Showing posts with label Cyber Consumer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cyber Consumer. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Does the SEC validation of TFC model pave way to cyberization of venture capital? – a SWOT

It’s always exhilarating when the old, routine systems and approaches evolve by embracing and respecting the newer technological trends – the recent endorsement by SEC (The US Securities & Exchange Commission) of the TheFundersClub (TFC) model of venture funding is surely an exciting harbinger of things to come.

Some suppositions & sweeping statements before a SWOT

  • Even as the Venturebeat article is upbeat about this validation of SEC being ‘significant for the venture capital and finance industries as well as start-ups looking for more flexible methods of fundraising’ – I’d consider that TFC is essentially a platform for individual accredited investors to spread their investments and risk & NOT (still) a VC firm that went online!
  • At this juncture, this is indicative of the strong trend towards of ‘gamification of investing’ rather than ‘cyberization of venture funding’.

STRENGTHS - This shift, whether or not paradigm, is promising

  • NUDGE TOWARDS A VC PROCESS UPGRADE: Like the Venturebeat article says, while VCs routinely chase investments into innovation, VC process itself has been largely untouched by technological advances – THIS is definitely is a nudge in the right direction
  • ENHANCED ANGEL INVESTOR BASE: The ability of an individual investor to bring down the investment size than otherwise possible offline will potentially open up the angel funding domain to a lot of HNWIs that else would go in for more conventional investments such as equities trading, real estate et al.
  • IMPROVED DECISION TIMELINES: The USD1K - 250K window for investment allowed by TFC is pretty much within the risk-threshold of an individual investor (the median deal size of an angel investor is ~0.6mio USD) & considering TFC makes screening of potential deals easier for the angel, it does appear TFC and the likes (clones that’ll invariably emerge & soon), can potentially get popular among the non-regular, domain-neutral angels that have a need to invest but very little time & inclination for any kind of foot work/ due-diligence.

WEAKNESSES - Good to be aware about what to be wary of
  • IMPATIENCE FUND: What helps the current ‘offline’ VC model is that the relative smallness of PE/VC funds in the total investment pool of an LP, essentially makes VC a patience-fund & this in effect is largely true with Angel investors that behave like the VCs. An open, online competitive crowd sourcing of funds may change the expectations of the investors and take the patience out of the fund.
  • CROWD BIAS V/S TRUE POTENTIAL: Again, the same transparency that lets the investor see the cumulative investments a particular company is attracting may also trigger a crowd-bias categorization of the hosted investee companies as attractive or unattractive merely by their ability to attract funds & not necessarily by their true potential, thus making it a gamble rather than an investment.
  • INVESTOR ATTRITION: And, while the range of investments allowed could lure a lot more investors like it has been mentioned before, it is also highly probable that the investor will compare it with his other investment options that may offer a quicker ROI & get disillusioned
  • SCALABILITY ISSUES: I’d think the scalability of a venture funding follows the path; angel investing --> venture capital --> private equity. Looking at the regulatory scenario & the way LPs operate, it doesn’t look plausible that this model can be applied in a scenario that i) Involves fund raising from traditional LPs & ii) Involves funding rounds involving multiple VCs  

THREATS - Being the devil’s advocate in an angels’ gathering
  • OFFLINE IS THE EVENTUAL DESTINATION: It is interesting to note that the SEC ‘no-action’ letter substantiates the non-action mostly based on operational relevance of the offline arm ‘FC Management’ rather than online TFC as such. – If not anything else, this indicates the omnipresent importance of an offline validation of an online user interface – But what’s the threat perception in this realization?... ponder this; It’s a well acknowledged fact by now that the real-money is offline & the scalability of any e-commerce platform is only when it triggers the quintessential O2O retro transition – This is particularly true in a case wherein it becomes necessary for TFC or the likes to generate more carried interest in order to be sustainable & the requisite scale of operation makes it pertinent that the investor & the investees are physically & comprehensively attended to – thus there exists a threat of the model progressively getting offline & hence get inconsequential.
  • CYBER-CONSUMERS ARE A DIFFERENT BREED: I always felt that the absence of
    scope for a visual prejudice or lack of pressure in conforming to imposed stereotypes makes the worldwide web a great leveller wherein most consumer demographics tend to blend and behave in a very similar fashion in being impulsive, adventurous, trend-junkie, impatient – meaning essentially everyone’s a teenager on Cyberia. 
    For a marketer this means that the average risk taking capacity of a consumer online is higher than when the same consumer is offline – but on the flip-side this also means that the cyber-consumer is seldom loyal & quick to get bored & that’s a definite & short-term threat.

