When I joined First Round Capital a few months ago, I discovered that the term “Web 2.0” had affected me personally. The notion generated by Dale Dougherty that become a conference and was subsequently morphed into a class of companies was now a type of venture investor. Not only that, but I was a Web 2.0 investor, surely because I have led some investments in companies that fall under the Web 2.0 nomenclature.
Knowing that the Web 2.0 label will inevitably end up in the dustbin of overused company descriptors (where it can have a cup of coffee with B2B, nano, and any non-medical usage of the word “eyeball”), I was someone taken aback. I don’t recall ever referring to any of my investments as a “Web 2.0 company” although others certainly have. What does interest me is any idea that peels back another layer of the promise of the internet. This promise – enabled by a ubiquitous, free, unlimited capacity, user-modifiable, general-purpose network that allows anyone to communicate with anyone — is beginning to be made clear. Giant corporations are communicating with (as opposed to “communicate to”) their customers, folks are building massive businesses out of their dorm rooms, and guys like Craig are accidentally destroying centuries-old companies. Early stage investors require an environment of disruption and we are in the middle of one right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I also see derivative, poorly managed, and otherwise unfundable companies, many considered Web 2.0 companies. It’s a natural by-product of the start up cost of a company being close to zero in many cases. But I am also a proud investor in a number of companies (also considered Web 2.0 companies) that I believe will be successful regardless of whether or not the term falls out of favor.
Accordingly, you will find me at the third installment of the Web 2.0 conference next week, looking for the leading edge of the next trendy, overwrought, buzz-worthy set of companies setting out to change the world. And only if I am lucky, I will invest in the ones that will do so long before there is a name for them.