Monday, January 29, 2007

RockYou on Businessweek

Businessweek just came out with a report on the MySpace Ecosystem, and RockYou got several mentions in the article. RockYou, Snapvine, Photobucket and Slide got cited as leaders in the space, with specific reference to our partnership with Bebo.

Anastasia (the author of the article), not sure that I agree that widgets are "parasitic in nature". Parasites don't give back to their hosts. Widgets increase user engagement and functionality for a social networking site. The more breadth of widgets, the more a user can do on MySpace for example. That aside, a nice primer article for those who haven't a clue what the heck a 'widget' is.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mashable & Bloglines

Having used Bloglines as my RSS Reader for the past year, I've noticed the sheer amount of info I skim/read through has increased at least 10-fold. Content for another post, but increasing the ability to consume that much more information has made Bloglines an incredibly useful tool for both entertainment and professional development. I went from looking at 5 news/content sources a day, to over 70, and with that, my understanding of the Web 2.0/consumer Internet space has increased multiples as well.

Some of the daily rags I read include the now universally subscribed Gigaom and TechCrunch. That aside, one blog I highly recommend that hasn't gotten that level of acclaim yet is Mashable. If you have any interest in the social networking and widget space, Mashable does a great job digesting the daily grind. They have great coverage of new startups and events related to the Web 2.0 space. Kudos to the Mashable team for delivering the goods.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

eBay Q4 2006

Congrats to my friends and former peers at eBay for a fantastic quarter. Across all of eBay's business units - Marketplaces, Paypal & Skype - there were outstanding performances. As mentioned previously on this blog, I remain a big believer in eBay's mission and team. Heck, my wife just joined my old group, eBay Motors, to head up sales. I'd be hard pressed to recommend eBay for her if I didn't still believe... Hopefully all the anti-eBay pundits and naysayers can fall silent for at least a day or two.

Now I'm the last person to able to predict where eBay goes from here. Could eBay do a better job becoming more distributed across the Internet via widgets and remote web services? Yes. Could the company leverage Skype as more than just desktop VOIP given they own the largest P2P network in the world? Absolutely. Is Google Checkout a real threat to Paypal? No comment ;) Lol. (Why no comment? Check out my single reference on Valleywag.)

P.S. Frankly, I have to thank Valleywag to some degree. Without them, I probably wouldn't have gotten back in touch with Jeremy Liew (one of RockYou's early investors/believers) and ultimately joined RockYou as a result.

P.S.S. I wonder how many times anyone's ever thanked Valleywag?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Viral Marketing and Growth (again)

Was having a conversation about viral marketing with a friend from another startup. He had a valid question regarding how long to test the viralness of a particular widget. It's an interesting thought because I think the answer has changed radically over the past year. When RockYou launched our MySpace slideshow with 6 posts on MySpace help forums, we saw viral growth (subsequent user growth day over day) immediately. But it took several months before this growth actually become material to the business (i.e. millions of users).

Things have changed a lot since then. I'd hazard that the time period for vetting viral growth has become a LOT shorter. With widgets and the process to share preferred content now well known, this process seems to be taking several weeks rather than months. Take a look at Testriffic. Last July they introduced a quiz service for social network users which didn't immediately take off. Then early October they launched Who Knows Me Best, a widget that allows friends to take a short quiz about a user and displays their scores dynamically on the user's profile. If you check the uptick of their traffic on Alexa or Compete, in three weeks the widget (and their site) went massively viral. The same could be said for Zingfu. Again, check their Compete stats. Within a month, their service clearly showed viral growth.

So net net. For anyone looking to launch widgets and generate viral growth for a site, if widget embeds and traffic doesn't accelerate within a 3-6 weeks at most, it's time to start tinkering with the app. My thoughts on what to tinker with are posted below.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Yahoo Ads

Let me first off say that I'm a big fan of Yahoo. I use their email services, finance, news, sports, etc all the time. That said, Valleywag picked this one up and its too funny not to reverberate. Below is an ad Yahoo Hong Kong is using to recruit new employees.

Pointing a pistol to your own head is probably not what Yahoo wanted to convey to potential hires...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

LightSpeed Venture Partners blog

Quick note. My fellow Stanford Business School grad, former AOL exec & Netscape GM, and now Rockyou investor and Lightspeed partner, Jeremy Liew has started up a blog along with his fellow partners at They've got some great posts on Internet trends and guiding principles for entrepreneurs. Something to consider for your RSS readers...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friendster Widgets and Slide

Want to announce Rockyou's integration to Friendster! Just go to "Edit Profile", "Customize" and check the Widgets section at the bottom of the page. We've fully automated the photo upload process and posting of widgets for Friendster members across our entire widget portfolio. We've had a great experience working with the Friendster team. There seems to be a ton of activity there and their site is increasingly well organized, cleanly structured and really simple to set up an attractive profile. Go sign up and check it out!

