I was speaking to a good friend of mine, Bob Flores, who is a leader in the Telecom industry. Bob educates companies on corporate leadership and specializes in building efficiencies into the Telecom industry. Bob asked me tonight what I thought the next Internet big idea was. Here's what my thoughts were:
There's not much money to be had on the internet by simply building a web page. The Internet is merging into multimedia and will soon be the planet's ‘cable' company with a billion channels. Buying a great domain name and building a site that brings millions is now a lot like buying a lottery ticket. It's cheap… but chances are that you aren't going to make your money back any time soon.
The huge companies are moving more and more into integration and syndication. Rather than pushing their site – they are making it easier for other folks to push the content. The Washington Post is even getting into the fray – opening their content to be pushed to anyone who requests it. The Web Consortium is even working to build standards around the sharing of information through the web… see Semantic Web. (And a great article on why the Semantic Web is such a challenge).
Here are the opportunities as I see them:
- Integration Services – SaaS (Software as a Service) is getting less and less expensive these days. Only the really large SaaS companies will be able to survive as the profit margins shrink. These companies must be able to expand exponentially and continue to build efficiencies and comprehensive Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) or content syndication (RSS). That means the real money is in the ability to integrate those services or content with other systems for custom applications. Look at the article above on the challenges of the Semantic Web and you'll start to recognize why getting into the Integration Service industry will be a good move! There are a lot of challenges to overcome.
- Topical and Regional Mashups – The strength of the internet as a global system is also a weakness. It's easy to get lost on the net. What will become more and more popular is the use of Mashups to leverate APIs and bring several different systems into a regional or topical application. BlogginWallStreet is one example. Family Watchdog is another. I have a friend that helped to startup Family Watchdog. I recently read an article on BlogginWallStreet. Both are growing by leaps and bounds. See MashupCamp for more on Mashups or read David Berlind on ZDNet.
- Retail/eCommerce Integration – this is actually a combination of #1 and #2 but I truly see huge opportunities to grow retail through use of the web. Imagine the local suit store sending you personalized messages with a coupon you can drop by the local store with. The store knows you got the offer and expects you. This is a little different than the mass communications and mass marketing efforts of companies that try to get you in the local store with a direct mail or newspaper ad. It's local, it's integrated, and it's personal.
While on the phone we discussed that one of Bob's friends is a HR VP at a major organization and she utilizes Google to do personal background checks. How's that for a Mashup? Build a Mashup where I can upload a resume and have it automatically retrieve all the data it can on the individual from the web, cycling through multiple search engines, blogs, university alumni sites, criminal sites, etc. Anyone got a couple mil for us to get started?