The Proof is in the People
Forecasting the next big thing on the web seems to be the sport of the season these days. Each quarter, new companies launch and put themselves at the mercy of the blogosphere and the press with the hopes of being the next media darling.
But is being a media darling a good indicator of how well a new business will do? Not necessarily. During a recent meeting at Newsvine, Nick Hanauer said something to the team which I believe deserves some further thought:
“Almost every time a great idea is first presented, people tend to reject it.”
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s often times true. An entrepreneur who always thinks along the lines of everyone else will produce a product or service just like everyone else’s. That’s usually a bad thing.
So it is with raised brow that I watch the plucking of the Gather.com feathers by seemingly every single tech pundit on the interweb. I had never really checked out Gather before two weeks ago when a couple of reporters asked me about the company, but this week seems to be the week to pass judgement on them. I think the site, just like all sites, has a mix of good and bad, but the only way to determine if it will be successful in the end is to see how fast they react to their users and how nimble they are at running their business. I think a lot of the press and blogosphere are just expressing doubt about whether having 46 people on staff helps or hurts this objective.
Even though Newsvine is not a competitor of Gather, I do admit that I feel very fortunate (and humbled) to have most of the press, the blogosphere, and the public writing so positively about us right now. I’d like to think it’s because we have the beginnings of a great new way to get your news, and that we’re all nice people over here, but you never know. I think the Gather team is probably a bunch of nice people as well, but for some reason, people aren’t taking too kindly to what they’re presenting. My advice to Gather is to not let the cynics get you too low and not let the praise get you too high. We are in a constant state of improvement over here, regardless of the weather, and I think that’s the only thing that matters for any company moving forward.
I also feel very fortunate to have a company of five right now. We may hire a couple/few more people over the next several months, but the small footprint lets us improve the site daily and operate with minimal overhead. We have so many plans for new features… it’s just that none of them require blowing the staff out to old media proportions.
Those are words I may very well eat (and eat happily), but as of now, it behooves us, and any pre-money company to stay as small as possible until there are necessary reasons to spend more capital. Now, Gather may have found those reasons and others just aren’t smart enough to see them yet, or they’re just aggressively developing their company and aiming really high. Both of those can turn out quite well.
As for us, we’re just going to keep learning from our users and admitting we only know half of what we think we know. The moment you think you understand everything about the market you’re entering is the moment you exit it.
I’d like to close with a quote from an e-mail we received just a few hours ago from a Newsvine user:
“What if we want to contribute our ad earnings back to the site once the ads start appearing?”
It’s this sort of customer sentiment and goodwill that keeps us going every day. We realize there will eventually be bumps in the road with media coverage of Newsvine, but the only measuring stick we’re paying attention to right now is user opinion. We think we’re on to something, and to us, the proof is in the people.