Also, a quick hello to the Slide team. (I saw your IP on my blog's logs :D). Send me an email at and let's go get drinks. No reason we can't compete over a beer.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Viral Marketing and Growth

Alright. I've been working with RockYou for 3 months now (part-time and fulltime). Over the past month I've gotten half a dozen calls from startups looking to understand how to 'get' viral in their business models and emulate RockYou's growth on social networks, blogs, etc. Rather than repeat myself continually, I thought I'd put some of my initial thoughts down on why RockYou has been successful growing virally (this December we saw 13MM unique visitors to the RockYou site while spending $0 in marketing).

The way I see it, there are three basic drivers for viral growth within the social networking space.

1) Engagement of BOTH the user AND viewer. I can't emphasize this point enough. Too many startups, even now, focus entirely on the user of their product. While delivering significant value to users is hugely important, it does very little to help drive viral growth. Generally people are not going to become evangelists of a product. They have no time to do it even if they truly like your service/application. What you're left with is the infamous 1% rule... and with only 1% of your users (assuming you have a great product) waxing poetic on forums and through word-of-mouth, it's gonna take a hell of a long time to go viral.

Your product needs to truly engage both users AND viewers. It's the engagement with the viewer of a widget on a social networking profile that will drive viral growth. If the viewer sees something they really like, you don't need the 'user' or profile owner to evangelize on your behalf. The viewer will simply click through and get the product for him or herself. For RockYou this meant making our widgets and slideshows really stand out through transitions, themes and music. Increasingly we're doing this by making widgets more interactive as well (ala Corkboard). By making user's photos and text 'pop' on a page, not only have we captured the viewer's interest (presenting user content that they will look at regardless), we've presented the viewer with something appealing to consider for their own content. Another example are MySpace Layouts (ala Freeweblayouts). Attractive, well-designed layouts generated a lot of value to both the user, allowing them to increase self-expression online, and great appeal to the viewer. The viewer is induced to click through to the layout provider site, generating viral growth.

If your product/service has great value to users but your widget has no self-evident appeal or engagement to the viewers of that widget, simply put, there's very limited viral upside.

2) Viral products are NOVEL products. In the slideshow space, I hazard, the opportunity for viral growth by a new player is nearly non-existant. Rockyou, Slide, MySpace and Picturetrail account for over 90% of the slideshow market. Once top players capture viral growth, it's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, since sequential growth will continue to drive increasing market share until the user population for said product is tapped. Once that's happened new players are only stealing share through incremental improvements, not generating viral growth. Think about factor #1 above as well. If a viewer sees a new product they've already seen multiple if not numerous times, the inclination for that viewer to click through and get that product is significantly reduced. Clickthrough rates are key to viral growth, and having a me-too product competing with products that already burned through the viral spiral will elicit low clickthrough. Think video players on MySpace. Do you think there's any viral growth left in the video space? I don't.

That said, if you can create a product that take elements of current offerings and make it truly new and appealing to viewers, viral growth is once again enabled. Two great examples of this are and Both have taken the well-played out concept of photo-sharing (Photobucket won that viral race) and made completely new applications for them. These applications, photos and faces within photos applied to templates to maximize a laugh, are both extremely viral. In the case of Zingfu, within 6 months they've driven an estimated 2MM users per month to their site. Novelty combined with something truly appealing to the viewer is a powerful combination.

3) Finally, almost all of the value of your product/service offering has to be FREE. If you're not providing the vast majority of value of your products for free, simply put, you won't have any viral growth. Think Google and Yahoo. Both offer users a ton of value without cost (search, mail, fantasy sports, news, etc). They charge for access to their huge base of users via advertising and also generate revenue from users via premium services. But without a truly compelling and free reason to go to Yahoo and Google, they'd have no traffic. This era of Web 2.0 is based on this concept. Offer free products to consumers to generate massive user bases which are then monetized via ads and premium content. Yahoo, Google and eBay proved that this model can be hugely successful. But you need the massive user base first.

Well there you have it. Obviously there's more stuff which I'm keeping under my hat. Would love to hear more thoughts regarding viral marketing and growth if you have them...
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