Several years ago I worked on a project backed by a top west-coast angel investor. The idea was extremely compelling, but for several reasons the project failed to reach the next step.
One of the primary issues was that early customers were not comfortable with the social interactions our model was predicated on: staying at someone else’s house (and thereby disintermediating the $120M+ lodging industry using a peer to peer model).
Fast forward a few years and it’s really exciting to see the concept validated by Airbnb.com (backed by Sequoia and gaining real momentum!): the concepts we envisioned was almost identical. Clearly Airbnb.com has excelled in execution, but timing also matters greatly in startups. And it seems people are increasingly comfortable opening up their lives: both online — and offline.
People tend to forget that shapes and evolves us, almost as we do it. Offline social dynamics often lag online models (think Mercata). I recall a time not too long ago when my parents would balked at the idea and risk of paying for items online. Now they wouldn’t think twice about it. Times change. People change. Announcing my location publicly on Foursquare was not something I thought I’d be comfortable with. Now I am.
Our willingness to share publicly on Facebook and Foursquare will open us up to new opportunities – and perhaps a new willingness – to connect in new ways offline.
I see a coming wave of offline engagement taking shape that will be big; big because there is a void in many young people’s lives that screens alone cannot fill. We are social creatures who need to connect with each other in real life. I think Burning Man is a testament and example of this movement’s potential. I’m excited for what could be built here.
Note: Maybe Soctt Heiferman is right in taking a sledgehammer to his iPhone