Mod4: Social Technologies

4.1 Market Opportunity Statement

Almost everyone has heard of the “social web”, or “web 2.0”, and even those that haven’t are almost certainly using it in some significant fashion without being aware of it. In simple terms, web 2.0 has transformed the web from a catalogue into a conversation – a giant step forward for the Internet’s core value proposition. The essential web 2.0 concept is that the greatest value of any website is created continuously and collectively by its users. Whether it is within blogs, wikis, FaceBook, YouTube, or more commercial sites like Amazon, the social transformation of Internet experience is huge, irreversible, and continuing rapidly.

From a venture capital perspective, the wild peak of investment interest in social networking ventures has already come and gone. Amazing investments were made in companies with almost no business model, and amazing prices were paid for companies with no apparent revenue. When have we seen that before? After such peaks comes sober market growth and solid business integration. Wild things are still happening, but venture analysts are continuing to look hard for ways that the social web can create true value for traditional enterprises and across existing markets.

Learning is a fundamentally social activity, so it’s natural – in fact inevitable – that the social web will transform learning in ways that we can’t even imagine right now. This is an enormously important emerging market for learning technologies. Lots of people are already talking about “Learning 2.0” (see also Steven Downes on this subject). Many others believe that the social web will catalyze learning and learning ventures as dramatically as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) catalyzed biotechnology and biotech ventures. The key questions are: “can these social learning potentials be proven in effective new products and services?” and “who is the customer and why will they pay?”