Much of the excitement around internet startups over the last five years has been around social services. From Facebook to Foursquare, from Twitter to Instagram, from Yammer to Zynga, significant investment dollars and entrepreneurial effort has gone towards capitalizing on the fact that we are all linked together by connected devices. These connections present great opportunity to disrupt the traditional ways of attacking markets like shopping, travel, communications, media consumption, gaming, etc. There are plenty of other big investment themes, of course, like local commerce (Groupon) and cloud services (Cloudflare and Dropbox), but social has been the dominant theme. The first wave of social companies were social utilities and social media (including gaming).
I believe that is shifting and has been for some time. Other agree. We have been pursing alternate investment themes these past few years and the largest recurring theme for us has been data. This is also not a new theme, but it is growing in prominence and awareness, punctuated by this week’s Web 2.0 Summit whose theme is “The Data Frame”. We have invested deeply in data-based businesses whose efficiencies disrupt their less-efficient or less powerful legacy brethern. AdTech is one such area. Healthcare is another. Payments is a third. Security is a fourth. And soon, the consumer web is likely to be further transformed by businesses based not on social utility, but on social data.
Plenty of consumer startups use data to make product decisions. That is not what this post is about. It is about consumer businesses actually based on the value of our individual social data. Through the use of so many exciting social utilities, we are creating more data about ourselves at an increasing rate. This data becomes more valuable to us when developers can access it in an aggregated and trustworthy way.
Today, an investment we seeded back in March called Singly is making its intentions known at Web 2. Their vision is audacious; individuals must be in control of their social data. I blogged a little bit about this opportunity here. Today Singly emerges as a developer platform to bring that vision to reality. John Battelle blogs about it here. I think their emergence shines a light on the investment opportunities around social data as well as the opportunities to launch open personal data platforms.
Jeremie Miller, Singly’s Co-Founder will present today, Wednesday October 19 at 2:20pm PT/5:30pm ET. You can catch the livestream here.