The “53651 meme” took flight this past weekend, fueled by a post from Josh Kopelman.
Kopelman, the East Coast angel investor (who we recently mentioned here) says Silicon Valley Web 2.0 startups have fallen into a trap of appealing to a narrow, geeky audience.
I think they run a big risk of designing a product/service that is targeted at too small of an audience. Too many companies are targeting an audience of 53,651. That’s how many people subscribe to Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch blog feed. I’m a big fan of Techcrunch — and read it every day. However, the Techcrunch audience is NOT a mainstream America audience.
A good review in Techcrunch can get a company their first 5-25K beta users very quickly. However, I’d strongly caution entrepreneurs from taking their initial consumer adoption metrics and extrapolating them too far into the future. I believe startups will find it difficult to cross the “Techcrunch chasm” between the Web 2.0 geeks and Mainstreet USA.
A bunch of other investors have cautioned about this phenom before, but it was all people could talk about these past few days.
Paul Kedrosky wrote that “a just-launched service gets to wander around telling people that it already has, say, 12,000 people trying the product when the reality is that it is the same fickle folks who try and discard everything.”
Brad Feld, of Mobius, chimed in, saying that first 25,000 users don’t mean anything, seeming to agree that it is always the same 25,000 folks.
Some applied the meme to other types of companies, for example SAP’s Jeff Nolan, who mentions SugarCRM as a hyped company targeting enterprise software (although, to be sure, he is biased).
Even a 53651 Meme blog was created.
We were trouble-shooting our old crappy Dell a few weeks ago with various outsourced technicians, and all three technicians had to ask us what “Skype” is, after seeing it downloaded on our computer. We’re constantly amazed how many people haven’t heard of these relatively huge hits, fascinated when we run into schoolteachers in Silicon Valley who haven’t heard of the word “blog,” though not surprised when someone at the Mercury News yesterday passed around an internal note saying we should all try out Pandora, saying it was a cool site (even though we mentioned it, in its “Savage Beast” form, 17 months ago on this blog, and Pandora itself at least four times subsequently.)
Meanwhile, Mike Arrington says he’ll have a response to all of this soon.
Om has a good summary.