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Think Big. Move Fast.

As I’ve said in the past, I think that distribution is the most important success factor in the early stages of any new consumer technology. Distribution used to mean getting a carriage deal done with a big portal. These days it can take a number of forms, but it always requires getting in front of potential users who may not be aware of you, and alerting them to your value proposition.

As social networks take an increasing percentage of internet users time, it’s more important than ever to factor them into a distribution strategy. Within Myspace, this has been through widget virality (one of the seven forms of virality that we’ve posted about in the past). Bebo has taken a more controlled approach, allowing select partners into their system in what looks closer to a traditional portal distribution deal.

Now, through its new platform, Facebook too can be a distribution platform. Apps are spreading in Facebook through a combination of virality from profile pages, promotion to existing user bases and position in the application directory, with iLike being the clear early winner. Happily for Lightspeed, Rock You and Flixster (both are portfolio companies) have three of the top ten apps on Facebook between them. Josh Kopelman says that Facebook’s open approach to partners has effectively increased their virtual R&D budget by around $250m, the amount invested so far into widget companies.

Another of our portfolio companies, Stylehive, is also taking the approach of opening up its platform (albeit on a smaller scale to Facebook). They are partnering with retailers and publishers, including the Gap, Shopbop, Instyle Magazine, Gen Art and others, inviting them into the Stylehive platform. These partners will be able to access Stylehive’s community as well as add a social media dimension to their commerce or content.

I think we’ll see even more communities opening themselves up as platforms over the next 12-18 months. It will be especially interesting to watch MySpace’s competitive response.

  • http://www.ronbronson.com/27 Ron

    I’m still not convinced that any of this really gets people any closer to being able to actually do anything other than trade their friends as baseball cards.

    It doesn’t really enhance anything. Sure it looks nice. And it makes people think theoretically about what “could be” if all of these so-called ‘open’ modules were really, truly ‘open’ and accessible to people in the same way that blogging software and HTML allowed any .02 hack with something to say, to basically say it.

    But I’m not convinced they’re part of any sort of revolution, when open source tools were around and thriving well before all of these proprietary sites decided that “hey, we’ve been ripping off open source code forever, why not ‘give back’ while finding a way to keep people addicted to what we’re feeding them.”

  • http://www.shopyield.com Cate Long

    Distribution is everything… in my business, the fixed income market, you want to connect as many places as possible… (in fact the most complicated part is keeping all the connections accurate in real time…)

    I’m watching Lending Club launch on Facebook … interesting financial service app… I’m wondering what kind of takeup they can get…

    Lending Club is a “higher order” application in that its a service and much deeper than posting photos or sharing about music… so can platforms like Facebook sucessfully distribute richer applications? And will viralness take effect there… watching… wondering…

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