Talking Social Media at the Girl Geek Dinner in London

October 12, 2007 by Lisa Oshima | Developers

I just got back from a 2 week work + vacation trip to London.  On the night I arrived (Sept 26), I was invited to a London Girl Geek Dinner in London sponsored by Astraware, a company I worked closely with while I was a consultant at Palm.  The Girl Geek Dinners are increasing in popularity and a great way for women who are involved in technology to meet each other.  (Sarah Blow, the founder of London Girl Geek Dinners tells me that they recently had over 100 people attending one of the events!)  This particular event had about 50ish ‘geeks’ and included a few talks (including one from me).

John Phillips and Alison Barclay (VP of Business Development and Marketing respectively) from Astraware asked me to speak to the group about trends in social media/ social networking.  I talked about how I see social networking evolving and where I think its going (regurgitating topics I’ve spoken about before in this blog).  I also highlighted the business opportunities that abound for entrepreneurs and developers in this space (thanks to several new Facebook-related venture funds).

At the end of my talk, there was a Q&A, and (gasp) networking (the Brits hate the term “networking”).  Most of the people I spoke to had Facebook or other social networking accounts, but interestingly many were not convinced of the viability of business opportunities for UK-based Facebook developers.  Instead, most of the women I spoke to felt that the big opportunities in social media/ social networking are in the mobile applications space.

While I continue to believe that there is a huge opportunity for Facebook developers (mobile app or web), I agree with those I spoke to that the opportunities are currently largely US based.  With the British Pound valued at an all time high against the US Dollar, the cost of doing business in Britain has reached an all time high (£1 now equals ~$2.04. Three years ago £1 was about $1.75).  And, this can’t have gone unnoticed by those VCs investing in social media, which are largely based in the US.  I expect that this is a short-term problem.  Currency fluctuations eventually ‘right’ themselves, and by the time the US Dollar is a little stronger against the Pound,  I’m betting that the value of business opportunities for 3rd party developers on Social Media/ Networking platforms will be well proven and opportunities will increase for UK- based developers.

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  • [this is good]

    Hm, do you see more on the horizon other than facebook? I know it's been the big thing that every VC is talking about these days, but aren't people neglecting some of the newer trends that look promising? Twitter's enjoyed enourmous success over the past year (though they two have facebook integration so I think their fates are tied in there), Google just bought Jaiku which I think is interesting… we'll see what comes of that. And honestly I think Second Life brings some interesting ideas to the table, especially since IBM partnered up with them…

    Anything else that's got a bit of buzz at the meetings?

  • You're right… There's lot's of talk about Facebook these days, and there are loads more cool emerging technologies out there worth considering. The thing that Facebook offers that the others haven't so far is an open API and the prospect of a whole new economy full of 3rd party ad-supported and for-purchase applications. Jaiku is interesting, but it isn't nearly as robust as something like Facebook. Only time will tell what Google, Yahoo, etc. plan to do with all of their social acquisitions, but unless/until 3rd party developers can get involved/ leverage these platforms and the management can generate and sustain the sort of strong traffic and membership numbers that Facebook has seen, Facebook will continue to lead the pack (at least in my estimation).

    As for Second Life. I agree that they've got some interesting ideas. What I'm not clear on is there monitization strategy. They have a phenominal 3rd party developer network that does work for big brands, but money from that work isn't directly being shared with Linden Lab. To my knowledge, the way Linden Lab makes money is by selling “real estate” and trading Linden dollars, and there are lots of expenses associated with managing both of those things (server space & maintenance, auditing transactions, customer service, etc.). So, they're not benefiting financially from the advertising that's happening on their network. Their goal is to build an open, 3-D internet, and I hear that there's internal debate about how to further monetization efforts.

    Looking to the future, I'm keeping my eye out for emerging social media companies that take better advantage of mobile phones and location based services, whilst encouraging 3rd party developer contributions.

  • Well myspace is rolling out the open API soon too. Which I'm told is rather funny because less than a year ago they were jumping on the heads of developers who had the nerve to try to make money on by basing an app around their service. Silly independant developers…

    As far as second life goes Linden is making the majority of it's money selling real-estate. The idea of a 3D net is huge though and has vast implications, especially if they start including an open API type thing as well… in all honesty I don't think Linden will carry the concept to it's apex, but I do think eventually there will be a company ambitious enough to stand on their sholders to get there.

  • [this is good]
    VC's in the valley have become … hmm let's just say soft! One which I will not mention but was proud to announce that they had created a fund for facebook apps (ring a bell). They will invest $25K-$50K in a couple of engineers to create a the next killer facebook application. These are the guys that don't see any deal flow until its too late … and then they invest in “really stupid ideas”. There are only a few rock star VC's left … they see things beyond facebook, twitter etc. In general VC's are no longer willing to take a risk … instead they want to see traction … if there was traction we would not be talking to them !!! I was recently talking to another VC who has a bench full of Principles … (MBA types) … I asked Q: what do all of these people do given that you have not really done any serious investing for the past 6 months? …. Ans: they do research and act as product managers … Q: but none have operational expereince ….. you get the gist of the conversation. Sadly tho, unless you know the GP yourself or have adirect line to them you have to first meet with one of the above mentioned principles. I did have a chance to meet such an individual … after a few minutes of chatting he said …. “so like this could be a facebook widget .. right?”. UK has some good VC's … the partners at Accel are ones I would ping if I had a new idea mobile or not.

  • Yeah… there's been a lot of “bubble” talk floating about lately, and in many ways these social networking apps and enterprise solutions are considered fads that the kids are into. A lot of the VC's are still afraid that the internet will come crashing down on their ears like at the beginning of the millenia, and while I agree that selling diapers online and creating a social network for your dog might not be the smartest investment, there are still some powerful things getting concieved. Though really, if all it takes to impress a VC is say we'll make a facebook app of our product, well, the inthusiasm is going to pop very quickly.



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