Apr 28, 2011
Perry Chen, CEO and founder of Kickstarter, and Scott Heffernan, CEO and founder of Meetup, visited our Social Media & Entrepreneurship class last week. They were quite an inspiring pair; they urged us and all entrepreneurs to create companies that enabled behaviors and actions that were not previously possible (or were sufficiently difficult in the past) but have profound positive impacts on users’ lives.
Hearing about Kickstarter got me thinking. Its service strikes me as very much akin to Groupon‘s model. While these two companies are using the same core idea – group buying triggered by a critical mass very successfully in their own right, it occurs to me that two related opportunities still exist in this space. Think about these services in terms of who initiates the opportunity and whether or not the product exists yet. In Kickstarter’s case, a seller/creator solicits support for something that does not yet exist and with Groupon, a seller seeks buyers for something that does. Why not let buyers indicate intent to purchase something (discounted or not) if and only if other users join them? [This idea is not mine, rather it was inspired by a very cool project from the brains of my fellow students Shehab Hamad and Mike Podwal.] This would probably work best for groups of friends planning movie nights, book clubs, vacations, etc. But perhaps there are use cases for strangers buying together at their own instigation. The other potential critical mass purchasing opportunity would involve a user indicating interest in buying/supporting something that doesn’t yet exist. Suppose I am not a developer but I really want an Android app that does this one really cool thing that no one has thought of yet. I could indicate a willingness to pay five bucks for it and encourage others to pledge money for it as well. A developer could come along and build it and, upon verification, collect the money. This is just one use case and many more can be imagined: I want a Vietnamese restaurant in my town and would commit to spending $100 in one in its first month in existence; I want an ipod dock that does X and would pay $50 for one; etc. You would have to work out some hairy logistics but I think these two opportunities are real and would love to see a promising entrepreneur run with them.