Prognostications From The Left Coast

Anyone living in the San Francisco Bay Area can tell you that we're in the midst of yet another Silicon Valley bubble. Unlike past bubbles, which focused on Internet commerce or enterprise efficiency or the rise of social networks, this current bubble has more to do with mobile apps, personal efficiency, and how best to leverage the crowd. In terms of 2011, it's the crowd stuff that I predict will be the dominant feature in terms of new innovation.

When advising companies about Internet marketing these days, I like to adapt one of the first rules of English language I presume every elementary school student still learns: "i" before "e" except after "c." My version goes "I" before "e" except after "we."

"E" refers to e-commerce, which of course is any construct in which commercial transactions occur online. Here, the business brand is all. The concept of i-commerce, conversely, is one in which an individual person is at the center of transactions -- think scheduling a date or promoting one's own new blog post. I-commerce is centered on the personal brand and, when effectively engaged and nurtured, can be a powerful driver of e-commerce transactions.



Now that millions of individuals and smaller businesses have leveraged a more democratic Web to create their own brands (and followers of those brands), services like Groupon became possible. A cool coupon offer is made available by a local business with its own awesome brand; a woman with a great personal brand and a huge number of followers really wants to see that coupon offer activated, so she mobilizes her followers and voila: a local shop is instantly overrun.

"We-commerce," then, is any construct in which the crowd is the source of many transactions toward a specific end. In this situation, a crowd brand is king. Group-think, herd mentality, wisdom-of-the-crowds and other psycho-social variables often drive we-commerce activity. In 2010, the most notable new crowd brand was the Tea Party and its affiliates, which drove a bunch of economic activity, business and political. For instance, I worked with a business brand selling gold and gold-backed financial instruments last year, and by embracing and nurturing the Tea Party crowd, it was able to drive impressive increases in sales (a return to the gold standard for the dollar is a central tenet of the Tea Party crowd brand).

The current bubble in Silicon Valley has a lot to do with the still-nascent rise of we-commerce and what that means for business, marketing and movements. As more and more we-commerce mechanisms are built and become popular,the need for an associated search mechanism will become more apparent.

So, prediction number 1: look for a whole range of we-commerce applications and Web services in 2011 (I love Groupon, but also a little start-up for the sports-minded called Hitpost, which the Notre Dame Diaspora, for instance, can use to find physical or virtual gatherings with whom to cheer on their teams. Hitpost has also teamed up with Sports Illustrated to create an app for the Chrome Store that enables a wisdom-of-the-crowd effort to source the best sports photography the world over).

Prediction number 2: look for search-related services designed to ferret out we-commerce trends and opportunities based on the specific interests or beliefs of any given individual.

Prediction number 3: business, educational services, and political, religious and social movements will also try to figure out how best to leverage we-commerce mechanisms to activate markets, learning, like-minded people and political change.

And my other predictions are:

  • Twitter will be acquired, either by Google or Microsoft, in 2011 (I'm betting on my hometown search engine, Google.)
  • APIs will increasingly become the central plumbing of a new Web 3.0 movement, in which applications increasingly anticipate and / or act on our various needs. ("Hello, Derek. Would you like me to have a cab waiting for you when the movie you're about to see is over?")
  • Facebook and LinkedIn will file for IPOs in 2011; Skype and Zynga may do the same. Once again, the Bay Area will be awash in new gazillionaires, who will spawn the dreams (and start-ups) of a new generation of entrepreneur.
  • Smartphone prices will begin to plunge in 2011 and bring hundreds of millions of souls in the under-developed world to the Internet, while tablets sweep the developed world as replacements for laptops. As a result, search will become important to new audiences, in new ways. All this will drive ever more development of novel apps, which will rely on the aforementioned API infrastructure to deliver powerful functionality.
  • The fights around privacy and net neutrality will begin anew with the swearing-in of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives in Washington, and the there will be a collision of overlapping interests from Madison Avenue and Wall Street to Main Street and Silicon Valley that will work strenuously to avoid the wrong sorts of regulation (or deregulation).

    Let the games begin! Happy New Year.

  • 3 comments about "Prognostications From The Left Coast".
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    1. Neil Mckenna from Silver Olive Agency, January 3, 2011 at 10:58 a.m.

      Very interesting predictions. I do remain a skeptic as to how much the "i" can move the revenue needle in 2011. In terms of resources I would still put my available time on the "e" with eye on the "i". ;)

    2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 3, 2011 at 11:09 a.m.

      Just a request: Before you use the term Diaspora, please refrain for bandying it about for such inconsequential tidbits like college students moving on. The historical claim to this term has derived from genocide, attempted genocide and the expulsion of people from their home country by others that empty populations of those who have beliefs who are different and question empty, herding, hate filling, destructive rhetoric of dictorial leaders. See Stalin, Hitler, Bosnia and Riwanda for some of the most diasporas in recent history.

    3. Tom Price, January 3, 2011 at 3 p.m.

      As smartphone prices plunge it will not just affect the API infrastructure. Service providers are scrambling to upgrade their over burdened wireless networks. As a resident of SF you might be painfully aware of this. The transition to 4G networks will not always be smooth, but inevitable as video continues to increase exponentially. Just follow the flood of smartphone and tablets announcements sure to emanate from the upcoming CES 2011 event.

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