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Brought up Jan 2, 2010

The Web's 15 Biggest Opportunities of 2010

The Web's 15 Biggest Opportunities of 2010

Dot-bust, Web 2.0, and now forward to the real-time streaming, social media madness of the semantic web. Web 3.0, Web2, linked data, 'the now web' -- whatever you want to call it, it's a firehose of content and data.

Where's it all going? I don't have much of a clue.

But TechCrunch, more than any other reporting resource I've found, really seems to have their fingers on the pulse of things, as exemplified by their TechCrunch CrunchUp events. Given the outstanding caliber of panel representatives, speakers and investors, it seems many of the Web's biggest brands (including the Twitters, Googles, Facebooks, SalesForces, FriendFeeds, Tweetdecks and every smart start-up of the world) -- clamor to be part of the CrunchUp discussion. When you hear these guys and gals talk, all over again, it seems like there are opportunities for innovation everywhere.

So, based on those TechCrunch discussions (this video from the July Crunchup is the most concise and dense on the subject of opportunity), here's a condensed outline of what the greatest web investors are looking to invest in and what they believe to be the sweet spots of opportunity. If you happen to be master-minding a strategy for interweb domination in the new year, you might find this handy.

Are You Investable?

Ron Conway, who has invested in over 500 start-ups and was among the first investors in Google, claims he and his team at SV Angel LLC. "have been talking to every real-time data company that's out there" in his search for investments.

What are they look at when considering investment?

  • Great entrepreneurs that are focused on real-time
  • The Idea
  • The amount of intellectual property that the company possesses

This isn't to say that investors aren't interested in other opportunities, but if you want to start a company or website that will attract investors, something unique in this space may draw them like flies.

Think it's all been done already? Think again. According to Conway, "Whatever this is … it’s early, early days. It's Google in 1998."

Plenty of opportunity for smart start-ups.

Where the Opportunities Are

Real Time Content Filters

According to John Borthwick, "There's this collision between synchronous, real-time data streams and social interactions that is creating something fundamentally different. There is a human need for synchronous real-time interactions [...] and the live-ness of an experience and the authenticity that comes with that - making that search-able, navigable, structure-able, filterable - is what's happening now."

Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Tweetdeck, Brizzly, Seesmic are different platforms for organizing and interfacing with the torrent of data and social graphs being built online. There's no one perfect solution that's emerged, so strong competitors in this space stand to do well.

Real-Time Search

Can you build the most relevant real-time mousetrap? Without the weight of links, how do you understand the intent of a search query, then organize and retrieve real-time data to provide the best answers? Twitter search has been around for awhile, but it's limited to Twitter and only provides the most recent tweets, not the best. With Google's recent release of Real-Time Search and even MicroSoft coming out with BingTweets, real-time search is positioned to become every bit as important, and just as competitive, as 'traditional' search.

The Conway List

Conway offers his list of the top 10 monetization opportunities in real-time data:

10. Lead Generation

To the best of my knowledge, Salesforce is the leader here.

9. Coupons

Conway states this is at least a half-billion dollar opportunity. Websites* and mobile apps are filling this space rapidly in a fight to become the best resource to find coupons or have them delivered to you.

8. Analytics

Again, there are already many competitors filling this space, see Chartbeat for a rather interesting one.

7. eCRM

This refers to electronic customer relationship management -- monitoring a brand online and responding to consumer comments, questions, and issues. CoTweet and Chatter are solid products in this space. I'll be curious to see how Seth Godin's Brands in Public does.

6. Payments

Do you know how to securely handle payments made over the real-time web? Figure it out and you'll be in on what Conway calls a "massive opportunity."

5. Commerce

People love to buy stuff, they love to buy stuff online, if you have great stuff to sell in a better way, you're going to be all good. Too many examples to go into. Pick your favorite.

4. User Authentication

If you have new ways to keep the bad guys out of real-time web accounts and to authenticate valid users, Conway thinks corporate America will want to talk to you.

3. New Forms of Ad Syndication

At some point, even the mighty Twitter will integrate syndicated advertising on its ecosystem (as Dick Costello stated at the November CrunchUp). New and novel ways of syndicating ads for the real-time web is a hot topic of debate. There will likely be a few winners with huge profits, and lots of losers that get lost in the scuffle. Just like in traditional advertising.

2. Content-sensitive Display Advertising

Minority Report anyone? While there will be overlap with number 3 above, this opportunity really speaks to delivering targeted advertising based on a user's interests, regardless of whether that ad space might be a in a banner ad, in a video, or even perhaps a billboard.

1. Acquiring Followers

You're so vain, you probably thought this opportunity was about you. Just kidding. But for those seeking more followers, especially brands looking to find a targeted audience, paying for a service that got the right results in terms of numbers and audience profile could be worth the cost.

But Wait, There's More!

While Arrington has mapped out most of the Gold Country in this somewhat epic discussion with Conway and Borthwick, there are a few others that didn't get mentioned.

Mining Social Networks

LinkedIn provided a great way to network and navigate your contacts to find career-related opportunities. Aardvark is a brilliant and innovative way to access the wealth of knowledge that exists within your network of friends -- and their friends.

What's next?


With iPhones and Twitter able to report location information, and with the popularity of apps like FourSquare, location-based apps have a bright future. Hot Potato provides streaming data around events. Mixer Labs, developers of the location engine for developers, was just bought by Twitter.

Targeted (Ambient) Content Streams

Imagine walking down a street. As you approach a corner, you're sent a coupon for a deal on tennis rackets because you're near a sports store that's running a sale, and you've signed up toreceive alerts on tennis gear. Or, perhaps you're standing in line somewhere and an ad display reads your face, then (based on your mood or behavioral history) changes the ad to something more personally meaningful to you.

Sounds creepy, but this is where advertising is headed.

You Have Time

It's going to be a long while before all of these fields are sorted and have clear leaders emerge. And by then, things will have already changed to provide newer, different opportunities for where the Web will go and what it will become. Good luck!

Comments (2)

+ Add a Comment

dvisme » 8 years ago

All very true and a great addition.

alex » 8 years ago

Interesting post. I also think that the "gold rush" of pluggable apps is not over yet. This includes mashup websites, and of course mobile devices like iPhone and Android. Companies are investing into these applications because more apps simply means more relevant use for their core business. Plus, "I can build an app over the weekend and get rich" is another factor here. With new apps booming, the Web Services space will keep growing too, as it's a crucial building foundation to sustain the app-popping mania.