What Could You Do with 200 Million Users?

April 8, 2009

congratulations-wish-greeting-cardYou may or may not have heard the news out of Mark Zuckerberg world today.  Facebook will officially welcome its 200 Millionth user to the most popular social networking site in the world today.  To most of us, that number is unfathomable.  To Facebook, that is just another milestone to add to the list.

For people like me, who are in the business of making money online, you just have to sit back and admire an accomplishment like that.  True, Facebook has the advantage of being free.  And true, they still have yet to turn a profit even with that extraordinary exposure.  But 200,000,000 people using your service, wow.

For entrepreneurs in the technology field, it takes a lot to be optimistic.  I have heard countless people say they will be the next Facebook.  “If we could only get a few million users, we’ll be set for life.”

It’s true that most of us could do a lot if we had 200 Million users, but you have to be realistic here.  If you are just starting out, tell yourself that you can make money without an accomplishment like that.  If it’s going to take a million or so users for your service to make money, you had better know exactly where those users are coming from.

Think long and hard about who you are trying to serve.  Is your market as big as Facebook?  Is your service the first, or the best, of its kind?  Why will people care?

Starting a free service and trying to get the masses to sign up is much harder than starting a real business that makes money up front and spreading the word through marketing.  The internet has opened the doors for a whole new breed of company, but that does not mean that everyone who tries their luck will win at it.

It’s okay to admire Facebook, but don’t try to emulate them.

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Innovative Travel Service Ideas on Vacation

February 13, 2009

dominican-republic-natureI find myself thinking about travel right now.  Maybe it’s because, even as this post goes live, I am probably sitting on the beach in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.  But nevertheless, it is an important subject to think about because there a lot of untapped ideas out there.

First, I still believe that the online travel sites leave a lot to be desired. Planning a trip is not as easy as it should be, considering how far we have come in the spread of ideas and access to information.

In college, my roommate and I were planning on starting a social networking site for travelers.  How has this not been done yet?  How have one of the big players in online trip booking not added this feature to their website.  It does not have to be much, just a place where people can record their trip with photos, blogs, etc.  Also have them set a profile with details about what they look for in a trip, destination ideas, a wish list, and travel history.  Allow them to “link up” to other profiles, search information to find photos, blog posts, and travel ideas from other users.

If you put all of this on the same site that we can use to plan a book a trip, it would be much more complete, and much more helpful.  It is what the people want, who is going to give it to us?

Second, in a tough time for the travel industry like this, what can companies that service that industry do to entice travelers?  Are there any hotels that offer better packages when the economy is bad?  Are there open hotel rooms that companies could be giving away dirt cheap to gain customer loyalty and spread brand awareness?  There should be. If you own or operate a business that caters to the travel sector, now is the time to focus on what your customers need, and give it to them, no questions asked.
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Third, how can the airlines continue to compete? Airlines are probably some of the most complained about companies out there.  It’s a tough job.  People don’t like the hassle of traveling, the time it takes, the uncomfortable feeling of it all, etc.  Many of the airlines are trying to help out people by eliminating delays, offering cheaper deals, and more locations.

But the companies that are performing the best are concentrating on making people more comfortable. It’s like admitting the act of travel is annoying, but telling them that while they have to go through it, we will make it as pleasant and convenient as possible.  This can be done with things like comfortable waiting areas, better cabin service, wireless connectivity, better food and beverages, etc.

I will leave you to ponder all of that as I enjoy a few relaxing days on the beach.  Add your thoughts here…what are some ways that “travel” could be better?

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2 Emails Worth Mentioning

November 20, 2008

In the past week I have received two emails that I feel are worthy of a mention on a blog about Innovation. Both were from people I do not know, have never met, have never talked with online, and most likely will never talk with in my lifetime.

The first was from Steve Gentile at Think Tank NYC, and he probably had no idea that he was emailing me. You see, Steve decided to leave a social networking group that we were both a part of called Sta.rtUp.Biz. In deciding to leave, Steve emailed all the members of the website explaining his reasons for leaving, and also saying that he is interested in communicating with any of us who would still like to remain in contact with him.

This email stands out for two reasons. The first, is a direct shot at Sta.rtUp.Biz. We are in a world where everything you do can and will be used against you, online. And word travels fast. When you market yourself as a social networking site for entrepreneurs, where we can enjoy the freedom of idea creation, open discussion, and useful information to start our business, you better follow through with that. Now I don’t know if it was the creators or the members who transformed this site into what it is now, but Steve is blaming the creators. “A fool’s game of mindless invitations and posts delivered with the purpose of point building without substance, and not networking or provoking deeper thoughts”, is how he described it in the email. That got my attention, and I am sure many others’, and will hurt the website’s credibility.

Two, this is a semi-ingenious move on Steve’s part to get some attention. As an entrepreneur, what better way to promote without promoting. Take something you are going to do anyway and send an email about it that gets in the heads of people that you may want to work with. I don’t know Steve, but I emailed him with interest after receiving that blast.

The second was from John Podesta. John is the co-Chair of the Obama/Biden Transition Team, and apparently the one in charge of sending out the emails (or at least the name that someone else puts on their emails). I got this email because I had signed up at the new website of the Obama Administration, Change.gov. I encourage all those who have never seen it to check it out. It is still quite bare right now, but very promising.

It is interesting to think about a presidency that will be more in touch with the people. Even if this is all an act, which I don’t think that it is, it’s still a strong step. A president who devotes time to including people and getting involved in online communication, what a concept. Well, we already saw how well they used this sort of internet grassroots promotion in the campaign, now we get to see if they follow through with it during the next 4-8 years.

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