYou not only tuned new apps for multi-platforms, but also for multi-core hardware. Maybe not now, but soon. Maybe not for every app, but for those that want to run smoother, richer media. Especially for social media & networking on the go. Maybe this is better directed at the social network site managers.

    At Intel, for instance, there’s a great software team creating free tool kits to help developers tune new apps to harness the latest – and future — multi core chips running desktop, laptop and mobile Internet devices. Makes sense for game makers and video editing suites like those from Adobe.

    I’m going to ask my pal Aaron Tersteeg http://softwareblogs.intel.com/author/aaron-tersteeg/.

    Seems there might be some untapped ways to increase ROI and make apps that are built to last, built to scale and harness new and future computing devices…big and small.

  • Interesting concept Ken, let me know what you find.

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