Metarand is hatched on Halloween

I’ve recently been interviewed by HatchThat’s Ross Hill.

It’s a broad ranged discussion covering:

  • the areas I think are hot (mobile,web, virtual and real worlds — mashed);
  • UGC and CICS;
  • the importance of business planning versus bplans;
  • iterative, extremely agile leverage of existing platforms (Facebook, Open Social); and
  • the state of venture capital 2.0 (and the lack of it in Australia).

Google set to outopen in face/space race

Application developers are the clear winners of Google’s pending release of Open Social.

Richard MacManus explains:

Open Social is a distributed social network framework…a ‘third place’ of social networks…a set of three common APIs that allow developer to access the following core functions and information at social networks:

  • Profile Information (user data)
  • Friends Information (social graph)
  • Activities (News Feed).

 The following companies/social networks have apparently signed up to be a part of Open Social – Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle, Orkut, Plaxo, Salesforce and Viadeo.

So far a bunch of  Facebook app developers, including Flixster, iLike, RockYou and Slide, have also signed up.

Richard rightly points out that this is an example of Google playing to its strengths – namely creating a distributed system and owning a chunk of a space through its own platform. It will be interesting to see how Facebook and MySpace react.

While some commentators are expressing doubt that they will come to the party, it is possible that this move by Google will lead to some de facto standardization across open APIs. Standards would assist app developers greatly by reducing the friction inherent in mastering the intricacies of every set of open APIs and should lead to a much wider distribution of apps across various social networks.

Om Malik feels that Open Social is attacking Facebooks achilles heel – its quintessential closed nature. A standardised Social Networking Markup Language far outweighs a closed Facebook-only ML.

Do You Have a Facebook Strategy?

facebook-t-shirt-on-flickr-photo-sharing.jpg

Used to be a time, not that long ago (pre May 25th – the launch date of the Facebook platform), when the most frequently asked question in VC pitch meetings was, “What’s your China strategy?”

Today, topping the faqs has to be, “What’s your Facebook strategy?”

For CxOs who have not yet cottoned on to the viral coefficient and engagement aspects of Facebook, here are a few metrics worth digesting:

* in the first 20 weeks 366 million applications were installed from the Facebook platform.

* this growth is continuing unabated and is set to track past 1 billion in the first year.

* in August – there were 14 million unique app users (this equated to 33% of all Facebook members)

* in August – there were 88 million app visits

* in August – average dwell time per visit was 4:30 minutes.

Asking whether a company has a Facebook strategy is also shorthand for asking whether its executives have embraced the open architecture model. Facebook is the tip of the iceberg, with many more opportunities to leverage deeply engaged user communities on the horizon.

[Stats courtesy of Justin Smith of InsideFacebook @ Graphing Social Patterns, picture courtesy of BeFitt]

Election About Face

US politicians are embracing Facebook in the lead up to the 2008 presidential race.

Stephen Colbert has been able to garner 1 million members of a Facebook group called 1,000,000 Strong For Stephen T Colbert in all of nine days. In doing so he has created the fastest growing Facebook group ever.

In contrast, Barack Obama has a group called One Million Strong for Barack, which has almost 400,000 members…after nine months. And the eight month old group One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary (Clinton) has nearly half a million users.

Australian politicians are deep into election campaign territory already. What has been their approach to social media as a vote generator?

Both John Howard and Kevin Rudd have been using YouTube to post videos and also have MySpace pages, but they have not achieved the same level of engagement on Facebook as their US counterparts.

While Howard and Rudd both have profiles on Facebook (official or not), their use of the groups feature has been rather dismal.

The highest ranking Rudd group has less than 5,000 members – Kevin Rudd will ruin Australia.

For Howard the situation isn’t any prettier. His highest ranking group also has less than 5,000 members – I bet i can find 100 000 people that hate john howard!

Given that Australia has 1.5 million Facebook users, you’d kinda think the politicians would be able to garner a few more to support their cause.

If nothing else, it is a stark illustration, to me at least, that Australia sorely needs some fresh political protagonists.

How many of you would sign up for a Facebook group called: 1,000,000 Strong for Australia 2.0!!!

The Arcade Called You

 palace-of-fine-arts-san-francisco-vanishing-point-game-on-flickr-photo-sharing.jpg

Rex Sorgatz has written a must read about reality as game.

Awesome imagery – welcome to the arcade called you… gaming mindset is pervasive…gaming the system …

        We’ve moved from a society that creates goods to one that solves puzzles.

