November 12, 2007
When I first got exposed to venture capital in the mid ’90’s, one of the big questions was “how will you compete with Microsoft?” (Since I was running the Microsoft hearings at the time this was something I took interest in).
Then I got into the business myself in the late ’90s. At first the only thing people worried about was how they could attract a gazillion eyeballs and do an IPO for their Series B. Then, pretty soon, the only thing people were worried about was keeping the lights on.
Then Google happened. And for a few years, the question was “how do you compete with Google?” And, to some extent, that still is the question.
But in the last couple years, a new 800 pound Gorilla Question has emerged: the MySpace, and now Facebook, question.
I just had an email exchange with my friend Bijan Sabet, who also is a VC here in Boston (why are we both emailing at 6:30? VC’s aren’t supposed to work hard, right ?!) about a startup we both recently heard about. I emailed him: “whaddya think about [newco]?” He emailed back: “love the idea but worry about how they compete with MySpace and Facebook?” I email back: “yeah, that is the right question.”
And then I was struck that this is the new question. In the world of the distributed web, how the big social nets help/hurt/extinguish your startup is an important question to figure out.
I was also struck by the fact that the cycle during which a new gorilla emerges seems to have shrunk from 10 years to 5 years to 1-2 years.
Not sure what to make of that, but it does make things interesting.