Monday, April 28, 2008

Business Information Social Media Plays Heat Up notes the USD 50 million that Austin Ventures has announced that it is pumping into its CEOs-in-residence fund to back Razorfish ex-CEO Jeff Dachis as he explores B2B opportunities for social media. While social media backing for consumer ventures seems to have cooled somewhat there appears to be a rising tide of private equity beginning to back social media plays for business services. Details are highly vague, just the promise of a Software-as-a-Service suite that would be positioned against LinkedIn, Generate, VisualPath, and others already in the social media business information space, according to PCDO.

And there you have it - a quick 50 million infused into a trusted ex-CEO and before you know it there will be another choice in the rapidly expanding market for B2B social media. While it's far from clear where Dachis will take this venture what's already clear is that business information aggregators are going to have more points of potential disintermediation for their services as new forms of content aggregation begin to arise in the space between media, enterprise and personal content services that is neglected oftentimes by traditional database licensors. All this in a year in which many subscription content services are going to be challenged in their renewal cycles as the ROI arguments for their services come under increasing scrutiny.

While some business information services are fairly young and already very promising, I would caution those beginning to put their investment dollars into this space that while there's lots of money to be made in the space there are only so many good tools for managing business conversations that are going to take hold in any particular market sector or for any particular role. This is in part because those services that are already out there have been building a few years' worth of content quality from mined content and socially collected content that is not going to be reproducable from the Web or brand-new social networks - no matter how good one's technology is. This will mean a) licensing content from existing distributors, b) taking more time to build up one's own unique content assets and likely c) needing to position one's services carefully so that they are not trying to reinvent already extant wheels.

So invest on, courageous private equity people, there are indeed great opportunities to create valuable business information services using social media. But be prepared for a lot more careful analysis of what it takes to succeed with business information using social media tools.
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