Tag Archives: cnet

The next generation of Internet startups

In March 2012, I read about a new startup called BrandYourself and signed up.  Inspired by one of its founder’s negative search engine results — he was being confused with a drug dealer — BrandYourself is nonetheless about much more than deleting bad search results.  The company is one of several new startups that enable regular people to optimize their online activities and/or make their lives easier.  I am so impressed with BrandYourself that I talked with CBS Interactive about it.

There are plenty of so-called reputation management plays out there, well-funded, in fact, but BrandYourself represents a super-important shift in technology — what I see as the next generation of startups.  It is one of a bunch of companies that were born where their customers live, and they enable customers to manage and optimize their content — giving them a bit of control they did not have.  In BrandYourself’s case, you tell them what you want turning up in a search, so the Internet is not just happening to you.

Another new generation startup, Citrus Lane [my client], packages and delivers products for babies and their parents monthly, saving them time and money.  This is great, but Citrus Lane also invites customers into a community of parents who share their experiences and wisdom.  The so-called mommy bloggers are running with it, taking to their sites and YouTube to talk about their experiences with the brands that Citrus Lane packs — and talking about how Citrus Lane covers all their bases:  monthly surprises, good things for their babies, product research.

Wix.com [I use it for my consulting practice], makes it possible for anyone to create  a beautiful, compelling, differentiated website for a small business.  Their designers and programmers work on the art and the underlying engine, giving you templates to follow that extract the content that makes for a good story.  At the same time, you have a creative outlet that gives the world a picture of the real you.  This is essential to strong marketing [something I always tell my clients].

These startups use technology to pull ideas from you to shape your presence and your circles online.  And while BrandYourself and companies like it do have the luxury of following the quirky programming geniuses who perfected web platforms, they are very wisely taking those innovations a step further, not copying them.  They are addressing what regular people need, now that we have Facebook, LinkedIn, et al,  and providing services on top of those platforms that meet real expectations.

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Data portability and the user — we’re finally considering the value chain!

Wrote this to some friends the other day.  We were discussing the whole exploding world of data portability.

Bob, still not sure that everyone along the data porting spectrum concurs on the problem.  Especially users.  What's a problem for Bob Scoble or Chris Messina — as meaningful as their perspectives may be — might not be a problem for the mainstream user.  So I think engineers have to be clear on why they're interested in this — and if it's not addressing a user benefit directly, then why a solution is important along the "supply chain" of data solutions — where that solution fits in the chain that eventually ends at the mainstream user.

Stephen, the larger sites, if they're smart, will build their traction and retention by acquiring either the brains or the existing solutions that will protect their intellectual property and market share while giving users the ability to use their content flexibly.

Then along came Dan Farber's post, "Birthing pains in the colonization of the social web," on cnet.com, to which I made the following comment.

Dan, how do we know that the big social networks aren't giving users
what they want? How do we know there is a mainstream need for open
identity, data portability and apple pie? If it were profitable to be
open, I think we all know that the for-profit entities would be all
over the entire spectrum, from openness to portability. Any chance they
know something we do not?
Either way, companies in the space of creating networks and serving
them need to put the mainstream user first. You do that by
understanding what that user values — not what you think they might
value.
Thank you for the thought-provoking post. Mary

Saw this piece by Tim Bull and this one by Chris Saad, one of the founders of The Dataportability Project and its most assertive evangelist.  And Bob Ngu's blog, which addresses technology in a way that many mainstream users can understand.

Posted this comment to Fred Wilson regarding a piece he did for thestandard.com.  He was referring to last week's podcast by the Gillmor Gang and the key points made by the participants.  My compliments to Mr Wilson on being able to distill any conclusions from that podcast.  Yikes.  Without them, I wouldn't have thought of this response.

Whether the user owns
the tree is not important unless the user thinks it is. And telling the
user that the network makes a lot of money transporting his data is not
enough to make most users storm the gates. In fact, they LIKE to feel a
connection to the kid in flip-flops who hit it big.

These networks are competitors. Please tell us something we don't know.

Moving user data is "gonna happen" only if users demand it. So far,
the only users demanding it live in zipcodes beginning with 94. And
their direct influence over the mainstream user is unmeasured so far.

There are startups that already give users the flexibility and
access they want without taking the data off the networks. Those
startups will be ripe for the picking within six months.

Yes, sir, you are absolutely right. It's the experience that counts.
Not the plumbing, nor the pseudo-arguments, nor the posturing, nor the
pontificating. If I were an engineer, I'd try to figure out a way to
make data portable in the way the user defines it. That's the next stop
on the gravy train.

Then Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote this really great piece for
ReadWriteWeb.  He addresses the question of where portable data could
add value to the culture and business of an enterprise — the impact of
data portability on economics.

There are so many aspects of data portability, and so many solutions
and opinions being thrown into the mix, that our tech community has
come very close to losing perspective.  But I'm thinking the tide has
turned.  Time to articulate the value chain.