Between the Valley and Everyone Else

In response to Dion Hinchcliffe’s list of issues and problems facing Web 2.0 today, Paul Montgomery comments,

“How about Thinking The Whole World Is Like Silicon Valley? … Web 2.0 is still a very small, insular movement. There should be far more attention paid to what people who aren’t impossibly well-connected and highly technologically savvy will want from these new services.”

As others have also agreed, I believe Paul’s comments are extremely valid. And I think along two levels: location and community. First, and more superficially, location – Web 2.0 companies are clearly Valley-centric. A perfect example is Yelp.com, a local reviews and social networking site which just raised financing. The site only covers the San Francisco area, just as many other emerging services have narrowed their scope in a similar manner.

But the heart of Paul’s thoughts is really centered towards the community. There’s no question that there’s an echo-chamber effect of discussion and excitement surrounding Web 2.0. I know many internet-savvy people who aren’t completely “plugged in” who consistently ask me what this buzz is about. Take the poster-child Web 2.0 startup, delicious. Its widespread acceptance in the digerati crowd has put it at the forefront as the strongest and most accepted platform for social bookmarks. I personally use it because of this fact. But its reception outside that circle isn’t as favorable. Take this PC magazine round-up which rates it the worst (1 ½ out of 5 stars) of an entire field of social tagging related services. Clearly there is some disconnect here. (Other upstarts like Clipmarks have a compelling offering, and the “mainstream,” or at least one indicator of it in this case, notices and promotes that fact.)

All of the above said, there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater in taking this critique to far. By definition, early adopters come first. We are in the period of experimentation with new technologies and models, and the natural people to play with these new services are the “well-connected and highly technologically savvy.” (And on the whole, most, but not all, of those people are in the Valley.)

Delicious is geeky for a reason, and will undoubtedly work on its UI as it shifts towards a mainstream site. Likewise, in announcing its funding, Yelp also revealed that it will be expanding to other cities. Web 2.0 as a movement will grow out of its Valley-centric techie roots, and that process is starting, but it needs/needed time in fertile soil to germinate.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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