OPPORTUNITIES - It’s eventually the potential of the Opportunity that prevails

  • The SEC endorsement qualifies the current TFC model as being the proof of concept for (eventual) handling of venture capital non-conventionally. As postulated above, there appears to be a lot to sort-out before the model can be scaled-up successfully, but the opportunity of defining a paradigm shift in VC is out there & I'm sure someone's already cobbling together a design to overcoming these road-blocks to scalability.
As Heraclitus said long ago, the only constant is change!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

USER TRUST, the dope that can't be ignored in the race to monetizing cyber-social engagement – A commentary in light of the recent revamps to LinkedIn user experience

Okay, here goes…


With a market cap of over US$16 billion & revenues forecast slated at US$1.4 billion and supposedly* out-pacing the original social media biggie Facebook in terms of revenue v/s user base, LinkedIn is surely fanning the flames of market expectation of an aggressive performance coming year (*the revenue per user as of last financial year is ~ US$5, coincidentally for both LinkedIn & FB)

As a part of this expectation frenzy, the analysts have been postulating various acquisition targets based on LinkedIn’s need to grow faster, hence inorganically through acquisitions, though not all necessarily as pricey as Slideshare buyout and generate more revenues & earnings that’d justify its two years into public listing - In a funny kind of way, I feel the financial markets almost want LI to compensate for the laggard performance of Facebook J


As a regular user, I’ve been wearily noticing the rapid dilution of what used to be the core value-add of LinkedIn platform (vis-à-vis’ other social media) – its high quality user-experience!

While a major portion of this dilution happened through the unceremonious withdrawal of various tools & applications, a lot of it is also owing to the subtle or probably not-so subtle attempt to move away from being an egalitarian professional platform to becoming an elite platform where a few celebrities & myriads of followers exist at different levels of social relevance effected through a methodically tempered and manipulated 'visibility engineering' by the overseers……. not sure about what I’m saying?... ponder this;

Unceremonious WITHDRAWAL of apps
  • Just like that, one fine day most used & adored apps such as MY TRAVEL (TRIPIT); EVENTS; READING LIST BY AMAZON (along with all my reviews), BLOG LINK et al are all gone!! - Ironically, the settings still point me to the applications page where all the above application icons still exist, but defunct.
The subtle social DISENGAGEMENT:
  • STATUS UPDATE - No more one can use Twitter to update the LI status, the other way is possible though. Also, the status update is now “just one more activity” on your profile & the moment you post a comment on anything else, your status update goes into hiding below. Furthermore, your comment on a LI article itself is never shown, but a grab of the article on which you commented is displayed on your profile
  • ENGAGEMENT - The LinkedIn Answers is gone…. taking with it the zillions of high quality & ‘free’ opinion and advice
And what features get strengthened? 1) JOBS - with the introduction of talent solutions; Premium job-seeker et al 2) NEWS - with LinkedIn Today, Signal et al 3) TALENT SOLUTIONS – introduction of Skills and Expertise endorsements moving away from the much cumbersome recommendation 4) COMPANIES – with enhanced options for engagement with potential business associates and job aspirants et al and finally 5) PREMIUM USER ACCOUNT and the paying account privileges that come with it.


Reading the trend of vanishing apps & features together with the names of potential acquisitions floating about, it does appear LI could end up acquiring and integrating a few companies such as;
  • VIADEO & ChinaHR  - to ramp up the user-base and thus the revenues
  • QUORA – to compensate for Answers & recreate the lost cause of stimulating user engagement.. and finally,
  • DEMANDBASE – to optimize the momentum of COMPANY pages and create a B2B integrated transaction platform
I don’t believe acquisition of MONSTER is something LinkedIn would/ should bother about?, as LI already enjoys the benefit of a better user perception (real?) of candidate quality plus a greater brand equity, which any association with a hard-core job site like Monster would only dilute.

Essentially, when the analysts out there propose these acquisitions, it’s all about money, valuation, market capitalization & essentially monetizing all the user-base unabashedly quite like what FB is trying to do.


But of course, these are enterprises after all and they’d want to make money & people who invested in those want them to make money. But when the very basis of a business is its user base, their interest and trust in the platform and it’s ethos, I am not sure if the solely revenue-inspired changes LI is affecting make complete sense.

I want to believe when LI web-page redirect I landed on says “We'll be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn” – I very badly want to……. I love/ loved being on LinkedIn, I want it to sustain my interest, I do want to still confide all my professional details to the platform without having a niggling doubt that LI is only teasing-out information it could use commercially and blocking-out information it can’t monetize – only I don’t see many signs of it. I, an average but avid social media denizen am not surely alone in this feeling of the user getting left high and dry in this chase of valuation.

I hope LinkedIn is listening & FB eavesdropping..... Please don’t do the mistake of taking the user for granted 'cause on a social media user is the primal stakeholder.



Is LinkedIn itself a candidate for take-over? I’d think so - it’d be the right acquisition for any company out there trying to dominate the cloud scene with an integrated gadget to boot. Would one of you gentleman please raise your hand? Tim, Jeff, Larry… anyone….??