There was a set of map charts on some popular blog this week that showed how 'geeky' your web service is. The more its users were centered around silicon valley, the more geeky your web service is.
Of course this is the fear we who invest in leading edge web stuff live with in the back of our minds. That the services we invest in are used by geeks and nobody else
Delicious, one of our first investments, is the prototypical geek service that never went mainstream. And there are plenty more geek oriented web services out there including a lot of our portfolio.
But I've been seeing signs that the 'mainstream' user is starting to adopt these leading edge web services.
Many of our friends are not geeks. We live in NYC where our social circle consists of a wide range of professions and people. When we go to a dinner party, there's usually nobody who knows what venture capital is and facebook is the thing their kids use.
But in the past several weeks, I've been seeing some signs in our social circle that make me very optimistic. The Gotham Gal and her friends are chatting on their blackberries like they used to chat on the phone. My friend whose a mother of two college age kids in long island is twittering about her daily life. We are getting facebook invites instead of evites.
Some of this comes from our kids. They got their moms into bbm'ing and now the moms are doing it with each other. Same with Facebook. Two years ago, my kids wouldn't accept my friend request on facebook. Now they are happy to have us in their social net so they can share photos and other stuff with us in the system that they use as their web space.
Some of it is changing news consumtion habits. Following one or more of the olympic twitter feeds is the single best way to keep up with what's going on in China and I've turned a bunch of non twitterers on to it and they love it.
But I think the single greatest contributor to this 'mainstreaming' of web apps, ironically, has to do with the mobile phone. Whether its the iPhone, the Blackberry Curve, or the Nokia N95, mainstream people are carrying around powerful web connected devices in their pockets. And web services that have been constructed in the past three to five years were built with the mobile device in mind and they are being actively used by mainstream users, not just here, but all around the world.
I think this is the single most important thing we investors in web tech need to be watching. Monetization is key, of course, but getting these services across the chasm and into the mainstream is going to make monetization a lot easier.