German e-commerce blog Exciting Commerce points to an interesting comment on Techcrunch by Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners with regard to the recent $20 million venture round in Slide and just how they might be making money:
I led Lightspeed Venture Partnerâ€™s invesment in Rockyou, and am also a friend of Maxâ€™s at Slide. I canâ€™t comment on the substance of this rumor, but wanted to respond to some of the comments.
Looking at Rockyou and Slide as pure technology, and considering their worth as simply the engineering time to duplicate their code, substantially undervalues them. Both companies serve up over 100 million total widgets, and create more than 100k new widgets, every single DAY. Thats a lot of adoption.
Users of social networks donâ€™t decide who to create a slideshow with by issuing an RFP, or by doing an exhaustive feature comparison of vendors. They use what they see others using, what they see their friends using. In that sort of decision making environment, size matters in generating further growth. A great user experience and good technology are antes to play, but they are not enough to win the hand. Both Rockyou and Slide have scale and that is a key driver of the value that theyâ€™ve created.
I think skeptical comments about business model are understandable. I posted in my set of 2007 Consumer Internet Predictions that this year widgets will find a business model (if youâ€™re interested in reading more, click my name in this comment). But itâ€™s also fair to say that they havenâ€™t demonstrated a business model yet.
Youtube was able to generate a destination browsing site and monetize traffic directly. Photobucket drives enough traffic through creation and editing to make very substantial advertising revenue. But many other widget companies (and Iâ€™d include both Slide and Rockyou in this category) have not yet crossed this bridge.
However, I think that there are a number of promising business model avenues that have not yet been fully explored, some ad based, some sponsorship based, some freemium models, some likely requiring a revenue share with the social networks. But I wouldnâ€™t have invested if I didnâ€™t think that!
In his 2007 Consumer Internet Predictions, Jeremy mentions a few more potential options:
2. Social Network widgets find a business model. Pete Cashmore and many others have proclaimed the rise of the widget economy, but there hasnâ€™t been too much money floating around this economy to date. Widgets have been primarily a marketing tool, used to drive traffic to a destination site, with Youtube being the most obviously successful at doing this. Once there, monetizing traffic on your own site is uncontroversial. But few others have been able to build a browsing destination on the back of widgets, which begs the question as to how widgets can be directly monetized where they are embedded, and what sort of revenue splits will be struck between the three relevant parties; widget owner, social networking site, and user. I donâ€™t know the answer to this, but have some ideas (syndicated advertising, sponsorship, micropayments for bling, freemium models etc). I think weâ€™ll see more clarity emerge in â€˜07.
Also worth reading in that context is this article on GigaOm (01/04/2007): For Social Networks, 2007 is about MONEY
Towards such ends, there are four critical success factors that any innovation in monetization scheme for social networks must adhere to:
And, if you’ve been following the German web 2.0 scene lately (with Facebook clone StudiVZ having been acquired for what appears to be EUR 85 million), you’ve probably noticed that there is a German contender to Slide as well: Imagelooop — who have received a total of EUR 1 million in venture capital so far. In a recent press release, they had this to say:
At present, it is completely free to use imagelooop. A re-structuring of costs through the introduction of premium membership, exclusive third-party products and advertising will take place at a later point.
We’ll see how that goes.