Left: Scale Venture Partners brought VPs of Marketing, CMOs and founders portfolio clients to meet with me last week.
When we think of influencer groups in the social media space, we often think of top bloggers like Techcrunch, RWW, GigaOm, Fast Company, Cnet, yet there’s a whole ‘nother influence group that rarely gets ink –I’m starting to spend more time with them as it helps me to better understand the space.
An inconspicuous influencer group . The last seven business days have been intensive full day sessions with vendors for my upcoming Forrester Wave research on community platforms. I’m always energized by the fire in the eyes and the passion that comes through when talking to founders and entrepreneurs. Sadly, a problem for entrepreneurs is that they often get tunnel-vision and forget to look up outside of the lab at the greater market, fortunately, they should have VCs (who often sit on their board) that help them to see further, connect deals, and provide guidance.
The interesting thing about VCs is how incredibly powerful they are in our space. Compared to the excessive noise in our industry, tou don’t hear too much out of the mouths of VCs, but believe me they are extremely powerful. Aside from the obvious power from control of funding for investments, they can influence the direction of their portfolio companies, and foster relationships between different companies. VCs influence the sellers, in my market, these are the startups.
On the other hand, industry analysts, while do have some influence over startups, have an even stronger relationships with the buyers, (and media) in this case is the the Fortune 5000 companies that seek help to make decisions on how to organize their company, staff, budget and deploy social computing.
VCs and Analysts are on a quest to answer the same questions
Despite these different takes on the same market, VCs and industry analysts are answering the same questions: 1) What’s going to matter in the future? 2) Who’s going to do it? In fact, while the methodology differs slightly, both analysts and VCs are conducting research, taking in pitches and briefs, and finding out what others think of companies before they fund or recommend them.
Given the similiar goals, last week, my long term friend Jennifer Jones, a marketing expert who is known for her work with VCs such as Mayfield, Versant Ventures, Scale Venture Partners, and Levensohn is my go to guide to meeting these folks. In fact she helped coordinate a dinner between myself and Scale Venture Partners with a handful of their web portfolio companies (VPs, CMOs, CEOs and founders) and potential investments. So what did we talk about?
Over dinner we discussed that:
We all see the same direction of the social web, the social graph is going to separate and be available from many different websites.
Micromedia tools are powerful for support and marketing, but monetization is still a mystery.
Jokingly, Microsoft and Yahoo aren’t known for innovation and flexibility, yet we are in awe with Google, Apple, and Facebook.
There are too many players in the space due to commodity technology, the need for segmentation and stratifcation is needed.
Funding for social media in the marketing space slowly grows as it gets pulled from other traditional marketing channels, many are looking at where other buckets of money can come from within the enterprise in IT, HR, and maybe even Sales. There’s a need to bring the varying vendors together for roundtables to discuss how data will be shared from site to site as the entire web becomes more social.
As you can tell, we all learned alot from this trifecta of entrepreneurs, VCs and industry analysts; it was healthy to bring forward a larger part of the ecosystem to share with each other. VCs also want to demonstrate to their investments and investors that they’re highly connected, influential, and have a broad set of connections. Jennifer is setting up some future VC/Entrepreneur/Analyst dinners, if you’re a VC firm and want to participate, I recommend you contact her, as I’ll be spending more time with this powerful influence group as I move forward, it gives me a greater viewpoint to how the market is shaping for my research as well as providing portfolios with access to brief analysts on what they’re working on.