The Divide Between Geeks and My Grandmother

Two months ago, I wrote a post about leaping from “digerati-facing services” to “consumer-facing services” – highlighting a concern that many of the web services currently emerging are focused on a techie audience without the necessary components to generate mainstream consumer usage.

There’s an interesting conversation going on at Umair Haque’s Bubblegeneration blog. Along the same lines, he says,

”Web 2.0 cannot live up to its (enormous) potential to create value that’s structurally disruptive until and unless technologists understand consumer dynamics. Web 2.0 can’t live up to its game-changing potential until and unless the geeks step outside and think outside their own box of geekery.”

The whole “Great Divide” post is worth reading, as well as the comments. A very insightful one from Fraser Kelton of Disruptive Thoughts blog writes about three stages of development – innovation, commercialization, and scaling – suggesting that “the ‘geek’ crowd needs to pay more attention” to the commercial stage:

“Commercialization is about a number of things. It’s about validating assumptions made in stage 1 and taking the ‘geek’ out as much as possible in exchange for ‘consumer’. It’s about finding an initial foothold in the larger market (other than the larger web 2.0 crowd). It’s about finding the right product benefits to focus on for the launch and lowering focus on features that don’t add much benefit to a consumer (web 2.0 is very guilty of this).”

I take issue with Umair spreading the blame for this disconnect (from the “geeks” to industry figures to VCs), but agree that the importance of marketing and branding has been overlooked (regardless of who’s at “fault”). Both strategic marketing issues (product positioning & communication) and tactical implementations (landing pages & promotions) matter a great deal. In this space, the more successful endeavors (with and without VCs) will be the ones that realize this fact and capitalize on it.

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.