Posted on August 27, 2008
Filed Under Culture & Technology |
I was sent another classic Robert Scoble post from a reader in which Scoble coins another Web 2.0 euphemism - “passionates.”
Who are passionates? Early adopters. Which means, of course, that there are non-passionates, or late adopters.
Scoble discusses passionates and non-passionates in the context of a post by Dare Obasanjo, who points out that Web 2.0 companies should consider that building products that appeal specifically to early adopters can be problematic because early adopters don’t represent the mass market consumer.
Obasanjo concludes with a pragmatic piece of advice:
If you are a Web 2.0 company in today’s Web you really need to ask yourselves, “Are we solving a problem that everybody has or are we building a product for Robert Scoble?”
Scoble, of course, has a different perspective. He believes that in the world of technology startups, early adopters are “the ones who will adopt your product or service without you spending hundreds of dollars to get them to try it.”
Noting that a Kraft executive once told him that it costs $40 to acquire a new customer, Scoble jumps to the conclusion that “if you want to build a profitable business with very few resources you MUST forget about the non-passionates.”
That’s an interesting conclusion since most of the hottest Web 2.0 startups that appeal to first adopters like Scoble aren’t profitable and still have their lips clamped tight around a VC teat.
But reality aside, according to Scoble, it’s absolutely impossible to build a successful business without a lot of cash unless you target first adopters:
They [late adopters] won’t adopt your product unless you are lucky enough to be something like iLike. And even then your chances are pretty slim. I remember when Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords, had a great review in USA Today and only got 40 downloads of his product. You think their ads are going to work any better? No, and no and no. Give it up, the non-passionates will probably never adopt your product and if you get them, it’s probably through some very good luck (iLike couldn’t happen if it were launched today, they needed the Facebook paradigm shift to happen for them to be successful).
Of course, there are plenty of very successful niche and mainstream companies around the world that were started on minimal budgets. So for Scoble, who is not an entrepreneur and who (according to his Wikipedia entry) has always worked for someone, to state that businesses achieve mainstream success primarily by pure luck is, for lack of a better word, idiotic.
While luck and its friend timing are almost always a factor in business success, there’s a lot more to it than that.
And the foundation for success is usually built by developing a product that meets a need or solves a problem. Whether you’re targeting a niche market of 50,000 people or every teenager in the United States, if you don’t have a product that appeals in some way to your target market, you will probably fail.
If ActiveWords, for instance, isn’t taking off and its positive review in USA Today didn’t “move the needle,” perhaps the company should evaluate its product. Clearly, the market just might be telling ActiveWords that it’s not solving a painful enough problem.
The bottom line is this: suggesting that new companies target first adopters who like their new products for little more than the fact that they’re “cool” or shiny is moronic. These are the same first adopters who will discard these products like they discarded their first generation iPhones once “the next big thing” comes along.
Moving on to Scoble’s pretentious hijacking of the word “passion,” let’s get real.
Different people are passionate about different things. Just because a person isn’t interested in signing up for every Web 2.0 service that launches doesn’t mean they’re not passionate. It just means that he or she is passionate about other things.
From photography to cars to mountain biking to wine, there is no shortage of things be passionate about and there’s something incredibly arrogant in using the words “passionates” and “non-passionates” to describe users of technology.
Scoble is passionate about technology for technology’s sake. That’s fine, although I think his passion has crossed the line into unhealthy obsession. But he should not mistake others’ lack of passion for standalone technology for lack of passion, which is exactly what he does by branding those who aren’t like him as “non-passionates.”
When I became involved in technology, I became involved because I was excited by the opportunity technology creates to add value to our lives (and because there is money to be made doing so).
Whether it’s a piece of accounting software that helps a business owner manage his business more productively or software that enables a mother to design a personal greeting card with her new daughter’s photo, most users of technology of technology aren’t passionate about the technology itself.
For most, technology is a means to an end, not the end. And while it may add value to our lives and intersect with our passions, it isn’t the biggest source of value and it isn’t a passion.
Unfortunately, much of the technology being produced today adds little of value to our lives. This is especially true in the world of Web 2.0, where many startups are producing utter rubbish precisely because they’re creating technology for technology’s sake.
And then the “entrepreneurs” behind these startups lament the fact that the mainstream “just doesn’t get it.” Idiocy at its finest.
It’s the rubbish of Silicon Valley that Scoble and his ilk celebrate. For somewhat obvious reasons, they can’t seem to exercise any common sense and their warped views of reality leave them incapable of recognizing the fact that passion comes in many forms.
As they say, different strokes for different folks. Hopefully someday Scoble and his friends will figure it out.
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