Build Something Great Somewhere Else

As 2010 turns to 2011 the time has
come for reflection. In my travels from Silicon Valley to West
Africa I have seen the future of the final frontier an it ain’t
America. This past week on Google Buzz I saw a reshare
of a Mashable post proclaiming Google Buzz as one of the biggest flops
of 2010. Needless to say that nearly incited a virtual riot. I even
craft an audio
rebuttal
begging the Google Buzz team to responded with
facts or spin. But once the fervour died down I took an objective
look at Buzz and social media in general. I do this from
time-to-time because Buzz (and places like it) can become echo
chambers. Robert
Scoble
eventually commented on that thread that the stats
simply didn’t support the fact that Buzz was successful. He’s
right. But I contend that he and his ilk made this a self
fulfilling prophecy. Scoble was a big supporter of Buzz early on,
but with the juggernaut of Facebook and Twitter mind share, coupled
with Buzzes stumble out of the gate, the service was doomed not to
catch the imagination of the technorati. With blood in the
water the anointed technorati render widespread adoption
still-born. Google didn’t help its efforts by not fighting negative
PR or iterating quick enough. The anointed technorati had spoken
and with the death of Google Wave they simple piled-on. But I
digress, this isn’t going to be yet another post mortem on Google’s
failures. My wider point is who anointed a select group of king
makers in tech? Take Q & A site Quora for instance. I
like the service and it has been quite value for following topic
and getting deeper insight on that topic. I been using it for about
2 months and it is a great product. But have any of you heard
of any other product that does the same thing? I myself only
heard of the service after a
Silicon Alley Insider post. An why might you ask has
Quora suddenly capture the mind share? Because of fawning
pieces like this
and this. Or is it that fact that the co-founder is
ex-facebook exec Adam
D’Angelo
based in Palo Alto, CA. The Silicon
Valley echo chamber can be just as bad as Buzz. Then there
are the incestuous relationships that develop there that newcomers
with new ideas find hard to break through. Get one of the anointed
Valley angels to invest, then have that angel bring you to the
attention of i.e. Tech Crunch, Scoble, Om Malik, etc and you’ve hit
pay dirt. Even is a Quora thread “What
is the key to achieve success as a startup outside the
Valley?” Robert Scoble gave an answer of “Have
friends in San Francisco.” To a guy like myself living in New
Mexico, that can sound a bit discouraging. No offense to
Scoble, he gave some great answers which is why I love Quora, but
it points to a dangerous geocentricism that
demands that great tech start-ups be in or near the Bay Area.
How does a start-ups in Ames, Iowa have a chance with the
Tech press so Silicon Valley focused? Maybe tech
entrepreneurs should focus else where. I have had this
disillusionment for some time and this morning I read something
from of all places Tech Crunch about investing and starting
companies focused on Asia and
Africa
. I would add South America into that mix of
emerging market ripe for opportunities. To quote the author:

“ if you want to see the world’s real hothouse of
change, or build a business that can change the lives of (or make
money from) many tens of millions in the space of a few years, get
ahead of the curve and aim at the 70% of humanity who live in Asia,
where they already get
new smartphones first, or Africa, which despite its Dark
Continent reputation is rapidly
growing wealthier.”

They need
Facebooks, and Twitters and Foursquare-like companies along with
any tangential services that could be offered around mobile. Here
are some number you entrepreneur types should be thinking about.
There are over
500 million mobile phone subscribers in India. Read up on
a company called Bubble
Motion
. In Sub-Saharan African nations like Nigeria
mobile phone use numbers 73 million as 2009 out of a total total
population of 152 million. By contrast there are only 11 million
Internet users. Several African countries have in excess of 20% of
web usage coming from mobile phones. There is a true potenial
to launch cutting edge web applications in these markets and grow
truly viral with out the aide of Technorati giving you props in the
home land. I am currently trying to assemble a development
team to build a service called Niaboo. Niaboo will be
Foursquare meets Paypal for communication engagement and
facilitation of micro-transaction base on location. If you are not
familiar with Foursquare, it is an emerging location-based service
that is gaining popularity in Europe and the U.S. that allows a
mobile user of the software via a users mobile phone, to check-in
to geographic venues like bars, clubs, store or events. The purpose
of this is so that the user enter into a game-like behavior where
rewards and patronage can be granted for participating. It is based
of users circle of friends and followers also participating
hence the social-networking aspect. What I hope to accomplish with
Niaboo is to combine the virtual world with the real-world with
social connections while at the same time enabling communication
engagement between vendors, friends and advertisers that would
further facilitate mobile-transactions. What makes me think that
emerging markets like Nigeria
are ready for services like this? Mobile phones and 3G service
became
ubiquitous in Africa so rapidly because of the lack of
incumbents nor being chained to legacy systems or ways of doing
business. The market is ripe for experimentation. My cousins
once remarked on my trip to Nigeria that there they’re open and
willing to try new things. The demographic data supports that.
41.5% of the population just in Nigeria are between 0-14
years of age and 55.5%are between the ages of 15-64. Younger
populations are more open or receptive to new mobile web services
even the creepy location-based services. So don’t pine for
accolades and props from the Leo Laportes, Robert Scoble’s, Tech
Crunch, and Valley Angel investors of the world, build something
great somewhere else.

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