Leaping from “Digerati-Facing Services” to “Consumer-Facing Services”

In his post “First 300,000 is Easy,” Om Malik questions “if the whole Web 2.0 thing is still in a very-early adopter stage… I get a feeling that it will be a long time before the concepts filter into mainstream usage.”

I share his concern that many of the emerging web services are actually only being used by a small subset of the total overall internet population – the extreme techie set. Of course, by definition, early adopters come first. But I wonder if many of the recently launched services emerging are consciously (or more likely, subconsciously) “digerati-facing” services, as opposed to true “consumer-facing” services. While a nice mention in a high-profile tech blog will jump-start a start-up site, that exposure doesn’t necessarily translate into widespread usage.

To me, this situation seems a symptom of both product design and marketing positioning. Design & market a service for the digerati; it will attract the digerati. Design & market a service for the masses; it will attract the masses.

Is attracting the first 300K users easy? Hardly. But perhaps in some cases growing from 30K to 300K users is less difficult than growing from 300K to 3MM.

It will be very interesting to see which of the online services who’ve gained initial techie-focused traction will be able to convert that momentum to a wider audience. Sure, not all recent startups are just for the techie crowd (Clipmarks and Meebo come to mind as counter examples, along with many others). I’d speculate that in 2006, a couple of the “breakout” services will leapfrog the digerati set altogether, gaining early acceptance of general consumers via techniques like search engine optimization and peer-to-peer marketing. There are many paths to mass adoption, and I think that it can be accomplished either with or without extreme techie acceptance first, depending on the strategy deployed.

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 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.