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The ‘Ventures’ We Need

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I just read Dave Winer’s essay on the future of the venture capital industry.

Ditto. Great insight. One thing before I start thinking, I always thought it was bizarre that entrepreneurs couldn’t get funded when they needed it (when the economy sucked and they needed a little revenue to get them through the rough patch). Anyway

then I started thinking. Yeah, I know, that’s dangerous.

What are the “ventures” the entrepreneurs actually need?

See, in the 1980s, they needed money. Why? Cause the growth was in computers and other electronics goods. I worked on an assembly line at Hewlett Packard one summer in the early 1980s. Why did these (and smaller startups like Apple or Atari back in the early 80s) need money? Cause building physical machines costs money. Assembly lines. People. Materials. There was a high marginal cost of goods.

But today’s world isn’t money constrained. You don’t need much money to build software or services.

Today’s world is mostly an audience aggregation one. At least that’s where the money is. Think about it. What does Google do? Gather audiences! How about Yahoo’s Flickr? Or Microsoft’s Live.com? (More on that in the next post about guitarist Robert Fripp, don’t miss that one).

So, if money isn’t in short supply (it’s not, which is why being a venture capitalist right now is actually very tough work) what is? Here’s some ideas of “ventures” that we need:

1) Venture USERS. How do you build a Flickr? Get half a million users. But how do you get there? After all, there are hundreds of services vying for our attention right now. So, anyone who can provide a network of users is going to be valued. Got a network of users that listen to you? You’ll be sought after.

2) Venture Search Juicers. If you are an audience starved startup how do you exist if you aren’t in the first page of Google results for what you want to be known for? So, how do you get there? You gotta get people who have search engine juice to link to you. You need “Venture SJ’s” (for search juicers) to be in your network. You think you can just get a few bloggers to link to you? That’s increasingly going to be difficult. Wanna come and look at my “blog this” folder? It has 2321 items in it. So, how you gonna get noticed in that kind of world?

3) Venture advertising. You’re in the audience aggregation business now, remember? How do you get an audience? Well, you won’t get one if no one has heard of you. So, if you can advertise services (say, if you’re particularly talented in front of a video camera, like, Amanda Congdon of Rocketboom) you’ll be sought after.

4) Venture offices and IT. If you’re a geek who can build cool things in Ruby on Rails what’s the last thing you want to worry about? Having an office in which to work and all that entails (stocking the frige, answering the email and phones, paying the bills). Got a way to bring those services to a number of startups for less than anyone else? (I saw such an operation working in a house on Sand Hill Road) Then you’ll be sought after.

5) Venture deep technical help. Let’s be honest. The skills to get a prototype service up and working are far different than making it work for 10 million users. Building UI’s in Ruby on Rails is a lot easier than building a server farm that can handle exponentially-growing loads. So, can you build a network where you share one tech team among a group of startups? Then you’ll add value to the whole network and be sought after. I saw just this happening at startups in Silicon Valley where one deeply-skilled tech guy was shared among three or four startups.

6) Venture marketing. Hey, every entrepreneur needs a logo, business cards, stickers and swag to hand out at shows, and other things. But, you don’t need a full-time graphic artist. So, the new Venture capitalist who has a graphic designer shared among his or her network will add value and be sought after. At Microsoft I’m really a “venture marketer.” Every team doesn’t need a guy who can get 100,000 views on a video shot with a camcorder. So, I’m shared among many teams. Same skill is gonna be needed at every startup (but only an hour at a time).

7) Venture ideas. I’ve hung around the industry now to realize that there are a few people who generate far better and far more ideas than anyone else. Microsoft has one of those guys. His name is Eric Horvitz. He owns the most patents at Microsoft and I believe he has about twice the number of the person who is in the #2 spot. Now, you probably couldn’t afford him full time (I’m sure that other multi-billion-dollar companies even regularly bid against us for his time) but you might be able to, say, rent Dave Winer or Steve Wozniak or, even, Matt Mullenweg, to come out and give you some ideas for a day. So, “venture IG’s” (Idea Generators) will be sought after.

8) Venture PR. I remember the days when startups would need to hire a PR company for something like $15,000 per month (and that was for a low-cost set of services, some services would run many times higher than that and often required handing over some of your equity to get really great services). But, in today’s world of blogs the skills needed aren’t as big. You need someone who can deal with the new PR (even the big companies are realizing this, Nokia has a program to send phones out to bloggers so they can try them out). Get a new set of PR skills which can help you build an audience fast and you’ll be sought after.

9) Venture testers. You just spent four years at Carnegie Mellon coming up with a great robotic or speech recognition idea. But now you need testers and other people to help you finish off your project. The network that can help you with those will be sought after.

10) Venture management. You’re two kids from Stanford. You’ve built a team of 20 geeks. Some in SF, some in London or Cork, some in China. But just keeping 20 people working together is not your core skill and it’s making you unhappy. So, you need some really great managers to help you out. The network that can help you will be sought after.

11) Venture evangelists. Hey, I’ll be honest, when I see something that excites me I want to have a piece of the company. It makes me even more evangelistic if I know my own bucks are on the line. Ahh, sorry, Dave Winer already made that point. So, I guess I should have stopped at 10 “ventures” that are needed.

You got any others? If you’re an entrepreneur, which ones are you willing to give up some equity to get?

Robert Scoble is the founder of the Scobleizer blog. He works as PodTech.net’s Vice President of Media Development.

Go to Scobleizer

The ‘Ventures’ We Need
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