Rex explains his motivation for writing the piece on his blog:

The whole idea started by noticing how several of my daily interactions — watching TV, reading RSS, dating — have become very game-like. At first, I didn’t know what to call these instances, but I eventually started using the term gaming moments. And then soon enough, a definition arose: “competitive interactions in daily life that involve play.” Sometimes the interactions are social, sometimes they are you versus a computer algorithm. But once you’ve noticed them, they suddenly become ubiquitous.

“Gaming the system,” it seems, has become standard operating procedure for everything from booking an airline ticket to battling your TiVo’s automated recommendations.

[Photo courtesy of ue06]

International market for social networks remains wide open

With social networks like Myspace and Facebook coming under the umbrella of global corporates like Newscorp and Microsoft, respectively, you may be thinking that it’s game over. The following stats from Jeff Pulver show just how wrong that assumption would be.

the-jeff-pulver-blog_-look-at-facebook-users-around-the-world_.jpg

I’ve highlighted the US and Australia to show that they are relatively saturated, but just take a look at the countries with a really high number of people – China and India. Facebook is a mere blip on their radar screens.

Besides what this highlights in terms of international growth opportunities for the incumbents, there is still a lot of potential for new arrivals to grab market share globally.

In addition, with mobile phones globally standing at around 3 to 1 computer – the opportunities within the mobile social networking arena are wide open.

I am currently scouting for entrepreneurially minded mobile developers who are keen to play in this space. Ping me on Facebook.

No friendcaps: “Bluepulse rocks” says Scoble

bluepulse-has-a-new-take-on-social-networking_-mobile-only-scobleshow_-videoblog-about-geeks-technology-and-developers.jpg

Bluepulse founder Ben Keighran talks with Robert Scoble about their plans to build the killer app mobile social network in this video interview.

Ben gave an interesting insight into why he moved Bluepulse from Sydney to Silicon Valley:

1. Bluepulse intends running with an ad-supported service model and given that half the world’s media spend is in the US it made sense to “follow the money”.

2. Ben rightly feels that attracting top talent can be a gamechanger. Bluepulse really understands mobile, but he wanted to attract on board the right backend talent and felt the Valley is the best place to do this.

3. His vision is to build a really big company and, realising he would need venture funding to do so, he wanted to get VCs on board who could provide strategic help – he moved to the Valley to source a venture partner who could assist with Bluepulse’s hypergrowth.

Sound reasoning from an exciting company. As you’ll hear in the video, they’ll be making some announcements at CTIA in San Francisco this week.

Facesoft at $15bn

When I first started playing around with social networks almost a decade ago I never in my wildest dreams expected I’d see the day one of them would be valued at $15 billion. Facebook, which already had deep ties with Micrsosoft through their ad serving solution, has agreed to take $240m in funding from them. In return, Microsoft will own less than 2% of Facebook, giving the fledgling social networking venture a valuation of $15bn. I’m sure the guys at Accel must be over the moon – their $13m investment in Facebook at a valuation of less than $100m seems like a really good deal.

According to the press conference the deal was inked today and for both companies they felt they had a good relationship in place already, this investment was simply an extension of it. They wanted to put together a deal that was “truly accretive for everybody”.

This new infusion of capital will be used to expand the Facebook platform – their userbase is doubling every two months. It will also be used to fund innovation and growth – expect to see the job boards clogged up by Facebook and not just Google 🙂 .

Innovation will focus on how Facebook targets ads. They have explicitly said they are not looking at search right now — I interpolate a possible stand off agreement with Google here, given that it has been suggested Google was also in the running to become a strategic investor in Facebook.

Metawrap 24/10: Venture Funding

 staccato-on-flickr-photo-sharing.jpg

There is so much going on these days that is worth pointing to.  I am hoping that by moving to a staccato-like blogging style I’ll be able to bring the overall trends into sharper focus. Metarand is, after all, more about pattern recognition than lasering in on specific topics.

I’ll still dive deep into commentary on topics from time to time, but want to give the full 40,000 foot view in blazing technicolor.

Let’s metawrap, this one’s focused on recent venture funding  –

* Community-based product ratings company  Trusted Opinion gets $1.3m Series A ,

* Enterprise mashup provider Jackbe pulls in $9.5m,

* Optichron raised $12m for communications distortion removal from USVP, Battery,

* Cell phone imaging company Siimpel gets $21.5m 4th round funding led by SunAmerica,

* Angels (85 of them, including Esther Dyson) have descended on Linkstorm in 3rd round of $4.2m,

* Mobile video venture MoGreet lines up $1.2m from DFJ Frontier,

* Behavioral advertiser Collective Media has raised a Series A round led by Greycroft,

* Last up, college-based social network Doostang has closed a first round of $3.8m from Tugboat and Shasta.

[Picture courtesy of angelapple]