April 28th, 2008 by cgergen
There is never a better time to be a life entrepreneur. Every day there is a new idea or article sparking this conviction. Right now, for example, I’m sitting on a train to NYC and just read an article in Fast Company about the company Ning. The cover story outlines Ning’s “viral expansion loop” business model. Essentially, it has created a platform that allows users to create their own mini social networks and then invite other users to join. Deeply passionate about your local minor league baseball team and want to connect with others who share this passion? Then create your own site using Ning. Ning monetizes this growth by placing very targeted ads on each of the newly created sites (called Ning nets). And grow it has. As of this reading, the company is reporting more than 230,000 Ning nets – up from 60,000 a year ago.
Viral expansion is not new – just think about free email provider Hotmail which exploded to 30 million users in just 30 months. But what makes Ning notable (besides being co-founded by Marc Andreesen from Netscape fame), is that this concept accelerates our ability to build highly personalized platforms based on our interests and passions. Importantly, it also DRAMATICALLY reduces our cost of entry.
Have a dream of starting a charter school in your community? Want to gauge interest in a new public school by other members in your community? Want to connect with others who have done the same? Rather than sketching out the idea in a static document and then reaching out piece-meal to neighbors through email and flyers – you can now build a site dedicated to this concept and then invite others to join. They, in turn, can invite others to join the conversation and a community is born. Rather than being restricted to your immediate network of friends – the viral nature of this concept allows you to rapidly create a diverse network of people who become invested in the idea and want to help it succeed. The positive network effect is born and what started as a distant dream can quickly become a reachable reality.
Sites like Ning can’t provide you a clear sense of who you are and where you want to go – the foundation of the entrepreneurial life path. But once you start figuring this out and waking up to the vast amount of opportunities on the horizon, there has never been a better time to create a shared vision of an exciting new future and making it happen.