So they say the LinkedIn IPO has created a bit of a rush to IPO for the rest of them. If it’s true that we’re in a new market now, and that LinkedIn’s IPO was the beginning of a rush of IPOs for valid social networking candidates, then the next few years could be interesting for the Valley.
Market and economic conditions are not as they were in 2000. So If, and this is still only an “if” at this point, investors want to shepherd their best to market now, there will be pressure on companies to tighten up. Increase traction and retention among users/customers. Improve brand loyalty. Differentiate from close competitors. Focus in on what makes them different. And so on.
The inventive years, then, may be drawing to a bit of an end. *If* we have entered IPO season. Time now to refine, polish, and perfect the product. To hold on to the team and to begin eyeing the exits for opportunities. And to watch the competition and get the ear to the ground to listen for the rumble of oncoming industry rollups.
Interesting times, then, for a lot of companies, *if* it is that time. For the geo-local and local-social and social-deals marketplaces are far from being done. Groupon has only just declared its intent to socialize deals. Gowalla, SCVNGR, and Foursquare continue to find the most extensible and leverage-able social practices with which to integrate merchant offerings (loyalty, dynamic deals, real-timeliness, etc).
Social games are not yet through — if anything, only just beginning. Narrow social gamification based on badges and achievements (Gowalla, SCVNGR, Foursquare) stands in sharp contrast to the more open gamification of social represented by EmpireAvenue.
Both hint at the possibilities of connecting online or offline merchant business, customer relationships, and to some extent the social graph, to interaction models. In the case of Foursquare/SCVNGR/Gowalla these interactions are incentive based and hew closely to actual user activities.
But EmpireAvenue shows that you can go meta on this. Game the game and with use of a transaction engine, create new connections and thus new channels and relationship opportunities. (The question “so what” and “what for” stands — but this is not a phenom to write off as silly gaming. Players are real, brands are real, and therefore inventiveness will be real, too.)
It will be interesting to see what comes next. If there’s a mad dash for the exits, and companies in the social networking space spend the next couple years not on whiteboards but with lawyers, then a pity, perhaps, for things will simply not be as interesting. Startup founders will shift focus, necessarily, inwards and towards company well-being. Innovation will take a back seat. For success in an IPO rush is measured at the open, not by innovation.
Interesting, indeed. Let’s hope that the rush is not on for everyone now. Let’s hope that it’s not that time yet. When the Valley reveals its secret Vegas. When the ‘ad’ separates from the ‘venture.’ When silicon turns green.