I was at one of those angel investor/new entrepreneur networking events last week, and while the evening was indeed a pleasant and interesting one, there was a disproportionate amount of "I wanna start a social network" chatter amongst those pitching ideas.
I can understand why, given the buzz around Facebook, LinkedIn et al, but really...how many social networks does one really need in their "social graph"? Last weekend (!!!) alone I was asked to join three new ones I had never heard of before, starting with the invitation-only Blue Chip Expert.
(Perhaps it's time to revive an old idea Garner and I had way back in February of 2000. At the time, a company called ICraveTV.com was making all sorts of noise by controversially snapping up the signals of TV channels and re-broadcasting over the net for free. We came up with--tongue-in-cheekly--a site called "ICraveICraveTV.com," which threatened to RE-re-broadcast the TV channels by stealing the ICraveTV.com signal. "ICraveTV is the first generation of Internet parasites," our press release read. "We're the next." So maybe there's a Valley VC who is interested in funding a truly useful new social network, one whose raison d'etre is simply to manage all your OTHER social networks. Stranger concepts have been financed...)
So to entrepreneurs panning for gold in the social network swamps, I offer this advice:
Instead of trying to create yet another one of 'em, my advice would be to "swim where the fish are" and jump into the Facebook widget pool...but create one with a difference; one whose job it would be to manage the infoverflow (a term I just coined, thank you very much!)of the NewsFeed page.
While NewsFeed does indeed provide an erstwhile view into the activities of one's group of friends (most notably, notifying you of the widgets they have chosen to use), the majority of the stuff listed falls into a category of, to be polite, "Well, good for you, but..."
So if one wants to monetize Facebook real fast, forget the much-maligned Beacon. What Facebook really needs is an "Anti-social Network" widget; an "I Don't Give A Damn" filter called Rat's Ass that would zap and forever eliminate those trite messages of:
"Vote for My Video!" or
"You Wanna Play Dinner Theatre Trivia?" or
"Hot Potato Request" or
"21 of Your Friends Has (sic) Received a New FunWall Post!" or
...I could go on forever. But that would just exacerbate the point, wouldn't it?
So go get 'em. You'll make a fortune eliminating SNAM (Social Network SPAM).
Just don't forget me when you go public or sell out to the hedgies...