Last Friday I was sitting in an airport waiting for my delayed flight to Nashville, where I had a board meeting, and found myself leafing through the latest edition of Business 2.0. The issue touted, among other things, the Next Net 25. A few days later, the blogosphere has erupted in discussion of the article...
According to the article:
In the pages that follow, we identify 25 companies, in five Next Net categories, whose approaches help illuminate where the Web is headed and where the opportunities lie. Most are startups, a lot of them with less than 10 full-time employees. Few are currently making money, and it's a given that many will fail. But it's equally likely that somewhere within this group lurks the next Google or Microsoft or Yahoo -- or at least something that those giants will soon pay a pretty penny to have.
While I applaud the effort and think the exercise itself is worthy, like most "best of" lists it's inherently flawed in practice. Business 2.0 tries to segment the list further into five subcategories:
My thoughts: The problem with singling out these five companies is that you could've just as easily picked another five companies from a basket of several dozen who are all doing equally interesting [and yet largely unproven] things. Digg and Newsvine are great, but so are tech.meme & reddit. Such inconsistencies in the selection criteria really sully the overall quality of the list, in my view. Why does Last.fm get a mention when Pandora is doing really compelling things, too [and was first to market?]. del.icio.us and Flickr didn't get mentions, which is probably because they're already properties of Yahoo!...yet, Skype [bought for billions by eBay] was mentioned later.
My thoughts: Every one of these companies is doing interesting things, but it again comes down to WHY THESE FIVE and not their very reputable competitors? I personally use Bloglines, but plenty of others prefer Rojo, NewsGator and FeedDemon. Bloglines has already been acquired [by Ask.com], another disconnect between the description of what this list is supposed to be about. Eurekster vs. Kosmix, Clusty? Simply Hired versus Indeed? Trulia? Putting aside the debate about what value Trulia really brings that's proprietary...Zillow, HomeGain, Redfin and PropertyShark could've easily been featured instead.
My thoughts: For the most part, I think this is the best of the subgroups. While there's a lot of funding going on in "Voice 2.0" to borrow from Om, many of these companies are doing unique things, at least. But the inclusion of Skype is utterly mind-blowing. Skype is an enormous company, already acquired by eBay, with tens of millions of users. It hardly fits the "startup" or "one to watch" category. Seems completely out of place on this list [once you've been bought by a major Internet powerhouse for billions, the cat's out of the bag]
My thoughts: How does Biz 2.0 single out JotSpot but not pay homage to Socialtext? 30Boxes is one of dozens of VC-backed calendaring solutions out there, what separates them from the pack? Writely is hardly alone in the word processing segment, either.
My thoughts: I've blogged about Brightcove and believe they could be a big winner in their space, but it's hardly "game over" so why no mention of Akimbo, Revver, Kontiki or Veoh? This blog is hosted by Typepad [i.e. SixApart], but is it more deserving of a mention than Wordpress? If we're really discussing the cutting edge, wouldn't companies like Performancing and ecto be more apropos? Does Jigsaw really have a leg up over LinkedIn? And how does salesforce.com fit into the list? Salesforce is a solid company but it's a) already publicly traded and b) is already doing more than $300mm in annual revenues. Sure, they're a pioneer of SaaS, but if this is a list of the "next" big things, perhaps some attention to NetSuite or Rearden would've made more sense.
I realize that any "best of" list is going to be highly subjective, so perhaps I'm not being fair in criticizing Business 2.0's efforts. But, the list seems so arbitrary to me. If it was about the startups not yet on the mainstream map, how do Skype and salesforce make the cut? If it's about innovation, how do we included many of these startups which have significant competition that are on equal footing? Considering Om Malik's presence in the blogosphere [virtually nothing of significance in web-tech escapes his blog], I would've like to have seen a more balanced, disciplined and insightful approach to the exploding web-tech startup environment. Maybe the 2007 version of the "Next 25" will fit that bill...
- Ryan Stewart expresses disappointment in the limited presence of Flash-related technologies
- Valleywag pokes fun at Business 2.0's declaration that Web 2.0 is dead, while coining a new catchphrase