I’m not talking about bootstrapping because I think the local web isn’t investment-worthy, or because I think the business ideas coming out of it will not be worth a lot. I don’t think that at all. I think there are ideas that are germinating out there right now that are going to be huge. This is not just a next phase for the web, but a next phase for cities altogether. And as I posted on DIYcity a while back, Booze Allen, among others, estimates the market for remaking cities over the next 25 years to be $40 trillion dollars. A good chunk of that, if people are smart, can go to web solutions to city problems.
So as I say, there is a lot of money in local web ideas.
Why I’m talking about bootstrapping is because:
1) Investors aren’t ready to open up their purses to these kinds of local improvement ideas, as the payoff for them is too far away and too fuzzy right now (what kind of exit is there for a site that improves city garbage collection? unclear.)
2) There is a lot of value to be provided to communities right now by these local sites. These aren’t sites that are trying to make, say, a better video chat system – they’re cleaning up the trash in Vancouver (for instance). They shouldn’t be waiting around for the green light from VCs to start plugging into the city and adding that value.
3) By addressing those problems and solutions right now, and finding revenue however they can, these micro sites / micro businesses position themselves perfectly in the marketplace – the city marketplace more than the web marketplace – to grow and become real services that add real value to the ecosystem and economy of cities. And if they do that and look for revenue along the way, they will have built very valuable companies.
So I think there is a LOT of money to tap into in the economy of the local and civic web, and I think that the sites out there that are bootstrapping their way along are going about things the smart way, and will find their way to value and to making good contributions to cities everywhere.
Okay, enough on Bootstrapping. Off to a Rockefeller Foundation meeting on the Future of the Crowdsourced City. See you there?