Monday, February 26, 2007

Take-away Notes from the CommunityNext Founder's Panel

Since I didn't actually attend CommunityNext, I'm beholden to Guy Kawasaki for posting a clip of the hour-long panel on his blog. And yes, I realize that CommunityNext happened about three weeks ago, so this isn't news by any shot, but rather a service for someone who doesn't want to sit through the hour-long video.

Anyway, here's the upshot. The panel featured Akash Garg of hi5, Sean Suhl of Suicide Girls, James Hong of HotorNot, Markus Frind of PlentyofFish, Drew Curtis of Fark, and Max Levchin of Slide. Basically, they gave some general info and advice about starting a social-based website.

The key takeaway: no one started their sites with the intention of making money (except Max). PlentyofFish was an attempt to learn .Net. Fark started with a picture of a squirrel with giant balls, simply because Drew Curtis thought it was funny. SuicideGirls was started as a proof-of-concept for a social sports network. HotOrNot, to amuse friends in cubes. Hi5, to meet chicks.

The second takeaway: only PlentyofFish does any marketing. However, Max Levchin had a very astute insight about the changing nature of viral marketing, which I will paraphrase here.
Viral marketing started with people sending links via email to their friends. Then, that was replaced by telling people about things via IM. Now, people use the Myspace to embed widgets from other cool sites into their pages. Max asks, what's next? He thinks that's where the next huge company will emerge from and I think he's correct. If anyone has any thoughts, please leave them in the comments section.

Takeaway 3 (courtesy of Guy Kawasaki): Five of the six companies believe marketing is a waste of money, and yet their revenue model is based on advertising. Beautiful.

You can find other highlights from the conference on Alan Graham's blog.